Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Larissa Schuster

The defense's case

 

Roger Nuttall
Roger Nuttall
In a somewhat unusual move, defense attorney Roger Nuttall reserved his opening statement until after the State rested its case. So when the prosecutors finally sat down, Nuttall confronted the jurors with a passionate plea for his client's innocence. Neither he nor his client could give details about Tim Schuster's death "because we don't know," he intoned.

Nuttall maintained his client had nothing to do with the murder of her estranged husband. Having heard relatively little about James Fagone in the prosecution case, Nuttall told the jury that Fagone was the sole person responsible for the murder that he was so fiercely loyal that he killed Tim Schuster because he blamed him for Larissa's distress through the rancorous divorce.

The defense attorney described Larissa as a hard-working woman and a loving mother, whose 21-year marriage disintegrated when her husband could not live up to her expectations. Nuttall described Tim as an angry man who belittled Larissa in over-compensation for his own failings as a husband and father. Larissa's attorney said Tim would always leave the discipline of the children up to his wife and then began stalking her after the divorce proceedings began.

According to the defense, Larissa had no idea that Tim was dead at the time Clovis Police called her to the station for the late-night interview. Her denials were truthful, Nuttall continued, for it wasn't until she got home afterwards that she found out what really happened.

When Larissa Schuster got home from the police department, James Fagone was home babysitting Tyler. Schuster allegedly told Fagone she thought Tim had just disappeared in an attempt to ruin the vacation she and Tyler were planning to take the next week. Fagone supposedly replied, "There's nothing to worry about. We took care of that." Fagone went on to say that he had murdered Tim Schuster and hid the body in the shed near Larissa's house. "It was like a nightmare that you don't wake up from," Nuttall declared, "She was scared, she was exhausted, she was shocked, to say the least."

Why didn't she call the police immediately? Nuttall answered the obvious question by admitting she made a mistake by not doing so. Instead, she told Fagone to move the barrel to CCRL. The reason, Nuttall claimed, that she helped conspire to keep Tim's murder a secret was that she didn't want her son to find out his father was dead and ruin his vacation. Even her attorney had to concede: "That's not what she should have been thinking."

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