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Man pleads guilty to murder

By Brandon Evans | Published Saturday, November 17, 2012

This story contains graphic descriptions of a brutal murder, which some may find offensive.

‘I’M GUILTY’ – Mark Schomburg, 52, of Paradise pled guilty Wednesday afternoon to the murder of Susan Whisenant, 47, of Missouri, last summer at his country home. He received 40 years in prison. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

More than a year after deputies discovered a gruesome murder scene in Paradise, Mark Schomburg, 52, pled guilty to the crime.

Late last summer, in the middle of the worst drought and heat wave in North Texas history, Wise County Sheriff’s personnel responded to a call at a farm house on County Road 3332, between Bridgeport and Paradise, on the afternoon of Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2011.

The heat that day crawled to 104 degrees Fahrenheit, tying a record high. In a white metal barn at the end of the long gravel driveway, investigators found the decomposing body of Susan L. Whisenant, 47, of Lincoln County, Mo.

It took the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s office several days to positively identity Whisenant. Although she’d been dead only three days, the intense heat had caused rapid decomposition.

After investigators found the body, they found Schomburg hiding in the attic of the home. He’s been in Wise County Jail ever since under a $2 million bond.

At noon Wednesday, he entered the Decatur courtroom of Judge John Fostel. Shackled and wearing a gray and white striped one-piece jail uniform, a hunched-over Schomburg shuffled before the judge. His brown hair had grown long in the back since his arrest. A goatee spilled over his neck. Deep scars marred his forehead as evidence of injuries he’d sustained in a motorcycle wreck years earlier.

“How do you plead?” Fostel asked.

“Guilty,” Schomburg replied. “I’m guilty.”

In return for the guilty plea, the state recommended Schomburg receive 40 years in prison. He’ll be required to serve at least 20 before he is eligible for parole.

“We talked about various ways we could approach the defense and decided to enter the plea of guilty,” said Bruce Isaaks, Schomburg’s attorney.

On Aug. 14, 2011, Schomburg murdered Whisenant in the kitchen of his home by deeply slitting her throat several times.

“There was a lot of anger,” said Sheriff David Walker. “This is probably the worst case of overkill I’ve ever seen in all my years of law enforcement in Wise County. There was evidence that he mutilated her on more than one occasion after the murder.”

“(Schomburg) also stabbed her through both eyes so deep it punctured her brain,” said Assistant District Attorney Tim Cole. “The back of her eyeballs looked like punctured egg shells.”

In the days that followed he also cut off her cheeks in an attempt to remove all her dental work. And after wrapping the body in a tarp, he shot her multiple times with a sawed-off 12-gauge shotgun. Cole said these were all probably attempts to mangle the victim’s body beyond recognition.

Next to the home, a man rented an apartment above a detached garage. The man heard the gunshots. He then peeked into the shed and saw something or somebody wrapped in tarp, and smelled the horrible odor of death. His subsequent phone call to 911 brought Schomburg to justice.

Walker said his crime scene unit spent days at the location. Evidence was found in the main home, in the detached garage and in the shed.

“The sheriff’s office did a great job in the investigation,” said District Attorney Greg Lowery. “Every piece of evidence we could have thought to ask for they provided.”

Whisenant had moved in with Schomburg just a couple of months before being murdered. She knew him through an ex-husband. She suffered with bouts of alcoholism and mental illness and had become estranged from her family in Missouri, leaving her with few places to go. She had been diagnosed as a schizophrenic.

Schomburg told investigators he killed her after they’d gotten into an argument. He said she wanted him to go the store to buy some beer and he refused, prompting her to threaten him with a knife. His story was that he wrested the knife from her grip and then used it to kill her.

“If this had gone to trial he would have tried to claim self defense or an act of sudden passion,” Cole said.

Cole said they spoke with the family, and they were satisfied with the sentence and with this case not having to go to trial.

“Generally speaking, with murder cases you have to serve 75 percent before you can get probation,” Lowery said. “In this case, that would be 30 years. And with his health and age this is basically a life sentence.”

Even when given a life sentence, a convict becomes eligible for parole after 30 years.

If the case had gone to trial, the state had witnesses ready to go that could testify to Schomburg’s violent tendencies and strange behavior. He was an avid gun collector. He had more than 30 firearms at his home and was himself armed at all times.

The county is in the process of seizing Schomburg’s land and home in Paradise where the murder occurred.

Whisenant had no children. She’d battled substance abuse and mental illness much of her adult life. She left little behind, other than a silent cry for justice, meted out last Wednesday when Schomburg was led away in chains.

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