Nearly three years after the crime, a group of Minnehaha County jurors began hearing evidence Wednesday as they weigh whether South Dakota inmate James McVay should live or die.
McVay has already pleaded guilty but mentally ill for the July 2011 murder of 75-year-old Maybelle Schein. It's now up to a jury to decide his punishment.
After two weeks of jury selection, prosecutors began presenting the case against McVay to jurors Wednesday. What they have to prove is that McVay killed Schein in order to get something of value or that the murder was so violent and vile that McVay should be executed.
McVay walked away from a transitional unit at the South Dakota State Penitentiary on July 1, 2011 after spending 50 days in solitary confinement for a previous escape attempt. During that time, Minnehaha County State's Attorney Aaron McGowan says McVay hatched a plan to assassinate the president.
"The defendant was devising a plan. The defendant was devising a plan to go on a crime spree - a killing spree," McGowan said in his opening statement.
McVay started that killing spree on the morning of July 2, 2011, when he spotted Schein's garage door slightly open in Sioux Falls. He snuck underneath and found the 75-year-old sleeping. As she woke up, he stabbed her nine times. The ninth time he cut her vocal cords so she couldn't scream any longer. He then stole her car and started on his journey to assassinate the president. Authorities caught up with him in Madison, Wisconsin.
Madison Wisconsin Police Officer Kipp Hartman questioned McVay after his arrest. He testified Wednesday that McVay started making voluntary statements about killing Schein and his plan to kill the president inside his squad car.
"His goals were to break into someone's home and steal some firearms. He said he needed a rifle to kill President Obama," Hartman testified. “If he wasn't able to break into a home, he said he would kill a City of Madison Police officer to get an AR-15 rifle.”
A squad car video of the interview was played for the jury in which McVay was asked why he killed Schein.
"I didn't want a witness. I needed her car," McVay said.
McVay went on to say he didn't kill Schein because he was high on drugs or alcohol.
“I killed her because I wanted to kill her,” McVay said in the Madison, WI, patrol car just hours after the murder.
During opening statements, McVay's attorneys pointed out that McVay has a mental illness and that he was drinking alcohol and cough medicine before the murder. Those caused him to hallucinate to the point that he thought he was the son of Satan and on a mission to kill the president.
Officer Hartman also said there was evidence McVay was drinking and using drugs shortly before he was arrested.