LAWRENCEVILLE - Sometime after midnight July 25, Ashley Schutt ended a rocky relationship with her husband by knifing him more than 30 times and bashing him another 20 in the head with a ball-peen hammer, a detective testified Tuesday.
Family members and Schutt's defense attorney suggest her alleged actions - leaving Gregory Schutt's mutilated body on their bedroom floor, his wrists and throat slit - were the last straw in a long pattern of violence.
Inside the Lawrenceville couple's Thomas Palmer Court home, police found "blood everywhere" and other, more symbolic evidence - the couple's wedding rings near a fireplace, next to a jovial wedding photo ripped in half, testified Gwinnett police homicide Det. Roy Mangrum during Schutt's probable cause hearing.
"She said she was scared of him," Mangrum said, adding that the abuse had been ongoing but had escalated recently, according to Schutt.
Schutt, a 27-year-old call center specialist, is charged with murder and possession of a weapon during the commission of a crime in the death of her husband, 30. Schutt stared blankly ahead during the hearing, her skin pale and hair pulled back, other than mouthing "Hi, mom" to family in the gallery.
Schutt initially told investigators an unknown assailant - and later two assailants - broke in their home, raped her and murdered her husband. When a hospital exam "showed absolutely no trauma or evidence that a sexual assault had occurred," she recanted that story, telling police Greg Schutt attacked her with a knife, which she managed to wrest from him and plunge into his chest area several times, Mangrum said.
But police believe the victim - who towered over his wife and outweighed her by more than 100 pounds - was killed as he lay sleeping in their master bedroom, Mangrum said. Gregory Schutt's body exhibited "no defensive wounds whatsoever" and his blood was so laden with medication, it was "consistent with someone who had overdosed," Mangrum testified, citing findings by the Gwinnett County Medical Examiners Office.
Mangrum said he was unsure what type of drugs were detected.
Police found two knives and the hammer in a bathroom sink, along with two cell phones in a microwave. Ashley Schutt suffered a knot on her head, a ripped sports bra and cuts on her arm. She later admitted the cuts were self-inflicted, Mangrum said.
Defense attorney Tom Clegg argued that evidence at the scene pointed to an abused woman who was prevented from escaping or calling for help. Prior to the killing, Schutt had never been arrested, said Clegg, who lobbied to have the charges lessened to voluntary manslaughter.
"There is a pattern of this woman being battered for a very long time," Clegg said.
Gwinnett Magistrate Judge Robert Walker bound all charges against Schutt to Superior Court, thereby restricting her chance at bond.
Outside the courtroom, Schutt's family spoke to the tempestuous nature of the couple's nine-year marriage, during which they'd been separated three times. Schutt met her husband, a veterinary technician, during a chance encounter at a gas station, and she was abused by him throughout the years, family said.
The day before the killing, Schutt had agreed to let her father hire a divorce lawyer.
"We always expected a call - but we expected that she'd be the one that was dead," said Schutt's father, who wished to withhold his name. "We thank God our daughter's alive. That's the way we feel."