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City man gets 8 years for crime of passion

Schooley admits: ‘I made choices I shouldn’t have made’

HOLLIDAYSBURG — An Altoona man was sentenced to at least eight years and one month in jail for a stabbing that was described Thursday in Blair County Court as a crime of passion and reckless behavior.

“I lost my mind,” Russell L. Schooley, 31, told Judge Wade Kagarise after reading a series of apology letters in court. “I made choices I shouldn’t have made.”

Schooley’s charges developed last April after he found his ex-girlfriend, “the love of his life,” having sex with another man, Chief Public Defender Russell Montgomery told the judge.

Schooley made the discovery April 16, 2019, at his ex-girlfriend’s Logan Hills apartment. Schooley grabbed a knife in the kitchen and struck the ex-girlfriend in the face. As the woman’s new boyfriend intervened, he was stabbed in the abdomen, causing internal damage that led to three surgeries and seven months’ recuperation.

That’s seven months of my life that I’ll never get back,” the man told Kagarise.

Montgomery, describing the stabbing as accidental and unintentional, suggested five years’ incarceration, as reflected in the mitigated range of the state’s sentencing guidelines for aggravated assault.

Kagarise declined and relied on the top of the standard range and imposed 7.5 years to 15 years for that offense.

“The (victim) could have died,” Kagarise said. “And you’re intelligent enough to understand the significance of that.”

The judge also added incarceration time for theft and fleeing police, resulting in a total sentence of eight years and one month to a maximum of 20 years.

“It is a significant sentence,” First Assistant District Attorney Pete Weeks said after court recessed, where he asked for maximum penalties .

“He stole, he stabbed, he drove impaired and he fled from police,” Weeks said. “He’s a poster child for someone who doesn’t comply with the law.”

After the stabbing, Schooley fled the apartment and an ambulance responded to tend to the victim.

The following day, an on-duty Altoona police officer spotted Schooley driving on Sixth Avenue, near Sixth Street. Upon seeing the officer, Schooley drove through a yard and down an alley, with the officer following. That led to a high-speed chase in which Schooley took evasive measures and crashed at Ninth Street, where he ran into a parked SUV and the foundation of a house.

After the crash, he ran down an alley and climbed onto a garage roof on the 900 block of Sixth Avenue where police took him into custody.

Schooley asked Kagarise for leniency and expressed remorse.

He acknowledged having mental health conditions that influence his behavior, that he was using methamphetamine on the day of the stabbing and that he has found jobs while out of prison, only to lose one after another when people learn of his criminal history. His past includes a 2009 indecent assault offense involving a child less than 13 years old, based on the state’s sex offenders registry.

Blair County Prison Society member Elsie MacCullagh told Kagarise that she saw Schooley when he was previously incarcerated at State Correctional Institution at Greene, where he was on the honors block for good behavior.

“The potential is there for him to do right,” she said. “It was after his release when things started going downhill.”

Kagarise also expressed a recognition of Schooley’s potential, based on his courtroom presentation, and proposed that he look to the future and ways that he can give back to society.

“There is room for you to use the talents God gave you,” the judge said.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.

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