Jury ponders Schubert’s fate

By Scott North

Herald Writer

David Schubert’s wife has been missing for a dozen years.

A Snohomish County jury on Thursday began trying to decide whether that fact, and others, suggests the 62-year-old Arlington man simply had a failed marriage or is somebody who almost got away with murder.

Jurors spent nearly five hours deliberating without reaching a verdict. They were scheduled to resume this morning.

"The defendant thought he could get away with murder. Except for you, he does," deputy prosecutor Ed Stemler said in closing arguments.

But there is no hard evidence to determine what happened to Juliana Schubert, 30, let alone find her husband guilty of murder, countered public defender Richard Tassano.

The prosecution is trying to make its case on emotion, the defense attorney said. "That’s what this case is about. It’s emotion versus rational thought."

Schubert went on trial Nov. 20, charged with first-degree murder in the June 1989 disappearance of his wife.

Prosecutors have been trying to build an entirely circumstantial case that the defendant killed his wife and hid her body. No trace of the missing woman has ever been found.

Schubert has pleaded innocent and insists she simply walked away from their home, leaving behind her car, her purse and two sons, who were then ages 6 and 8.

Along with deputy prosecutor Paul Stern, Stemler argued that Schubert, a former Arlington police officer and insurance agent, had the intelligence and experience to plan a crime that would be almost impossible to prove.

When Juliana Schubert disappeared, the couple’s nine-year marriage was headed toward divorce. The defendant was angry with his younger wife and upset enough to talk to others about killing her to "get some peace" in his life, Stemler said.

With his wife out the picture, Schubert would avoid the cost and trouble of a divorce, could guarantee he would retain custody of his sons and also could cash in on a $250,000 life insurance policy on his wife, the prosecutors argued.

Evidence suggests Schubert took steps, including hiring a babysitter and asking one of his wife’s friends not to call, so there would be no witnesses when he killed his wife and hid her body, Stern alleged.

Schubert explained the sudden disappearance by telling people his wife was on vacation, a ruse that wasn’t seriously challenged for weeks. By the time investigators searched his home, 43 days had passed, which was plenty of time "to clean, time to dispose and to make sure everything is in order," Stern added.

It didn’t matter that no evidence was found to suggest Schubert had killed anyone, Tassano said. Investigators twisted that, in their minds, to become proof of guilt.

"That’s what this is about," he said. "It is beautiful. You can’t get out of this."

The reality of the case is that Schubert, then nearly 50, was embarrassed and hurt that his younger wife was leaving him, Tassano said. He wasn’t hiding evidence of a crime when he told falsehoods, he just didn’t want his community to learn that he’d been jilted.

Tassano reminded jurors that prosecutors must show, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Schubert has committed a crime. That’s impossible in a case that is based solely on inference, rumor and innuendo, he argued.

"You have to know for a fact that she is dead. You have to know for a fact that she died at the hands of another. You have to know, for a fact, that David Schubert killed her" to find the defendant guilty, he said.

Prosecutors countered by reminding jurors that the law also requires them to keep in mind that evidence can be direct or circumstantial, and one is not necessarily better than the other.

"You don’t get away with murder just because you have no evidence of a body," Stemler said. "The law allows no free passes."

If jurors don’t believe Schubert committed premeditated first-degree murder, they have been instructed to consider where the facts support the lesser charge of second-degree murder.

You can call Herald Writer Scott North at 425-339-3431 or send e-mail to north@heraldnet.com.

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