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For more than 30 years, Leo Schofield has been behind bars serving time for the murder of his 18-year-old wife—but another man has confessed in a new podcast to carrying out the brutal crime, saying he just “lost it” and stabbed the young waitress to death.
Michelle Saum Schofield, 18, disappeared after leaving her shift at a burger drive-in on Feb. 24, 1987, according to The Tampa Bay Times.
Michelle had been expected to pick up her husband Leo after her shift but he has insisted over the years that she never arrived. Her body was found in a canal in Bone Valley three days later on Feb. 27, 1987. She had been stabbed 26 times.
Leo was arrested and convicted of the murder in 1989 after a witness testified that she had heard screaming coming from their Lakeland, Florida trailer the night Michelle disappeared and others testified that Leo had been abusive at times.
For years, Leo has continued to maintain his innocence and in 2004 the Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced that fingerprints found in Michelle’s abandoned red Mazda had matched another convicted criminal, Jeremy Scott.
Scott was already behind bars serving a life sentence for the 1988 murder of Donald Moorehead and was known to frequent the area of the canal, described as his “lair,” in a clemency application on Leo’s behalf from the Innocence Project of Florida.
Yet, despite the forensic evidence, appellate courts have declined to give Leo a new trial.
His case caught the attention of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Gilbert King in 2018.
“The more I looked into the case, the more I came to realize that Leo was wrongfully convicted, and I became more and more convinced that Jeremy was never properly investigated by the State of Florida,” King told The New York Post.
The case is now the subject of King’s true-crime podcast, “Bone Valley.” The final episode, available Wednesday, includes a detailed confession from Scott for not only Michelle’s murder but another unsolved murder of a Florida taxi driver in 1987.
Scott told podcast producers in 2021 that he had seen Michelle on a rainy Florida night talking on a pay phone to someone outside the burger drive-in after her shift.
“When she got off, she asked [if] I needed the phone, I said no,” he said. “She said, ‘Why you all wet,’ you know, cause it’s raining, you know? I said, I got no ride. You know? So she gave me a ride.”
Scott said he asked Michelle to take him to a quiet lake. He had planned to rob her but said he started “panicking” when a hunting knife fell from his pocket and Michelle got scared and began to scream.
“I guess I lost it then,” he said.
“It just happened so fast,” he added later of the stabbing. “Once it happened, it just happened so fast.”
Scott claimed in the interview that he wrapped the body up in some plastic, slid her into the canal, where she was later found, and put a piece of plywood over the body. He claimed to have then gotten into her car and driven off, but said the car stalled out so he abandoned it.
“It wasn’t planned,” he said. “That should have never happened.”
Her death has continued to haunt him over the years, he said, because she had been trying to help him.
“She gave me a ride and all that,” he said. “That’s why it hurts me more. … Girls like that, they don’t pick up people.”
He claimed that he still had nightmares about the brutal stabbing and prays for Michelle—who he said was just “at the wrong time, wrong place”—every night.
“I dream, I wake up, I turn over, I see a dead body sleeping next to me,” he said. “I sleep with dead bodies every night when I go to bed. That’s my punishment.”
He insisted that Leo had been falsely convicted of the crime.
“He’s innocent,” he said. “I’ve been trying to help him by doing everything I could.”
It isn’t the first time Scott has confessed to the crime. He initially confessed in 2016 and admitted it in court again the next year, only to recant his story when authorities showed him photos of the murder scene in court.
“No, no, I didn’t do that,” he testified at the time, according to The Tampa Bay Times.
He also told authorities that his fingerprints may have gotten into Michelle’s vehicle because he had been known to break into abandoned cars along I-4—the same area where her car had been dumped—to steal stereo equipment, according to The Ledger.
His changing story wasn’t enough to convince a judge to grant Leo a new trial and an appellate court upheld the judge’s ruling in 2020.
Scott’s latest confession in the “Bone Valley” podcast isn’t the only unsolved crime he claims to have carried out.
Scott also said that he killed taxi driver Joseph Broward Lavair, 25, about six weeks after Michelle’s death in another botched robbery attempt, using a gun he had stolen from a cop’s home in Winter Haven.
“I was just going to rob him, but when I pointed the gun at him, I guess he just touch[ed] it, boom, you know,” he said.
Scott said he shot the man three times, dumped the body on the side of the road in Intercession City and then abandoned the car after crashing it a few miles later into a pole. He said he escaped by telling spectators the car “was going to blow” and then ran into a dilapidated home, where he hid for hours under a blanket.
Daniel Otte was later charged in the murder but was acquitted in October 1987, after Otte insisted that he had been with friends the night of the slaying.
“I got lucky because they accused somebody else of it,” Scott said, adding that no one else was ever charged.
In a statement to The Post, the Osceola Sheriff’s Office aid that Otte was acquitted because of a “technicality” which did not “prove actual innocence.”
They added that there was “no credible evidence” to link Scott to the killing.
King told The Tampa Bay Times that he believes Scott’s story because of the details he was able to provide in both cases.
“There is no way this guy’s lying about this,” he said. “He has a 78 IQ. He’s not a mastermind criminal.”
Chief Assistant State Attorney Jacob Orr has insisted, however, that Scott is “not credible.”
“Jeremy Scott cannot and should not be believed,” he said in a statement to The Post, adding that he was unable to recount accurate facts in a 2018 hearing in Leo’s case.
Leo—who remains behind bars—said in the podcast that Scott had been “nothing like” he was expecting.
"He’s had a really rough go as I’m sure you’re aware of—even in prison. And I do believe he’s sorry,” he said. “But it just shows you that he has a heart, he does have a heart, you know, that he’s not a monster. … I’ve always wanted the truth and I thank him for the truth. We both in different worlds needed redemption over the same issue.”
Today, he keeps a letter Scott wrote to King admitting to the killing in the pocket of his prison uniform that says in part “Leo didn’t kill his wife. I did.”
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