Friends and family said Maybelle Schein was more than a murder victim. On Thursday, during the James McVay death penalty hearing, they told jurors Schein was also a compassionate woman who loved taking care of others, traveling and her dogs. The jury recently decided McVay qualifies for the death penalty, and now it must decide whether to carry out that punishment. McVay pleaded guilty, but mentally ill, for killing Schein.
The defense tried to show McVay as a remorseful man who wouldn't be a threat to the community if given life in prison without parole. Prosecuting attorneys argued that McVay deserves to die, calling him a threat to others if he is receives a life sentence.
Before testimony began, Minnehaha County State's Attorney Aaron McGowan told jurors to, "Remember the one witness who can't testify. Maybelle Schein."
Schein's good friend said she and Schein were like sisters.
Marjorie Anderson told the jury about Schein's years as a nurse for the Centers for Disease Control. Schein was honored several times as a leading expert in tuberculosis research and testing. Schein would go to bad neighborhoods while she lived in New York to test people living on the streets. Anderson said "everybody loved" her.
Schein's brother, Stan Fetters, said his sister, who never had children, would take her nieces and nephews on trips around the world.
McVay's attorneys called on several witnesses to convince the jury he is sorry for the murder. Those who took the stand say he changed his mind and now wants to live and help and encourage other inmates. His lawyers also pointed to a difficult childhood, in which his heroin-addicted biological mother threw him in a pool to drown when he was just six months old.
McGowan insisted McVay is a threat to others, even behind bars. South Dakota State Penitentiary Deputy Warden Troy Ponto testified that he has concerns about McVay in prison because he has threatened prison staff in the past. According to Ponto, McVay once said, "You are lucky I'm in restraints. I'm waiting for one of you to screw up. Then one of you will be gone."
Court resumes on Friday, when McVay himself and his brother will testify. On Monday, his adoptive mother will testify via teleconference.