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Former death row inmate released from prison
By Cody Bailey,
EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) – Eyewitness News learns an Evansville man convicted of murder and rape who once faced the death penalty is walking free. Thomas Schiro was originally sentenced to death for the 1981 murder of Laura Jane Luebbehusen, but on January 7, 2023 Schiro was released from prison.
It was one of the most high-profile murders in Evansville’s history. On February 5, 1981, Luebbehusen, 28 years old at the time, was found dead in her home, strangled and sexually assaulted by then 20 year old Schiro, who was an inmate of a halfway house in Luebbenusen’s neighborhood. Schiro entered her home after he told her he was having car trouble and needed assistance.
The interaction eventually turned violent. According to police, Schiro raped Luebbehusen several times before striking her in the head and strangling her, later sexually abusing the corpse. Schiro was sentenced to death in October of 1981. That sentence was overturned in August of 1996 when the Supreme Court determined the sentencing judge overstepped his bounds by going against the jury’s recommendation the death penalty should not be imposed. Schiro’s sentence was changed to 60 years in prison.
Jon Schaefer, who now works for the Warrick County Prosecutor’s Office, defended Schiro in 2021, unrelated to the murder case.
“He had this 3 year sentence that was going to be served somewhere,” says Schaefer. “And since he was, the murder and rape occurred before he was at work release, but he wasn’t prosecuted for those until after he was at work release, so that sentence couldn’t be revoked.”
According to the Indiana Department of Correction, Schiro was released on January 7, 2023, entering a one year supervised parole program. The IDOC also confirming Schiro now lives on his own in Vanderburgh County. There is no word on the exact location.
“In a normal case where you prosecute the guy,” says Schaefer, “he gets sentenced, he gets a specific sentence, 60 years let’s say, and he’s coming up on getting released, I think, okay, you don’t have a really valid point to come in and say, ‘Well, yeah he got 60 years but it was a really terrible crime, so he shouldn’t be released’, that’s the due process argument. But I think in this situation, it’s a little different. I can see the other side, they expected him to get the death penalty, therefore he isn’t going to be released.”
If there are no violations, Schiro’s supervised parole will end in January 2024. Eyewitness News did reach out to several people who were associated with this case. They declined to comment including one individual who fears for their safety, saying they believe Schiro has not changed, going as far to say they expect something bad to happen now that he is released.
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