WATERTOWN — As Melisa R. Schonfield was being arrested for making an attempt to rent successful man to homicide somebody she describes as evil, she determined to inform police the entire story, pondering they’d perceive and let her go.
“That’s clearly not what occurred,” Ms. Schonfield, 65, mentioned.
The psychotherapist who had a sprawling house on Pillar Level in Dexter spent three years, 9 months and 13 days in jail after she tried to rent a person to kill the daddy of her daughter’s child in October 2014. She was launched from jail in 2019 and is talking publicly about why she did it, her regret, time in jail and the way she has been portrayed.
She believes her e book, “Bitter or Higher: The Melisa Schonfield Story,” drawing principally from journals she saved in jail, is her redemption story.
“You solely see the crime,” Ms. Schonfield mentioned. “You don’t see what led as much as the crime. For those who noticed what led as much as it, I’m not a monster, and that’s how they tried to painting me.”
Her lead-up to a psychological collapse after which crime started in South Florida in August 2012. Ms. Schonfield’s daughter was going into labor together with her first little one. That’s actually the primary time she noticed the escalation of a tumultuous relationship she claims her daughter had with the kid’s father, Ernesto I. Negrillo. Ms. Schonfield mentioned he was absent in the course of the labor course of and insisted his child’s mom didn’t want treatment and that she didn’t must be so loud whereas giving beginning. He even left the hospital whereas she was in labor, Ms. Schonfield mentioned.
“These items don’t look like an enormous deal,” Ms. Schonfield mentioned, “however it was so obnoxious that the labor nurse checked out him and mentioned, ‘Have you ever ever handed a grape via your penis? Then shut up.’”
After giving beginning, Ms. Schonfield’s daughter moved away from the daddy and again to New York together with her mother and father. That’s when Mr. Negrillo started attempting to get in contact with Ms. Schonfield’s daughter. Ms. Schonfield mentioned she would name him to plead with him to cease, however he would say he may do no matter he wished. She thought of giving him cash to go away however determined that wouldn’t work. Ms. Schonfield additionally knew he had kids with one other girl and that comparable issues had occurred, however that he ended up getting 60% custody.
“There was a cycle,” Ms. Schonfield mentioned. “And it wasn’t going to cease. I may see the writing on the wall.”
They thought of getting an lawyer so her daughter may get full custody, however they have been suggested that it will doubtless not work since his identify was on the kid’s beginning certificates. An investigation throughout a custody battle may have positioned Ms. Schonfield’s grandson into foster care.
In August 2014, Ms. Schonfield mentioned they ended up scheduling supervised visits for Mr. Negrillo to return see his son in Watertown. The daddy confirmed up with Oreo cookies and McDonald’s french fries for his son in the course of the first go to, she mentioned. She known as him a “Disney Dad,” which is a noncustodial mother or father who indulges his or her little one with items and good occasions throughout visitation and leaves most or all disciplinary tasks to the opposite mother or father.
“To somebody trying exterior, this won’t appear like any massive deal,” Ms. Schonfield mentioned. “So what? He wasn’t beating her with a baseball bat. It was far worse. It by no means stopped.”
This cycle of alleged psychological abuse and being absent continued, Ms. Schonfield mentioned, and it took a toll on her mentally. Her nightmares have been so unhealthy that she hardly slept, she mentioned. She felt helpless understanding that her grandson may find yourself in foster care, the daddy may get custody and the alleged harassment would by no means finish.
“As a psychological well being skilled, not sleeping does horrible issues to you,” she mentioned. “I ought to have identified what was occurring, however sadly you’re significantly better working with different folks than your self generally.”
Because of this, one evening later in 2014, Ms. Schonfield started interested by who she knew who may assist her. She remembered one one that as soon as mentioned that if she wanted something to simply name, so she did.
“I defined how I wanted this man damage so he couldn’t damage every other kids or ladies,” Ms. Schonfield mentioned.
The individual she known as ultimately mentioned he would look into it. A couple of weeks glided by and Ms. Schonfield obtained a name from an individual who glided by the identify of Jay. They met at a mall parking zone, and Ms. Schonfield remembers him asking her to maneuver her automobile as a result of he was nervous a couple of safety guard who was driving round. She mentioned the true motive was as a result of close by investigators wanted a greater angle to movie the encounter.
She mentioned she requested if he was recording her and if he was a police officer and that he mentioned no. She additionally remembers him saying, “I don’t go away witnesses,” which to her meant that he would kill her as nicely. She was high-quality with that if it meant her daughter and grandson have been protected, she mentioned.
She requested him what he was going to do with the physique, and for the reason that homicide would occur in Florida, Ms. Schonfield mentioned she sarcastically advised him to “throw it to the alligators.” That quote later circulated globally. The crime and that remark later led to a corrections officer asking for her autograph. It led to her showing on “The Physician Oz Present” from a jail cell.
“That was the remark that went around the globe and made me need to commit suicide,” Ms. Schonfield mentioned. “It made me really feel like a monster that my sarcasm was completely taken out of context.”
The 2 agreed on a value of $11,000 to hold out the killing and they’d meet once more with half of the cash paid up entrance. A couple of weeks glided by and Ms. Schonfield met Jay once more on the Walmart parking zone on Route 3 within the city of Watertown. On Oct. 31, 2014, she gave Jay the cash, which in hindsight sealed the deal of her destiny, after which he requested if she was certain she wished to do it. She advised him sure, after which she and the undercover sheriff’s detective parted methods.
Ms. Schonfield mentioned she began driving out of the parking zone and took a left on Arsenal Road when sirens lit up behind her automobile. She was pulled over and arrested.
“I used to be not nervous in any respect,” she mentioned, “which tells you the frame of mind I used to be in.”
When she was initially taken into custody, she advised investigators what she had completed, pondering they’d inform her to not do it once more and let her go. As an alternative, Ms. Schonfield was held in jail on $250,000 bail or $500,000 bond. She remembers the primary time she was processed into jail.
“Similar to you see within the film,” she mentioned. “Sure, you do take your garments off. Sure, you do bend down and, sure, you do cough.”
She was arrested on a Friday and launched on bond by Monday. On the finish of December that yr, a grand jury indicted her on costs of first-degree tried homicide, first-degree conspiracy and first-degree solicitation. Six months later, she pleaded responsible in Jefferson County Court docket to 1 depend of second-degree tried homicide. The district lawyer wished her to serve 15 years in jail, she mentioned, however she was sentenced to 5.
Within the days earlier than she was put in jail, Ms. Schonfield remembers desirous to die by suicide. She mentioned she wished to stroll into Lake Ontario and by no means come again, however it was her grandson who saved her going, and if she have been to die, then her story wouldn’t be heard.
Throughout her June 2015 plea listening to, Ms. Schonfield remembers not taking a look at her household, wanting to return throughout as robust for them within the courtroom.
“As an alternative I got here throughout as being chilly and never remorseful,” she mentioned. “And that wasn’t the case.”
Ms. Schonfield says she is grateful that the person she wished to rent as successful man was a detective and that it by no means labored out.
“As evil as I imagine this man is, he’s nonetheless a human being,” she mentioned. “Who was I to even ponder this? Neglect my punishment, I might have taken a life.”
Ms. Schonfield remembers her reception at jail. She was greeted by screaming corrections officers and positioned in a room with 36 different ladies. It was summer time with out air-con, and followers and ice cubes have been thought of privileges in jail. She was handed a bag with a nightgown, bar of cleaning soap, bathrobe, deodorant and a pencil and paper. Then she was escorted to the place she would stay for the subsequent 1,385 days, a 76-bed open ground dormitory. Half of a wall, nearly like a partition, separated every set of bunks. She obtained a backside mattress.
She remembers not getting her treatment for 3 weeks, and her husband attempting to make calls to assist get it to her. She believes the jail caught wind of this and retaliated by raiding the dorm on the premises of doable medicine being within the facility. Her bunk was trashed, she mentioned, and her mattress, pillows and photos have been ruined.
She remembers asking the officers if what they have been doing was needed, and them saying one thing like, “For those who didn’t need this to occur you then shouldn’t have come to the celebration.”
She responded by saying, “I didn’t RSVP on my invitation, both.”
Her sarcasm prevailed throughout her keep on the jail. After she was on “The Physician Oz” present, she mentioned a corrections officer requested for her autograph. It was 2 p.m. on a Thursday, and she or he advised the officer that she solely gave autographs till 1 p.m. on Thursdays.
“That’s my sarcasm,” Ms. Schonfield mentioned. “It was the one approach to shield myself. I couldn’t bodily battle, so I fought with my thoughts.”
Her savviness kicked in with what she ate in jail, too. She remembers happening a kosher weight-reduction plan. And when inmates go on sure diets, they’re allowed to deliver meals again to the dorm. This choice could have backfired on her, nevertheless, as a result of she mentioned someday she was bringing her lunch again to her dorm and somebody got here from behind and slammed her face into her steel mattress body, its ladder and the mattress body once more. She misplaced three enamel and broke her nostril.
However her intelligence largely assisted her in jail. She ran what inmates known as a bodega out of her cell by buying and selling Newport cigarettes. She helped ladies cross their GED exams. She would edit papers for ladies in school programs. She shaved greater than six months off her time at Taconic Correctional Facility, in Bedford Hills, Westchester County, by working within the jail’s college constructing.
For essentially the most half, Ms. Schonfield stayed in her cell space. She mentioned she solely went exterior to the yard possibly 3 times. She wasn’t essentially a recluse, however she wished to maintain her head down, particularly contemplating she was turning into well-known for her case.
“You need them to know that you’ve exterior assist,” she mentioned, “however you don’t need them to suppose that you just’re one thing particular or totally different from anybody else.”
Ms. Schonfield was launched from jail in Could 2019. She now lives close to Cooperstown, the place she mentioned she will be able to largely be nameless to the general public. Her daughter and grandson now stay together with her too, and she or he doesn’t care what occurred to the daddy of her daughter’s little one. If she have been to vary something, she wouldn’t have approached successful man, and she or he would have employed an lawyer earlier within the custody course of. Or she would have fought more durable to keep away from having Mr. Negrillo’s signature on her grandson’s beginning certificates.
Her e book, “Bitter or Higher,” might be discovered on Amazon, Kindle and at Barnes and Noble.
“There’s embarrassment that goes with it, however on the opposite facet, I survived jail,” she mentioned. “And the naysayers who say, ‘She ought to have gotten extra time. Individuals who do much less get extra time.’ Nicely, that’s the issue with the legislation. Attempt to repair it.”