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Schweickert jurors begin deliberations

Early Edition: A prosecutor said the 41-year-old Tampa man helped find unsuspecting victims, drug them and eventually make them “disappear.”  

Published January 19, 2007

WARNING: this clip contains graphic descriptions from an interrogation with Scott Schweickert that lasted two hours and 20 minutes.

TAMPA – Jurors have started deliberating the case of Scott Schweickert, who is accused of helping to drug and torture two 26-year-old gay men.

Schweickert, 41, is charged with conspiracy and assisting in a drug-facilitated crime of violence. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 60 years in prison.  

During his closing arguments to jurors, Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Porcelli said the evidence left little doubt that Schweickert helped his alleged accomplice, Steven Lorenzo, lure first Jason Galehouse and then Michael Wachholtz to Lorenzo’s Seminole Heights home the weekend of Dec. 19-20, 2003.   

Once there, Schweickert helped drug them with a mixture of GHB, a central nervous system depressant, and a cleaning solvent called Maximum Impact, which contains ethyl chloride, Porcelli said.

The proof, he told jurors, came in the dozens of instant message chats he held with Lorenzo in which the two men discuss finding unsuspecting victims, drugging them and eventually making them “disappear.”   “From the very onset of their communication, they express they object of their desires,” Porcelli said. 

But Schweickert’s attorney, Pedro Amador, told jurors that while Schweickert may have discussed drugging victims during the chats, it was nothing more than fantasy talk. Amador also said there was no evidence that either Galehouse or Wachholtz was drugged. Galehouse’s body was never recovered, and the amount of GHB found in Wachholtz’s remains may have occurred naturally. 

After the closing arguments, U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday dismissed the four alternate jurors so the remaining 12 could begin deliberating. Chris Jessee, 26, one of the alternates, said he found the trial “enlightening.”“It is a culture I was not familiar with, not accustomed to,” said Jessee, a supervisor for a utility contractor. “I had no idea it was so predominant.”

Jessee said he wasn’t sure how he would vote if he had been left on the jury.

  “I would want to speak with everybody else,” he said. “There were a lot of variables.”

[Last modified January 19, 2007, 13:44:54]

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