William Hess is facing a lifetime prison sentence after being found guilty Thursday of first-degree premeditated murder and first-degree felony murder in the death of Julius Schnoll, a supermarket supervisor more than 30 years ago. Hess showed little emotion as the verdict was read. He said, “Right,” as deputies led him out of Oakland Circuit Judge Rae Lee Chabot’s courtroom.
The 52-year-old Highland Township resident was accused of shooting 62-year-old Julius Schnoll in the early morning hours of Jan. 27, 1979, after Schnoll failed to open a safe during a robbery attempt at the Great Scott supermarket at 10 Mile and Orchard Lake roads in Farmington.
Authorities said Hess and codefendant Darrell Lee Kastel snuck into the building through air ducts and tied up the store’s employees before Hess shot Schnoll.
Farmington Public Safety Cmdr. Frank Demers said he was thrilled with the verdict. “Although the evidence was old (and) we had to blow some dust off it, it was just as powerful 30 years later,” he said.
Defense attorney Howard Arnkoff said he was disappointed with the jury’s decision. “I don’t believe the state proved his guilt,” Arnkoff said.
Schnoll’s murder remained unsolved for years. Demers took another look at the case in 2006. After a police review that involved interviewing people who were part of the original investigation, Hess and Kastel were criminally charged in 2008.
Arnkoff said he doubts the credibility of Tim Richman, who was interviewed by investigators in 2008 and agreed to testify as long as he wouldn’t be charged in the case. Richman said he drove Kastel and Hess to the Great Scott and after they ran back to the car, he heard Kastel tell Hess that he didn’t have to shoot the man. Hess gave statements to police not long after the murder that authorities say corroborated other evidence. Hess took the witness stand in his own defense. He denied involvement.
Demers said the conviction was the result of a team effort involving Farmington Public Safety, the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office and the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office. Assistant Prosecutor Gregory Townsend handled the case. “Justice has been done,” Demers said.
Chabot will sentence Hess April 6. A conviction of first-degree, premeditated murder carries a mandatory penalty of life in prison without parole. Kastel is set to go to trial April 26. Schnoll has no surviving relatives.