tampabay.com

Sentence 'insufficient'

Judge says 40 years is too little for sexual torturer Scott Schweickert.

By CARRIE WEIMAR
Published May 1, 2007


TAMPA - Calling the crimes "calculated and coldly inhumane, " a federal judge sentenced Scott Schweickert to 40 years in prison for using drugs to rape and torture a Tampa man.

Friends and family members of the victim, Michael Wachholtz, whose decomposed body was found in his Jeep Cherokee, called it a good start.

Now, they say, Schweickert and his co-conspirator, Steven Lorenzo, should be charged with murder.

"It's not over, " said Ruth Wachholtz, Michael's mother. "I definitely believe they should be executed."

Wachholtz and Jason Galehouse, both 26, disappeared the same weekend in December 2003.

Lorenzo and Schweickert, 41, were arrested in 2005 and charged with the federal crimes of conspiracy and using drugs to facilitate a crime of violence.

Pam Bondi, a spokeswoman for the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office, said her office plans to announce a decision soon on whether to file murder charges.

In January, a federal jury found Schweickert guilty of conspiring with Lorenzo to distribute GHB, a central nervous system depressant. Schweickert was also found guilty of drugging Wachholtz.

However, jurors acquitted Schweickert of charges of giving GHB to Galehouse, whose dismembered body was never found.

U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday sentenced Schweickert to the maximum allowed, but called it "palpably insufficient." He said his hands were tied because the state courts - not the federal system - have jurisdiction over murder charges in this case.

Before imposing his sentence, Merryday gave friends and relatives of Wachholtz and Galehouse a chance to speak.

Stephen Wachholtz, Michael's brother, told Schweickert he wished the worst for him in prison.

"If you get out, " he said, "I'll be waiting for you."

Merryday said he deserved to spend the rest of his life in prison. He also declined Schweickert's request to recommend he be sent to a prison near his family in Illinois, a courtesy many judges extend to defendants.

During the trial, jurors viewed dozens of instant message chats between Schweickert and Lorenzo in which they discussed drugging and torturing unsuspecting victims and making them "disappear."

They also heard Schweickert's statement to authorities. He told investigators that Lorenzo persuaded him to help cut up Galehouse's body and dump it in trash bins around the city. According to court testimony, Schweickert even showed agents where the body parts had been stashed.

Jurors also viewed dozens of chilling pictures of Wachholtz, bound and naked, lying on the floor of Lorenzo's Seminole Heights bungalow.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Porcelli thanked law enforcement officials and said he was pleased by the sentence.

"Our goal was to obtain as much time and assure that both Steven Lorenzo and Scott Schweickert were off the streets for the rest of their lives, " he said. Lorenzo, convicted in 2005 of nine counts of administering GHB and one count of conspiracy, was sentenced to 200 years in prison.

Pedro Amador, Schweickert's attorney, said his client plans to appeal.

After the hearing, Pam Williams, Jason Galehouse's mother, said she struggles with her son's death every day. Because his body was never found, she can't even get a death certificate.

"I'm glad this part is over, " Williams said. "But we still have a long way to go."

Carrie Weimar can be reached at 813 226-3416 or cweimar@sptimes.com.