Lawrence — A phone call from the father of a murdered schoolmate helped get Angela Wilson on the career path that led to her successful prosecution this week of a Kansas State University professor for the death of his ex-wife.
Thomas E. Murray was convicted Thursday in Douglas County District Court of first-degree murder. Murray, 48, faces a life sentence for the death of Carmin D. Ross at her home northwest of Lawrence in November 2003. He won't be eligible for parole for 25 years.
Wilson, 32, an assistant district attorney since 1998, won the conviction in her first murder trial.
She got her law degree from the Kansas University in 1997 after graduating from Pittsburg State University, where she worked on the student newspaper with Stephanie Schmidt, whose 1993 slaying became one of the state's most high-profile murder cases.
Schmidt was a 19-year-old Pittsburgh State sophomore who sold advertising for the Collegio. Wilson, a junior, was its photo editor.
Schmidt disappeared on June 30, 1993. On July 27 of that year, Donald Gideon, out of prison after serving 10 years for the aggravated sodomy of another college student, confessed that he had sexually assaulted and killed Schmidt.
"This is one of those things that doesn't happen to someone you know," Wilson recalled. "There was a profound effect on Pittsburg as a whole. She was very personable; she had a lot of friends; she was a person that people liked."
In a column she wrote for the Collegio, Wilson said, "When I was a child, and I would be afraid of monsters in the closet, I would cover myself up with my blanket. No blanket was going to protect me from the monsters, but I felt better. Stephanie's murder stole our blankets from under our chins."
Someone gave a copy of the column to Gene Schmidt, father of the slain young woman, and he called Wilson.
"At that moment, my reason for going to law school crystallized," she said. "It was to protect other Stephanies, to try to do what wasn't done here, to keep the predators away from the prey."
After meeting with Gene Schmidt and his wife, Peggy, Wilson helped edit and compile submissions for "Missing Still," a memorial book about Stephanie Schmidt's impact on her friends and family.
The Schmidts worked to increase awareness of sexual predators and personal safety at Pittsburg State and other campuses, and they later led the campaign for the state's sexual predator law and its sex offender registration program.
Gideon pleaded guilty to four felonies including first-degree murder and was sentenced to 88 years in prison.