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Some members of a family in Simpsonville were getting ready to attend the state fair last Wednesday when shots rang out, accompanied by high-pitched, hysterical screaming and the sound of running feet as family members fled in confused terror.
This tragic saga that unfolded at the elegant upscale home on a private horse farm has all the elements of a television drama.
A husband married only 10 months, already embroiled in divorce proceedings and an impending embezzlement investigation involving millions of dollars, pulls a gun during a discussion with his wife. The gun misfires at he aims at her head.
Then she barely pulls away, slams a door and escapes by diving out a window, pursued by her crazed husband who with a second weapon empties a gun at her.
But Richard Schwartz saved one bullet for himself.
He turned the handgun on himself, ending his life with a bullet to the head as his wife, Brielle, ran shrieking with terror safely around the side of the house.
Around 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Shelby County Sheriff’s Det. Jason Rice said deputies responded to a call of shots fired at 2000 Todds Point Road, where Richard and Brielle Schwartz owned a Saddlebred training operation, and discovered Schwartz, 48, dead – but only after he tried repeatedly to shoot his wife.
Rice said Schwartz tried to shoot his wife in their bedroom, and the gun misfired.
“He had initially pulled the gun on her in the bedroom, put the gun to her head and pulled the trigger, but it didn’t fire,” he said. “She pushed him away, and ran into the bathroom, and locked herself in. He banged on the door and tried to get in, but it was locked, and that gave her just a few seconds to kick out the screen and jump out the window just as he fired eight rounds through the door.”
Rice said that if Brielle Schwartz had not been able to escape through the window, the odds are she would have been killed.
“If she had been in the room, she would have mostly likely have been struck by one or all of those bullets because the room was so small,” he said. “But she was able to get out of the room mere seconds before he started firing through the door.”
Rice said the couple’s 2-year-old son was at home at the time of the shooting, as was Schwartz’s grown son and his girlfriend and three other family members, some of whom were getting ready to go to the Kentucky State Fair, while others were planning to babysit for the couple.
Rice said Schwartz did not target anyone else except his wife and that that he thought the motivation for the shooting was a combination of financial difficulties and marital problems.
“I’d say that the financial problems and the marriage problems definitely played a part in making him snap and doing something that was terrible,” he said.
Schwartz, president and CEO of the Schwartz Group, headquartered in Kokomo, Ind., was being investigated for embezzling millions of dollars. His wife had also filed for divorce on July 17.
Rice said that Brielle Schwartz told him she and her husband had been talking about the divorce at the time of the shooting, but that the discussion wasn’t heated.
“I think he had made up his mind prior to that day as to what he was going to do,” Rice said. “I think he knew that day was the day he was going to carry out his plan. I think he had already snapped, broke and made a decision prior to that.”
Rice also said that the investigation has ruled out foul play and identified suicide as the cause of the incident.
“There’s absolutely no question [that it was suicide],” he said. “There were other things found at the scene, enough to verify his intent and that he was the lone person in there firing the weapon, so there’s no question of what took place.”
Brielle Schwartz did not answer calls to her home or cellular phones.
Rice said the couple had lived in Simpsonville for about a year.
A close neighbor, Linda Bennett, said she has not been able to get the tragedy out of her mind.
“It’s such a terrible thing; I think about it a lot,” said Bennett, who with her husband, Dr. Scott Bennett, owned nearby Alliance Stud. “It’s beyond comprehension – I still can’t believe it. When I first heard about it, I said I didn’t believe it. I said this is crazy. There’s no way that could be true.’”
As idyllic as life in the Saddlebred world may have seemed to those who encountered the Schwartzes, that was a façade.
Schwartz had lived in Arizona and Indiana, where Schwartz, described as a “wealth manager” and once an agent for New York Life, since June had been under investigation by the Indiana Secretary of State’s office.
Valerie Kroeger, director of communications for the Indiana Secretary of State’s office, confirmed the investigation to The Sentinel-News but said she couldn’t elaborate on it.
“We are conducting on investigation that is securities-related,” Kroeger said. “We don’t comment on ongoing investigations, but I can confirm that.”
An Indiana newspaper, the Kokomo Perspective, had written extensively about Schwartz’s financial problems, including that New York Life in March 2012 had terminated its contract with him and initiated litigation, seeking damages in excess of $75,000, insisting that he repay a negative ledger balance concerning insurance policies.
“Mr. Schwartz has not represented the company for some time,” New York Life Senior Vice President William H. Werfelman told The Sentinel-News, “but we were saddened by the news and offer heartfelt condolences to the Schwartz family."
Bob Johnson, owner of Copper Coin Farm, another Saddlebred operation in Simpsonville, said that he and his wife, Wendy, did not know the couple very well, having only met them once at an open house at their farm just more than a year ago but that he received a letter from him about a month after that, offering to help with financial matters.
“We got a letter from him that said he was a financial advisor and that he would be more than willing to help us with anything of that nature,” Johnson said.
He said he replied that he was not interested in anything like that and that he thought it was odd that Schwartz never followed up with him.
Johnson said that a friend of his told him that Schwartz also had approached him about taking out a life insurance policy and then giving the proceeds to him so he could invest for him, but the man was skeptical and did not do it, Johnson said.
Perhaps the Bennetts knew the Schwartzes best among those around Simpsonville.
“They lived right across the street from us, and honestly, I was totally shocked, I have to tell you,” Linda Bennett said. “I really liked them. They were really nice.”
She and her husband socialized with the Schwartzes, and she said they had no idea they were even having any problems.
“They were also wonderful to us, and we enjoyed hanging around with them,” she said. “We had them over to the house for dinner. I never suspected anything like that.”
Johnson described them as being very quiet and “low-key.” “Him holding a gun to her head, and everything, Oh, God, that was just awful,” Johnson said. “I can’t even imagine going through something like that.”
According to Foothills Magazine, the couple had acquired Battaglia Farm in Scottsdale in Jan. 2013 from Arabian trainer Bob Battaglia and opened Legacy Equestrian Center there, billing Brielle as a world champion equestrian and American Saddlebred enthusiast, adding that the couple owned another facility in Kentucky. They had moved to Simpsonville about a year ago, taking up residence among the stately trees and old meadows among the many equine operations along Todds Point Road.
The couple has seven children between them, with one child, Boston, a toddler, in common, according to divorce papers filed in Shelby Circuit Court.
The divorce document said Brielle Schwartz, 31, was born in Indiana, listing her husband’s occupation as life insurance and estate planning and hers as a horse breeder. The document did not specify why Brielle Schwartz was seeking a divorce.
Schwartz’s attorney, Steven Kriegshaber of Louisville, said that she filed a no-fault divorce, which means simply that the marriage was irrevocably broken.
Also, he said, she has requested that the details of the divorce be sealed.
“We are requesting that the public not have access to the file because of various lawsuits that are either pending or anticipated,” he said. “In a high-profile case, it’s not unusual.”
According to Schwartz’ Web site, he grew up in South Florida and graduated from the University of Miami at Coral Gables with a degree in finance, afterwards working in the advanced planning market.
Brielle Schwartz was Mrs. Indiana 2006, a graduate of Indiana University and was a real estate agent for RE-MAX and worked for Salin Bank before marrying Schwartz.
That ceremony, on Oct. 27, was the third marriage for him, and the second for her.
Robert Mueller, a former Catholic priest with the Archdiocese of Louisville, who left the church to get married and is now affiliated with the Federation of Christian Ministry, expressed shock that the couple he had married less than a year ago should come to such a tragic end.
“He was much older than she, but they had just moved there and were so excited about their future,” he said.
Mueller said he did not know the couple very well, that they had contacted him and asked him to perform the marriage ceremony at their home.
“It was very upscale, a very nice garden wedding, with tents and caterers and everything,” he said.
Mueller said he didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary, and that the couple seemed happy.
“I had no idea.”