clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

'Imagine the gall': Family recounts horrors as man who killed teen in 1977 sentenced

SALT LAKE CITY — The man who ended 16-year-old Sharon "Lecia" Schollmeyer's life nearly 40 years ago had already done the unthinkable by breaking into her apartment, raping her at knifepoint and taking her life.

But something else Patrick Michael McCabe did following those heinous crimes will similarly haunt Schollmeyer's mother, Sally Kadleck, forever: He led her straight to her daughter's body, knowing what she would find.

"Imagine the gall — that he walked up to that door and walked in with me, knowing what he had done," Kadleck said emotionally Wednesday in 3rd District Court, where McCabe was about to be sentenced for the Dec. 3, 1977, attack.

McCabe, who was Schollmeyer's apartment manager and later let Kadleck inside the residence to check on her daughter's well-being after the girl didn't show up for work, was sentenced Wednesday to 10 years to life in the Utah State Prison by 3rd District Judge Paul Parker.

"When I couldn't get an answer, I went downstairs. I went to him and said, 'My daughter isn't answering the door, I need to get in there,'" Kadleck said, at which point he led her to the front door and unlocked it with his manager key. "I cannot fathom what kind of psychopath could be so involved in the (aftermath) and still maintain his innocence to the police."

McCabe, 60, was linked to the cold case in December when DNA found on a halter top at the crime scene was matched with his name in the FBI's Combined DNA Index System database. He was living in Bell, Florida, at the time. McCabe's criminal history in Florida includes a sex offense against a minor in 1999, for which he served prison time, court documents say.

In April, McCabe entered into a plea deal, admitting to murder in the second degree, a first-degree felony, as well as aggravated burglary, also a first-degree felony. In exchange for his plea, the original charge of murder in the first degree — the name of the capital offense that applied under Utah law in 1977 — was reduced, and a first-degree felony charge of aggravated sexual assault was dropped.

The deal eliminated most of the uncertainty surrounding McCabe's sentencing and also avoided the need for a murder trial, an ordeal that Schollmeyer's family said they would prefer not to endure. It also eliminated the possibility of a death penalty sentence.

McCabe's sentence — five years to life for the murder charge and five years to life for the aggravated burglary, to be served consecutively — was the maximum time behind bars Parker could order for him. The judge said he would have imposed a longer minimum sentence if that option was available.

"I cannot imagine, nor can I sufficiently empathize with your feelings that you have had to go through for some 40 years," Parker told Schollmeyer's loved ones. "That has to be painful and unbearable and difficult to deal with."

McCabe has 30 days to appeal his sentence, though he and his defense have given no indication he plans to do so.

Court documents describe McCabe sneaking into Schollmeyer's apartment late at night, grabbing a knife from inside the residence, waking Schollmeyer, then threatening her with the knife while tying her down and raping her. Then he took her to the bathtub, where he strangled her and held her head under about 6 inches of water, according to the description.

McCabe, in a wheelchair and wearing inmate garb, was stoic throughout Wednesday's hearing and declined to give a statement. Parker read aloud a letter McCabe had submitted to the court, saying he was remorseful and understood the depravity of his crimes.

"To say how sorry I deeply am does not begin to seem enough. … I cannot undo the evil that I did," McCabe's letter stated. "I can only hope that (the) justice done today can give you some peace in your lives."

Schollmeyer's sister, Brigett Love, said the family is finally achieving some measure of closure.

"In December, when we got the call that they found him … I realized we had been living under a cloud (for) 39 years," Love said. "It's like the sun is actually starting to shine for us."

Love also emotionally rebuked McCabe for leading her mother to her sister's lifeless body.

"Why did he let her see that? He is a coward," Love said.

She said she questions McCabe's remorse and believes he is "only sorry that he got caught."

"I appreciate that he doesn't try to blame the victim or mock our pain," Love said. "But that's all I can appreciate at this time."

Kadleck said in court that her daughter was intelligent, confident, adventurous. Schollmeyer was just 16 years old when she wanted to branch out and live on her own.

"She wanted to leave home and create a life for herself. I was very upset … (but) rather than be alienated from her, I went along with her," Kadleck remembers.

Kadleck remained close with her daughter, who supported herself as a waitress in downtown Salt Lake City. The last time she saw her was just days before the attack, when the two went apartment hunting. Schollmeyer had grown to dislike the environment at the apartment complex where she lived, and was looking for a new place.

Kadleck, who had begun to believe her daughter's killer would never be found, is grateful the case is finally closed.

"I appreciate DNA for the wonderful miracle that it is," she said.

Despite the opportunities and memories ripped away from Schollmeyer and her loved ones, Kadleck feels certain that her daughter "has not lived in vain."

"Each one of us has lived our life with purpose and in memory of her," Kadleck said, overcome with tears. "She's never been forgotten. We miss her today, but we know that the day will come when (we see) her again."