Police: Mound House mom killed husband, herself
DAYTON – A Mound House woman killed her husband and wounded her 9-year-old autistic son before turning the gun on herself, investigators said Wednesday.
Lyon County detective Lt. John Arndell said investigators pieced together what happened from the account of Richard and Tamara Schmerber’s 12-year-old daughter, who said she was told by her mother three times to stay in her room Tuesday morning as the shooting unfolded.
“She told detectives that sometime around 7:18 a.m. she heard gunshots coming from the dining room,” Arndell said. “Her mother came to her door and told her to stay in her room.”
The girl told investigators she heard more shots.
“Her mother returned to her door and told her again to stay in her room. She heard her brother calling to her mother, saying he couldn’t get up, and crying,” Arndell said.
For a third and final time, Tamara Schmerber returned to her daughter’s door, Arndell said.
“(Her mother) told her that her father was on the floor and that she had his gun. When her mother went back to the dining room, the juvenile said, there were other gunshots, a pause and one final gunshot was heard.”
Arndell said the girl stayed in her room until 8:54 a.m., when she went into the living room and called police.
She told police she did not hear arguing or any other indications of an altercation.
“Her mother told her there was another person in the house, but she did not hear anybody else’s voice,” Arndell said.
He said an autopsy Wednesday revealed Tamara Schmerber, 42, died of a single self-inflicted gunshot wound to the right temple. Gunshot residue was found on her right hand.
Richard Schmerber, also 42, was killed by a single gunshot wound to the back of the head. There was no gunshot residue found on his hands, Arndell said.
The boy was struck twice at close range – the first round striking his thigh, the second in the shoulder. Arndell said the angle suggests he was facing away from his mother when he was shot.
The father’s body was found in the kitchen. Investigators speculate from the angle of the wound and condition of the kitchen he may have been pouring a cup of coffee when he was shot. Tamara Schmerber was found lying on her back near the master bedroom door.
When investigators moved her body, they discovered her husband’s revolver, which he owned as an armored-car driver for Loomis Fargo & Co.
“The weapon, a Ruger .357-caliber revolver with a 6-inch barrel, was recovered from under Mrs. Schmerber’s right thigh and was completely hidden from view until the body was rolled (over),” Arndell said.
In all, six .38-caliber rounds were fired from the weapon.
He said ammunition found in Richard Schmerber’s duty belt was identical to the spent rounds found in the weapon and the bullets in the victims.
“No evidence was recovered that would suggest a third adult person in the residence,” he said. “(There were) no fingerprints, no forced entry; the rear door was locked and secure.”
An investigation revealed the couple was in “severe financial hardship,” he said.
“Their truck was repossessed, and they were about to lose their house.”
Co-workers told investigators Richard Schmerber had said he won a lawsuit over the repossession of his truck and was expecting between $100,000 and $400,000 in a settlement. He recently put a $100 deposit down on a new truck and had his wife spend $250 for insurance. On Monday night, he called his employer to ask for the day off, saying he was receiving his check Tuesday and was going to buy a new truck.
But Arndell said there is no record of a lawsuit. The financial institution named as the defendant denied a lawsuit, as did the law firm allegedly representing him. Arndell said no paperwork was found in the home to support Schmerber’s alleged statements.
“Detectives theorize that on the morning of the 25th, Mrs. Schmerber became aware that the lawsuit was in fact a ruse and there would be no payment,” Arnell said. “Financial pressure and fear of being homeless with three children – two of whom are special-needs children – may have contributed to her actions.”
The couple’s older daughter, who also is autistic, was at school during the shootings, police said.
Tamara Schmerber was a stay-at-home mother, while Richard Schmerber had worked for Loomis as a driver for three years.
The boy is listed in serious-but-stable condition at Washoe Medical Center. The children are being cared for by their grandparents, Arndell said.
Loomis human resources manager Bob Spinetta said it has opened a savings account for the children.
“We want to make sure the children are taken care of,” Spinetta said. “We feel they need the support of the community.”
• Donations may be made to Bank of America, the Richard and Tamara Schmerber Fund and Trust for the Children, account number 004967825191.
Contact F.T. Norton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1213.