Prosecutors have dropped murder charges against a Libby man who allegedly shot another man in his living room and didn’t report the death until police arrived 18 hours later.
Henry Carl Schroeder, who argued he shot the man in self-defense, pleaded guilty Dec. 8 to a reduced charge of obstructing a peace officer, a misdemeanor, in Lincoln County District Court. As part of a plea deal, charges of deliberate homicide and tampering with evidence were reduced or dismissed.
District Court Judge James Wheelis sentenced Schroeder to 44 days in jail with credit for the 44 days he previously served. Schroeder must also pay an $80 fee.
Schroeder shot and killed Thomas Veloz on Jan. 31. Veloz’s girlfriend, Kimberlee Ann Patterson, was also at the scene of the shooting and charged with tampering with evidence and tampering with witnesses. On Dec. 8, Patterson pleaded guilty to an amended charge of misdemeanor obstructing a peace officer and was sentenced to 30 days in jail, with credit for time served.
The change-of-plea hearing was held months after Schroeder’s attorneys, Noel Larrivee and William Managhan, filed a notice of affirmative defenses, arguing that the 75-year-old man had killed Veloz in an act of self-defense.
According to court documents filed earlier this year, Patterson and Veloz were dating but the couple had a falling out in late January. On the evening of Jan. 31, Patterson was at Schroeder’s house and said her relationship with Veloz was over. She asked if it was OK if she stayed there because her ex-boyfriend was on a “warpath.”
That evening, Veloz allegedly barged into Schroeder’s house and told him, “I’m going to kill you for messing around with my girlfriend.” Veloz then grabbed Patterson by the arm and told her to get in the car. Patterson pulled away and Schroeder ran into his bedroom to get a .380-caliber pistol. Schroeder then shot Veloz from about six feet away, according to court records.
After the shooting, Schroeder and Patterson picked up some of the shells and covered Veloz’s body with a blue blanket, according to court records.
The following morning, a friend stopped by Schroeder’s house and was let inside, where he saw Veloz’s body under the blue blanket. The man told Schroeder and Patterson that they needed to call the police and then he left. At approximately 3:30 p.m., Feb. 1, after driving by Schroeder’s house twice and not seeing any police activity, the man decided to go the authorities himself.
Not long after, officers from the Libby Police Department and Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office went to Schroeder’s home at 1305 Washington Ave. Police called Schroeder and demanded that he come outside. When Schroeder exited the house, officers asked him if there was anyone inside and he said “there is but I shot him,” court records state. Police then entered the home and found Veloz’s body covered under a blue blanket with a large pool of blood near his head. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Schroeder was taken to the Lincoln County Detention Facility where he allegedly admitted to police that he had shot Veloz. He also said that Patterson was inside the home at the time of the shooting. She was arrested later that afternoon after her car slid into a ditch just south of Libby.
When asked why he didn’t call 911 immediately, Schroeder allegedly said he was upset at the time but “thought about calling the next morning,” according to the police report.