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Journals, friends paint marital contrasts in Schutt murder trial

Photo by Brian Giandelone

Photo by Brian Giandelone

LAWRENCEVILLE — One glance at Greg Schutt’s body, and Gwinnett police Investigator Roy Mangrum knew it wasn’t the work of home-invasion robbers who’d selected a victim at random. Something more vindictive and personal was at play.

“When I went to that threshold (of Schutt’s master bedroom) and saw what I saw ... I knew a terrible, passionate thing had occurred there,” Mangrum testified Friday in the murder trial of Schutt’s wife of nine years, Ashley Schutt, 29.

Mangrum, a lead detective in the brutal July 2009 murder, testified that Ashley’s story had holes from the beginning and crumbled thereafter. Claiming the couple’s Lawrenceville home had been stormed by “black males” whose ranks fluctuated from one to three, Ashley handed police red flag after red flag that she was lying, Mangrum testified.

For instance, she claimed the robbers wore to-the-stitch identical clothing, which Mangrum’s experience told him was almost never the case. She also tried to explain a bucket of water near the body — used, police believe, to sop up blood — by saying the robbers gave Greg the option of drowning himself, before stabbing him more than 30 times, the investigator said.

“It made no sense to me,” Mangrum testified.

Ashley eventually cracked and described her violent outburst as the manifestation of years of physical and emotional abuse. So Mangrum barreled forth in the investigation with the same question that will be put to jurors — whether or not Ashley acted in self-defense or lashed out without provocation.

To substantiate claims of abuse, Mangrum quizzed Greg’s mother and several coworkers at the Falcon Village Veterinary Clinic, where he worked as an animal technician. Greg’s mother told the detective the only tumult she knew of involved financial problems the couple had experienced. Coworkers gave similar indications of normalcy.

“Basically, I was told (Greg) was laid back and easy to work with, patient with the animals and loved his wife,” Mangrum testified.

Ashley’s parents, however, provided glimpses into a darker situation, he said.

Her father, Al Rompf, met with Mangrum on Aug. 21, nearly a month after the killing, and provided police with a journal and note Rompf said he found at his daughter’s home. Each of three entries in the journal — allegedly made between May 1 and 3 that year — portrayed Greg as domineering, insensitive and, in the last entry, monstrous.

“I told Greg I wanted a divorce ... he didn’t even bother to look up from the laptop when he said ‘no,’” Mangrum read from the journal.

In the May 3 entry, Mangrum read an account of “waking up in the middle of the night to Greg’s hands choking me ... I had to knee him (twice) to get him to let go of my neck,” Mangrum read.

Most curious was a small, handwritten note with nonsensical banter about abstract dreams with pill bottles and “a floating presence” that Greg had supposedly written. “I love you but I think Ambien is a bad idea for us ...” Mangrum read from the note. “I am possessed ... either you or I am a sleepwalker.”

Prodded by Assistant District Attorney Stephen Fern, Mangrum said he had questions about the validity of the journal and note.

“I found it odd that there were only a few entries,” he said of the journal.

An autopsy that Mangrum attended showed Greg’s body was almost totally bereft of defensive wounds, unusual for a knife attack, he said. Evidence at the home included an empty bottle for generic Ambien prescribed to Ashley three days before the killing. The prescription was for 22 tablets, he said.

Prosecutors have said Greg — who towered over his wife at 6 feet, 5 inches tall, and weighed about 270 pounds — had the drug in his bloodstream.

Testimony is expected to resume Monday morning. Fern said the state plans to rest later in the day.

Ashley’s defense attorney, Thomas Clegg, had previously indicated that she plans to testify. She faces life in prison.