“My ex-lover, Dr. Schmidt, injected me with HIV,” says Jaine, a nurse. That’s a hard-to-believe theory. But the district attorney and Lafayette police believed her and investigate the case.
There are many questions, such as whether Janice Trahan’s theory was correct, and if so, how to prove that HIV was injected by Dr. Richard Schmidt because HIV DNA mutates over time.
This is a case study for the case Shot of Vengeance from Forensic Files case (Season 8, Episode 9). Let’s
Summary of Shot of Vengeance Forensic Files Case
|Date of Incident||August 4, 1994|
|Region and Location||Lafayette, Louisiana|
|Forensic Files Case||Shot of Vengeance (Season 8, Episode 9)|
|Culprit||Richard J. Schmidt|
|Type of Crime||Attempted murder|
|Forensic Evidence||Telephone records, Blood, Medical records|
|Forensic Techniques||Human genome matching,|
|Charged For||Attempted second-degree murder|
|Punishment||50 years imprisonment|
|Conviction Status||Died on February 12, 2023|
Janice Trahan, a hospital nurse, was diagnosed with strange symptoms, and after consulting with her gynecologist, a series of tests revealed that she was pregnant and HIV positive.
She terminated the pregnancy after the gynecologist informed her that her child might be HIV-positive. Now, she set back to know how it happened.
There were two possible explanations:
(1) she may be infected by one of the HIV patients at the hospital, or
(2) by her lovers.
But she had no idea that it was his ex-lover, Richard J. Schmidt, a doctor by profession, who infected her.
Janice had known Dr. Schmidt since she started working at the hospital. She was his mistress, and they share a son, Jeffery, for whom Dr. pays child support.
She even divorced her husband in the belief that Dr. Schmidt would end his marriage (which he promised) and marry her. But he never did.
After prolonged waiting, she told Dr. Schmidt that she would end their relationship if he didn’t divorce her wife. On that Schmidt threaten her, saying, “If you leave me, I’ll fix you. I’ll fix it so no man will want you.” He also threatened her with leaking his private photos online.
After a while, she ended her personal relationship but continue the treatment with Schmidt for her B12 shorts for her lethargy.
One night on August 4, around 11:00 o’clock, Dr. Schmidt called her and told her he will be there in some time. Dr arrived and injected her with a vial that she believed to be a B12 shot and left immediately.
This story was hard to believe but investigators believed her and start the investigation.
They first check the phone records and found that Janice was right— Dr. Schmidt called her that night. Now, the investigator had to prove that that injection contained the HIV virus (check below heading).
Later, it was also identified that the doctor also add the Hepatitis C virus that he took from her patient two days ago (2 August). That makes a deadly combination. The jury confined it and the judge commenced Richard Schmidt for 50 years of imprisonment in 1998.
From that day, he completed 25 years of 50 years of his sentence and died on February 12, 2023.
Let’s break down the case and study every aspect of the investigation such as how the investigation was done. What Forensic evidence was there in the case? How investigator proves that the injected vial has HIV and Hepatitis C viruses?
How Evil Doctor Richard Plan to Infect Janice With HIV and Hepatitis C?
The lab reports of Janice state that she was suffering from two diseases. One was HIV and the second was Hepatitis C.
It was on August 4, 1994, when Dr. Schmidt shot Janice in vengeance with HIV and Hepatitis C. It was not an easy task and can only be done by someone who knows about both viruses.
This is because once a virus leaves the body, it remains for only a few time periods. For the HIV virus, the time period is 12 hrs, and for Hepatitis C is about 7 days. Note: As per recent studies, in dried blood samples, HIV can survive up to six days with negligible concentration.
- Hepatitis C Origin: On August 2, 1994, 2 days earlier, Dr. Schmidt took a vial blood sample from a patient.
- HIV Virus Origin: On the same day, August 4, 1994, he called one of his HIV patients for a routine checkup. He drained a vail of blood from him.
As the doctor was aware, he needed to inject within 12 hours, that was the reason he called Janice at 11:00 pm on August 4. He arrived and injected her with a vial and leave immediately.
Note: One can’t mix two blood because it causes an ABO incompatibility reaction. This means that the immune system treats different blood groups as a threat and destroys new blood cells. As there is no personal information on the blood grouping in the case, I believe both the patients and Janice have the same blood group (or have a favorable ABO group, check the following table).
Can I get infected by a virus from dried blood? Yes, you can. It is possible. However, the chance of being infected is very less than in liquid blood. In any case, absorption through the skin is the most common way to get infected especially through open wounds.
How it Was Proven Dr. Richard Schmidt Injected Her With HIV?
Janice narrator the whole possible story of how she got infected by a syringe shot by his ex-lover Dr. Richard Schmidt.
It was a hard-to-digest story but Lafayette police and the district attorney Mike Harson believed her. After months of investigation, her theory was proven correct.
Following were the evidence that help the Forensic Files case of Shot of Vengeance against Doctor Schmidt:
1. Telephone Record
Janice Story: Janice stated that on August 4, 1994, around 11 p.m., Dr. Schmidt called her for the B12 vial shot for the lethargy that he was treating. He arrived, quickly injected the vial, and then left.
Investigation: Police piled out the telephone record of Dr. Schmidt and found out that she was telling the truth. As per telephone records, Dr. Schmidt did call her at 10:26 pm on 4th August 1994.
The investigator started to believe her story.
One domino down. Second to solve: Police now have to determine whether or not she was infected before August 4th, 1994.
2. Janice Donated the Blood
Donating blood usually saves the recipient’s life. But in this case, Janice’s blood donation helped the theory of her ex-lover’s involvement in getting AIDS/HIV.
Janice donated the blood a few months earlier which shows that the donor is not HIV positive. This proves that she became infected after that time period.
Second Domino Down. Third to solve: Now, investigators have to prove the injection was contaminated with HIV and Hepatitis C. For that, they need medical reports.
3. Sexually Revealing Photos
The detective looking for medical records but they find another important clue. While searching for medical records in Dr. Schmidt’s office, police discovered Janice’s private photographs.
She already disclosed to detective Jim Craft, Lafayette Police that Schmidt threaten her to reveal them online if she ever tried to leave him.
4. Office Medical Records & HIV Patient
Investigators go through each of the boxes in the office and didn’t find the 1994 medical reports log.
In the lock storage room, they found a box marked as “1982 records.” At the very bottom, investigators found a diary and on the last page, they found the list of the 4 August 1994 log.
The medical log states the name of patients who had blood drawn along with the lab’s tracking code, except for one patient— Don McClelland. A notation next to McClelland’s name that says “Lavender Stopper for Dr. S.”
When the police arrived at the patient’s home, they discovered that he was HIV-positive. He confronted that Dr. Schmidt called him for the blood test. So, he was the source of getting HIV but not Hepatitis C.
One last Riddle to Solve i.e. from where Dr. Schmidt got the Hepatitis C sample.
Read More: Shoot to Thrill Case Study: Forensic Approach to Ken MacLennan’s Death
5. Hepatitis C Patient
When police re-investigated Dr. Schmidt’s medical records, they discovered that two days before the Janice injection shot, on August 2, 1994, one of the patient’s blood samples had a missing lab tracking code.
That means her blood never went for testing. On investigating the matter, police discovered that she had Hepatitis C. They concluded that this might be the origin of Hepatitis C in Janice’s blood.
Joining the Link. Police now know Dr. Schmidt had access to both viruses, but they needed proof that he did inject the same HIV virus into Janice on that night.
6. Forensic HIV Strain Matching (Human Genome)
Investigators took help from genetic researcher Dr. Michael Metzker at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas.
Dr. Metzker used the Phylogenetic method to study the HIV virus mutability. For reference, he took 30 blood samples from Lafayette, Louisiana including Janice and McClelland.
Only 2 (Janice and Dr. Schmidt’s patient McClelland) of the 28 samples appeared to be identical.
Dr. Metzker also concluded that the chances of the patient being the source were one in a million.
That’s the corroboration of Janice’s theory. Police had everything they needed to put Mr. Schmidt behind bars.
7. Dr. Schmidt’s Wife Alibi, But Proven Insufficient
Dr. Richard Schmidt’s wife told police that her husband was in the house that day, except for 20 minutes when she was taking a bath.
But it backfires.
One of the officers drew to Janice’s house and drove back to Schmidt’s house in 17 minutes with time to quickly inject her.
So, Schmidt’s wife’s alibi didn’t help him. He was finally charged with 2nd-degree murder.
Read More: Bill Bruns And Pearl Smith [Missing Pearl] Forensic Files: How dog unable to find the body?
How did HIV Strain Analysis Solves the Shot of Vengeance Case of Dr. Schmidt and Janice?
Note: The DNA test for viruses differs from the DNA test for individuals. This is because viruses change, or mutate once they enter the body.
However, with the use of Phylogenetic Comparative Methods (PCMs) and studying evolution using a mathematical model, the virus mutability can be compared.
Note: Phylogenetics is the study of the evolutionary history and relationships among or within groups of organisms.
So, studying the PCMs variation is like reverse engineering to the source. That is, if two samples have nearly identical strains, they possibly have the same origin.
In this case, Janice and Dr. Schmidt’s patient McClelland nearly have the same HIV strain evolution. While the rest of the 28 HIV samples evolve differently. And the odds were one in a million excluding the patient being sourced.
Quick Question and Anwer about Shot of Vengeance Case
Who Was Richard J. Schmidt, “The Evil AIDS Doctor”?
Richard Schmidt was one of the best and most respected physicians in Lafayette, Louisiana. He was the culprit and convicted of 2nd-degree murder for infecting his girlfriend with deadly viruses— HIV and Hepatitis C. He also had a wife with two children.
Who was Janice Trahan?
Janice Trahan was a single mother, nurse, and victim in the case of Shot of Vengeance (Forensic Files case). She was infected by her former boyfriend Richard J. Schmidt with HIV and Hepatitis C. They both worked at the same hospital, Lafayette, Louisiana.
Why did Janice believed that it was Dr. Schmidt who give the infection?
Janice recalled an odd incident in which Dr. Schmidt called him late one night and quickly came to her house and injected her with a vial that she thought was for her Vitamin B12 shots. Earlier, Dr. Smidth threatens her that she will make sure no other man wants to have her in their life.
What Evidence was against Dr. Schmidt?
Evidences such as telephone records (Dr. Schmidt called that night), medical records (he collected blood from both HIV and Hepatitis C patients), and Human genome matching the HIV strain from Dr. Schmidt’s patient and Janice.
Why did Richard Schmidt inject Janice with deadly HIV?
He injected Janine with the motive to take revenge. It seems he didn’t want to leave Janice, and when she did, he didn’t take it well. He crosses the limit of being a doctor and used medical practice for evil purposes that’s why many authors called him “The Evil doctor.”
What Punishment did Dr. Schmidt in the Shot of Vengeance Forensic Files case?
Dr. Schmidt was sentenced to 50 years in prison for attempted second-degree murder on October 23, 1998. He completed 24 years in 2022 and has not even gotten parole to date.
Where is Dr. Schmidt Now?
According to recent reports, Richard J. Schmidt died on February 12, 2023, at the age of 74. He was serving 50 years of jail time at Elayn Hunt Correctional Center (EHCC), St. Gabriel, Louisiana when he was brought to Baton Rouge hospital and later declared dead.
Watch the Full Episode on Forensic File Channel: Shot of Vengeance (Dr. Schmidt and Janice case)
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