--> AJ's Story
Story: Facts and Information
A.J.'s Story -- Facts / Information
From The Book
· Born April 24, 1983
· Died May 2, 1993
· Parents: Ilene Soini-Schwarz and David “Bear” Schwarz
· Half-Sisters: “Patsy” Spence (Mom) and Jackie Schwarz
AJ had been:
· under a psychiatrist’s care.
· In protective custody.
· On a medication called Imipramine (used to relieve symptoms
Guardian ad Litem (or CASA)
– Court-assigned guardian for children who have their lives brought
before a judge. They work solely for the best interest of the child.
· When Jessica Schwarz
was questioned by the police, she “let the words roll off of her
tongue” and “out of control.” – A common trait
· Jessica was fired from her job as a daycare worker in March.
Her boss was so intimidated by her temper that she called the police
so she could have a deputy present when she gave Jessica the news.
· Jessica told neighbor Ron Pincus (who was the last outsider
to see AJ alive) a few weeks earlier that she hated AJ and that she
always hated him and she could never bring herself to love him.
· Neighbor Eileen Callahan told the detective that a day before
the investigation into AJ’s broken nose and black eyes, she heard
Jackie say to AJ, “What did mommy tell you to say?” and
AJ replied, “that I fell and hit my nose on the bicycle.”
· The day AFTER the investigation, Ms. Callahan got a phone call
from the HRS investigator. Her phone number had been recorded (on a
supposedly anonymous line) on the report of the complaint.
· Neighbor Shirley Leiter told investigators that when AJ came
around to collect cans on April 29, he told her that he was hungry and
had been up since 4:45 AM. He couldn’t go home and eat unless
he had “a whole bunch of cans” and his stepmother would
“put him in jail” if he didn’t bring enough of them
home. (Leiter gave him 3 donuts)
· At about 8:00 that morning, Leiter called the CPT, where she
was given a 1-800 number. From there, she spoke to Dave Davis, who told
her to call PBC truancy. Instead, she called Indian Pines Elementary
and spoke to who she believed was the principal, who told her that the
school would be taking care of the problem. Three days later, AJ was
· Gail Ragatz was a pest exterminator who gave the Schwarz household
her services once a month. In December, 1992, she saw Jessica put AJ’s
bowl of food next to the litter box. She told him, “If you want
to act like a dog, you’re going to eat like a dog.” (contained
macaroni and cheese and a hot dog with ketchup. Ragatz lived across
the street across the street from the Schwarzes)
· Louis and Anne Steinhauer lived across the street from the
Schwarzes for about 1-½ years. Anne said about 3 times a week,
she met AJ on the corner and drove him to school.
· She asked AJ if she if she could take him to school since he
had to walk every day. AJ accepted the rides – but only if she
would pick him up on the corner because he didn’t want Jessica
and David to see him riding in a car.
· AJ was grounded most of the time.
· He told her that early every Thursday morning, he had to collect
cans for his stepmother because she was on probation and made him collect
· He was up early every morning doing chores.
· He had to clean the garage 5 out of the 7 days.
· She never saw the girls doing any chores.
· On Saturday, April 24, she saw AJ working in the garage and
Jessica walked up behind him, placed her hands around his neck and picked
him up off of the ground. His arms were limp at his sides and his feet
were off the ground. She walked around the garage, saying, “See
this! Look at this!”
· Anne heard – on a daily basis for 1 ½ years –
AJ being called “shit for brains,” “stupid”
and an “idiot.”
· Catherine Turner
lived directly behind the Schwarz residence.
· She saw AJ with a
black eye and he told her that he “fell down.”
· Saw the lock changed
on AJ’s room so it was on the outside.
· Jessica told her
that she would make AJ walk around the house naked as punishment.
· In the early hours
of May 2, she was awakened by a child’s voice crying, “I
won’t do it again!” About five minutes later, she heard
the same voice, “I won’t do it again!”
· On September 18, 1992, there was a hearing before Judge Carney
in the Broward County Courthouse. Ilene Schwarz (through her attorney)
asked that AJ be placed in a foster home, but the request was denied.
· The judge was disturbed by the fact that AJ didn’t start
counseling until September 10 – 6 months after being discharged
from Vero Beach – and also about the variance in AJ’s behavior
in school and at home.
October 8, 1993 – A
sealed indictment on Jessica is delivered with the following charges:
· One count of second-degree
· Four counts of aggravated child abuse (2nd degree felony):
1. Forced AJ to eat food from a bowl placed next to the cat’s
2. Forced AJ repeatedly to stay home from school.
3. Forced AJ to wear a shirt that said, “I’m a worthless
piece of shit; don’t talk to me.” (or words to that effect)
4. Forced AJ to edge the family yard with regular house scissors.
· Two counts of felony
child abuse (3rd degree felony):
1. Forced AJ to sit naked outside his house
2. Forced Jackie not to discuss the circumstances surrounding AJ’s
life and death.
· One count of witness tampering (3rd degree felony):
1. Jessica knowingly used intimidation or force, knowingly threatened
or attempted to threaten, offered pecuniary benefit or gain to Jackie
with intent to influence her testimony.
· At 1:00 that afternoon, Jessica was arrested.
· On October 15, 1993, 38-year-old Jessica pleaded “not
guilty” to all charges.
· On October 25, 1993, judge Walter Colbath released Jessica
on $150,000 bond.
1. She was not allowed to leave her house, have any money or car keys.
2. Not allowed to have any contact with her daughters.
· David Schwarz did
not attend his own son’s funeral.
· 12-year-old Ariel
Walton (Teresa Walton’s sister):
1. When Jessica and her daughters
would leave the house for any reason, they would lock AJ outside in
2. Heard Jessica tell AJ that she hated him.
3. Jessica told her “I’ll never love that boy” and
that she was going to “kill him someday and bury him under the
4. Witnessed Jessica strike AJ across the face and head with her hands,
seen him edging the lawn with scissors and that he usually cleaned the
garage “every day.”
5. One time, AJ accidentally dropped some toothbrushes in the toilet
and Jessica told him that he wasn’t allowed to brush his teeth
6. Heard Jessica curse at AJ “all the time.”
7. Heard her call him a “fucking retarded kid” and tell
him that he “was no good.”
8. A year earlier, Jessica made AJ eat a cockroach. She told Ariel that
she was going to make AJ eat every one of them that she saw in the house.
Later, when Ariel saw AJ using the garden hose to wash his mouth out,
he told her “the cockroach tasted nasty.”
· Early in 1992, Patsy
claimed that Jessica had given her a bloody nose and was then returned
to Broward County while AJ remained in the Schwarz home, under HRS supervision.
· Laura Perryman once tried to explain to Jessica that she believed
that AJ had ADD and that kids with that disorder are very impulsive
and lack the ability to think before acting and that she didn’t
feel that AJ would do anything to Jackie intentionally.
· Jessica’s reply: “If anything bad happens again,
I’m going to kill AJ.”
· Ida Falk admitted
that even though she had seen AJ out in the yard with tape across his
mouth and working in the yard when he should have been in school, she
never called anyone to report it.
· Anne Steinhauer would
offer AJ a ride to school “whenever she would pass him on the
road.” He would get in the car, look from side to side, then “scrunch
down” underneath the window so no one would see him. He told her
he wasn’t allowed to have rides to school.
· When she’d
get up in the morning, he’d already be outside. She usually got
up at 7AM and “he was probably out there until the sun started
to go down.”
· She’d seen
AJ sweep the driveway and the sidewalk with a paintbrush.
· The whole time he
was outside, he was screaming ‘I [am] bad, do bad things and I
do bad things and I won’t do it again.’ David and Jessica
would both tell him, “I can’t hear you. Say it louder.”
· Dr. Zimmern, AJ’s
guardian ad litem on Imipramine:
· DIRECT: “Imipramine is a drug that has been discovered
to have certain calming effects in hyperexcitable children. When it
works, it has a very dramatic effect.”
· CROSS: “It is a mood-ameliorating drug. (It) can be used
for learning disabilities, for children who have hyperexcitability syndromes
and it also can be used in certain situations as a plain old tranquilizer.”
· According to Dr. Zimmern’s report, AJ had been living
with his father and stepmother since he was adjudicated dependant in
mid-1990. Mr. Schwarz was given custody of his son on November 19, 1990.
· On February 6, 1992,
AJ was admitted to the Psychiatric Institute of Vero Beach to stay for
· Over that 6-week
period, David and Jessica Schwarz see him twice. A major source of problems
for him while he was there was that he would “decompensate”
when they would not come to see him.
· Jessica and Davis
claimed that AJ suffered brain damage by virtue of being a cocaine baby,
suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome, had been struck in the head with
a frying pan and had a near-drowning experience very early in his life.
· AJ had a CAT scan,
at least 2 electroencephalograms, blood tests, thyroid profile and a
battery of psychological tests.
· Although psychological
records indicated that some of his behavior was abnormal, no evidence
had been found that AJ had any organic problem or abnormality with the
functioning of his brain. NO BRAIN DAMAGE.
· Dr. Rahaim: “The
medical records ruled it out quite conclusively.”
Janie Sutherland was the first witness for the defense.
· “I was given a caseload and it was my responsibility
to monitor that particular case. My duties included home visits, court
and basically supervising the child.”
· She was neither present at the dependency hearing on August
17, 1990 when AJ was adjudicated and placed under protective supervision
nor at a review hearing on November 19, 1990 when AJ and Patsy were
placed in the custody of David and Jessica.
· She was aware that the children had lived with a maternal aunt
before being placed with the Schwarzes.
· The “bike accident” happened on January 24 and
Dr. Zimmern observed AJ with two black eyes and a swollen nose on January
26. Sandra Warren (employed by HRS/CPS for 18 months) saw the “bruises
under his eyes and over the bridge of his nose” on March 17 –
seven weeks later.
· Jessica Schwarz testified on direct that AJ was hiding food
in the garage and he never told her why. (“He wasn’t admitting
to anything. I asked him if he was the one hiding the food.”)
Prosecutor Cupp then asked her if she then said that he denied that
there was food there or said, “What food?” and that’s
why she took him around to show him. (“Yes.”)
· David “Bear” Schwarz was on the defense witness
list but was never called to the stand. He did not attend the trial
at all. As soon as it started, he disappeared.
· The day AJ died, Jessica, David and the girls had gone to Sunfest
and left AJ home alone for the day. A neighbor saw him playing in the
front yard. If he’d wanted to, he could have gone swimming at
any time that day.
· Judge Martin: “It makes no sense that he would go out
naked in the middle of the night, on a very cold night, in the dark
WHERE ARE THEY
· Left PBC State Attorney’s Office in 1999
· Opened his own practice in LaBelle, FL, 20 miles from Fort
· In 2002, he returned to prosecution and is presently chief
of felony for the Lee County Office for the 20th Judicial Court.
· Lives in LaBelle, FL
· Stayed with the state attorney’s office until March,
· After having his own practice for a few years, he was appointed
to a judgeship by Governor Jeb Bush in 2003.
· On August 1, 2003, he took over as county court judge for the
15th Judicial Circuit in PBC.
· Appeals have run their course.
· Convictions in both trials were appealed to Florida’s
4th District Court of Appeals and upheld and the Supreme Court of Florida
refused to hear them.
· Current projected release date is December 3, 2034 –
subject to review.
· Currently incarcerated at the Broward County Correctional Institution.
· Middle-aged with Graying hair – and unrepentant.
Complete list of
FACT: AJ was found dead floating
midway between the top and bottom of a four-foot-deep, above-ground
swimming pool in the backyard of his home. He was naked and his body
was covered with bruises and scratches – 30 to 40 bruises and
scratches. Rigor mortis had set in.
· Bruises and scratches
of varying ages
· Abrasions on the right side of his nose and the left corner
of his mouth
· Palpable swelling was above left ear
· Three bruises at other various locations on his scalp
· When the scalp was peeled back – called reflected –
it revealed four areas of subcutaneous [under the skin] bruising extending
from the skin surface to the galea. There was obvious hemorrhage in
· A crescent-shaped laceration behind each ear
· Two areas of bruising inside his upper lip
· Bruises underneath his chin – on each side.
· A bruise on the right side of his chest
· A scratchlike abrasion on the left side of his chest
· Two bruises on his abdomen
· Bruises on his back
· Multiple bruises on his buttocks
· A scratchlike abrasion on his right hip
· Upper left arm had at least three bruises within one to two
inches of each other with deep acute hemorrhages extending to the underlying
· A scratchlike abrasion on the left forearm
· Abrasions and scratches on the left wrist
· A scratchlike abrasion on the right forearm
· A small bruise on the left elbow
· Large areas of bruising on the back of his right thigh –
extending from below the buttocks to his midthigh.
· Abrasions on the right calf.
· Bruises on his left thigh
· A bruise below his left knee
· An abrasion and bruise on his right lower leg
· Scratchlike abrasions on both of his ankles
· The injuries to the scalp were sufficient – in and of
themselves – that they could have caused the death in someone
Andrew’s age and size.
According to Dr. Burton:
· “The fingers of a person” caused the crescent-shaped
lacerations behind each ear.
· A recent scratch on his chest was “fingernaillike.”
· The bruises on his upper inner thighs were recent
· It would have taken a lot of pressure to force that much blood
out of the tissues on the left arm.
· The pattern of bruises on the scalp could in no way have been
caused by some type of accident. They were multiple – involving
all four quadrants of the scalp.
· The bruises were approximately the same age – a few minutes
to a few hours old.
· The abrasions by his mouth, on his nose, behind his ears and
the bruise beneath the left arm were “Consistent with someone
having held his head with the hand placed behind and possibly another
hand across the nose and then being held submerged until he aspirated
enough water to become unconscious and die.”
· There was some swelling of the brain, which could either have
been caused by punches or blows to the head – or from the drowning.
· The injury to his buttocks could have been caused by a whipping,
which he supposedly got some days before, a week before.
· The injuries under his chin were consistent with an incident
which neighbors observed several weeks prior to his death: Andrew was
picked up by the head and neck and swung from side to side with his
arms flopping like a rag doll – and was seen to have been picked
up by his [step]mother.
'No One Can Hurt Him Anymore'