A day before homicide victim Erik S. Schwartz was to be buried, Jackson County authorities announced they had charged a 19-year-old in his slaying.
The gunman allegedly was on the prowl in Independence and Kansas City for cars he could burglarize when he drove past Schwartz, a father of three who had fallen asleep in his vehicle early Wednesday. The gunman shot him in the head and stole his cigarettes, court records say.
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On Friday, prosecutors charged Chad D. Terry Jr., who is listed in court documents as homeless, with second-degree murder and armed criminal action in the case.
Relatives said Schwartz, 33, had helped a friend move furniture Tuesday evening and fell asleep in his Jeep Grand Cherokee while parked in front of a residence in the 400 block of North Grand Avenue in Independence.
His mother, Carol Schwartz, said she went outside about 1 a.m. and asked Schwartz whether he was going to come inside. Schwartz said he wanted to finish a meal he brought home and would go in afterward. Carol Schwartz said she went back inside and fell asleep.
About 30 minutes later, Schwartz was shot while two of his teenage children slept inside the nearby residence. Police found Schwartz sprawled on the street. He died later at a hospital.
“This is every parent’s greatest fear,” his mother wrote on her Facebook page. “Is bad enough, but not this way. I don’t understand. Help me Lord. I don’t understand.”
According to court records, witnesses told investigators that Terry boasted about shooting Schwartz.
A witness said Terry and two others had been driving around looking to break into cars. After spotting Schwartz, Terry drove around the corner, got out and walked back to the victim’s vehicle with a second person, court records said.
Witnesses said they heard a gunshot and saw two men running from the scene. As Terry allegedly bragged about the shooting later, he also threatened to kill the people with him, according to court records. He refused to talk to police detectives, the records said.
Terry pleaded guilty this year to felonious restraint and unlawful use of a weapon, according to online court records.
Carol Schwartz said her son had been through some tough times, but things were beginning to turn around for him.
“But right now, I’m just numb,” she said Friday.
About three weeks ago, Schwartz began working at a department store distribution center in Grain Valley. He planned to begin studying radiology this month. He had made arrangements to rent a basement apartment in his mother’s home and was in the process of moving there from Raytown.
“He loved his family and was very protective of them,” Carol Schwartz said. “He cared deeply about his kids, wanted what was best for them and did whatever he could to keep them together.”
Schwartz graduated from Blue Springs High School in January 1999. He enlisted in the Navy while still in high school and went to boot camp the day after his birthday. Schwartz served from February to August 1999 and received a medical discharge.
Once he returned home, Schwartz worked in construction and rehabbed homes. Schwartz was a few college credits short from receiving an associate’s degree in heating, ventilation and air conditioning, his mother said.
Schwartz donated his organs, which went to four people. He is survived by two brothers and a sister.
Memorial services are scheduled for 3:30 p.m. today at First United Methodist Church, 400 W. Maple St., Independence.