LAWRENCEVILLE -- From the witness stand Monday, Donna Rompf testified the last time she saw her daughter, Ashley Schutt, as a free woman, she was shaking and crying with fear that her husband would discover her planned divorce.
That meeting occurred on Rompf's lunch break from Ikon Office Solutions, a Duluth company that had fired Schutt in 2009 for missing too much work, Rompf testified. Within a day, Rompf's son-in-law would be dead.
Schutt was such an emotional mess from her nine-year marriage and various bodily ailments, she'd overdosed on anti-anxiety medication and muscle relaxers in February 2009, about five months before the fatal stabbing for which the 29-year old faces life in prison, her mother said.
Testimony that spilled Monday into a second week in Schutt's murder trial again raised the topic of prescription medication, after evidence has shown the victim, Greg Schutt, 30, was sedated on generic Ambien when he was stabbed 38 times and bashed with a ball-peen hammer.
Rompf said her daughter shelved plans to study nursing at a Chicago college that had accepted her to marry Greg in the month she graduated high school in 2000, which disappointed her parents. Through the years, she said her daughter's submissive nature gelled with her more "domineering" and "overpowering" husband.
"Greg like to pick fights. If Ashley said 'white,' he said 'black,'" Rompf said. "They would argue over the smallest anything."
But Greg's headstrong demeanor showed cracks when Ashley left him in 2002, uprooting from his U.S. Army assignment in Nebraska to live with her parents in Monroe. Greg tried to fatally poison himself with alcohol and pills and was committed overnight by Army personnel to a hospital, Rompf testified.
The suicide theme continued through an email Rompf said she found in her daughter's inbox, sent minutes before police believe Greg was killed on July 25, 2009. The 2:41 a.m. message read, in part, "I told you if you left me I would kill you ... I guess I'm going to have to be enough," Rompf read from an evidentiary sheet of paper.
Greg's email address at the time: "firstname.lastname@example.org"
A coworker of Ashley's at an Orkin Pest Control call center testified Monday that he'd noticed her at work with a black eye and a brace on her leg.
"She said her husband had been beating her," recalled Joshua Sheppard. "I told her not to go home, to go to her parents' house."
Assistant District Attorney Stephen Fern posited that those injuries could have been caused by two different car accidents Ashley had been involved in, and the leg issue the result of a tripping incident at Discover Mills Mall that required a walking boot.
Prosecutors believe Ashley murdered her husband with minimal provocation, while the defense contends she acted in self defense after years of abuse.
Rompf testified the excuses were a long-running practice. Ashley had long blamed various bruises on anemia, a side-effect of a 2007 gastric bypass surgery, Rompf testified.
Away from Greg, Rompf said her daughter blossomed.
"When she was without him, she was like a different person," Rompf testified. "You saw her smile."
Testimony is expected to resume at 9 a.m. today.