One of the victims of a bizarre and brutal home invasion attack testified Thursday she played dead to stop the violence, thinking her husband was already dead.
Sue Duncan took the stand for the prosecution after opening statements in the trial of Andrew Schmuhl, the lawyer accused in the 2014 attack on Duncan and her husband, Leo Fisher, a partner in an Arlington law firm that fired Schmuhl's wife, Alecia, two weeks prior.
Schmuhl is accused of torturing and almost killing the couple.
When Leo Fisher answered the door of McLean, Virginia, home the evening of Nov. 9, 2014, Schmuhl forced his way in and used a Taser on Fisher, prosecutors said.
Duncan testified Schmuhl came to the door of their McLean, Virginia, home in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., flashed a badge and said he was going to arrest Fisher. Schmuhl walked toward Duncan, she backed away, and he zip-tied her wrists and feet, Duncan said.
When asked why he was there, he said Fisher had a hit out on a Mexican drug cartel, Duncan testified.
Duncan described Schmuhl on top of Fisher, cutting his throat.
"I said, 'What are you doing? What are you doing? What's going on?'" she testified.
Then Schmuhl jumped on the bed and shouted at her to get out, Duncan testified.
"Then I saw he had a gun in his hand," she said. "He was raising his hand and aiming the gun at me, so I turned my head and I felt the bullet and I fell down to the floor."
The bullet tore across her scalp, she said.
She testified she tried to crawl toward the phone, but Schmuhl jumped on her and repeatedly stabbed her.
"I finally realized I would have to pretend to be dead, so the last time I just lay there on the bed," she said.
When she finally managed to hit the panic alarm and call 911, she saw her husband walking, surprising her.
"I thought he was dead," she said through tears.
In opening statements, prosecutors said Fisher had yelled to his wife "He's murdering me!" as Schmuhl put a pillow over his head and stabbed him.
"This is a case about revenge, greed, torture -- total depravity," were the prosecution's opening words.
Schmuhl's lawyers put their "involuntary insanity defense" front and center during opening statements, telling the jury Schmuhl was taking many medications around the time of the attack and conceding Schmuhl attacked the couple. They highlighted Schmuhl's bizarre attire that night, including the law enforcement-type badge featuring a picture of a penis -- the kind of novelty item you might see at a bachelorette party.
Alecia Schmuhl was the mastermind of the plan, the defense said, and the execution of if was a mess. They called Andrew Schmuhl his wife's foot soldier.
Duncan testified that during the three-hour ordeal, she saw her attacker talking to a woman outside and seemingly signal with flashing lights. She said his demeanor "was very forceful, authoritative, very much in control."
Prosecutors believe Alecia Schmuhl was just outside the home during the attack, communicating by phone with her husband.
In court Monday, Andrew Schmuhl pleaded not guilty to all seven charges against him in that Sunday evening attack.
A judge ruled last month the Schmuhls will have separate trials. Andrew Schmuhl's lawyers asked for separate trials when they learned his wife might use the defense that she's been a victim of years of spousal abuse and was programmed to do whatever her husband asked.
Leo Fisher testified about the attack during a preliminary hearing, saying that a man knocked on the door and claimed to be a law enforcement officer, but then burst into the home and stunned him with a Taser.
Fisher said he recognized the attacker as Alecia Schmuhl's husband.
Police arrested the Schmuhls after a brief chase. Andrew Schmuhl was arrested while clad only in a diaper.
Alecia Schmuhl will go on trial this fall.