CUMBERLAND — Accused killer Stephen George Schleuniger is now awaiting sentencing after he pleaded guilty Tuesday in the death of 43-year-old Lisa Ann Simmons at the couple’s Browning Street residence last Sept. 5.
Schleuniger, 44, was chained at the hands, waist and feet as he was escorted into the courtroom by Allegany County corrections officers for the hearing that began at about 9:35 a.m., with Judge W. Timothy Finan presiding.
Dressed in orange prison garb, the short-haired, goateed defendant waved and smiled to someone in the courtroom as he was being escorted to the defense council table where he was seated with two attorneys from the Public Defender’s Office.
Charged with first-degree murder initially, the criminal charge was modified to second-degree murder to which Schleuniger pleaded guilty as part of the plea agreement.
The state will seek a prison sentence of 30 years with a mandatory incarceration of at least 20 years. Associated charges were dismissed as part of the agreement.
Schleuniger, who remains jailed without bond at the Allegany County Detention Center, is scheduled to be sentenced in circuit court on Tuesday, Jan. 14.
According to State’s Attorney Michael O. Twigg, the plea agreement was driven by the recovery of the body of Ms. Simmons which would not have been possible without the assistance of the defendant and would also bring some closure for the victim’s family prior to the holidays.
While prosecution of the case without a body would not have been impossible, it would have presented challenges to ensure a conviction. Furthermore, had the matter proceeded to trial Ms. Simmons’s body may have never been recovered, Twigg said.
As part of the agreement, Schleuniger has agreed to speak with law enforcement from Washington County, Maryland, regarding the death of his prior girlfriend in 2010.