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NEWS | August 18, 2017

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  • A Michigan man convicted of murdering another after his victim identified him as his same-sex crush during a 1995 TV taping of the Jenny Jones show will soon be released from prison, PEOPLE confirms.

    A Michigan Department of Corrections spokesman confirmed the parole of Jonathan Schmitz, who was 24 when he fatally shot an acquaintance, Scott Amedure, 32, on March 9, 1995. The killing came three days after Amedure revealed his infatuation with Schmitz during the nationally syndicated program’s taping on the topic of “secret crushes.”

    Schmitz, who was not gay, was sentenced to 25 to 50 years in prison for second-degree murder. He was initially convicted in 1996 and served about two years before he was tried and convicted again in 1999, after the first verdict was overturned on appeal.

    Due to “good behavior” credit, says DOC spokesman Chris Gautz, Schmitz will be released after serving about 22 years of his sentence.

    The Jenny Jones episode featuring Amedure was never broadcast and authorities have argued the show itself played some role in what happened.

    After Amedure’s murder, the Oakland County, Michigan, prosecutor Richard Thompson said, “The Jenny Jones show ambushed this defendant with humiliation.”

    Schmitz had been drawn to the taping with the promise that a secret admirer would be revealed — not knowing it was another man — and the case became an indictment of the perceived excesses and manipulations of talk shows and tabloid TV.

    “He spent 22 years, so that sounds like he’s completed virtually his entire sentence,” Geoffrey Finger, an attorney who represented the Amedure family, tells PEOPLE. “I’m not absolving Schmitz of his crime. I’m just saying that the Jenny Jones show and the people that were behind the show were equally responsible.”

    A civil jury agreed, and in a subsequent civil case brought against the show and its owners, including Warner Bros., the Amedure family was awarded $25 million in damages. That verdict and award were later overturned.

    Frank Amedure Jr., 58, who is Scott’s older brother, says he and his family were not aware that Schmitz had met with a parole board member in April, leading to his recommended release, until after the meeting happened.

    Schmitz is due to be set free next week from the Parnall Correctional Facility in Jackson, Michigan.

    “I guess it’s like any other person who’s lost a family member to murder — they wouldn’t feel comfortable about the murderer being released,” Frank tells PEOPLE. “It might be easier if he was old, an old gray-haired man. But he’s still pretty young at 47 — he’s still got a lot to go, and my brother doesn’t.”

    “But there’s a side of, at least me and maybe some of my family members, that we do feel he was victimized in all of this, and so we can empathize with all of that,” Frank says of Schmitz.

    Echoing his family’s former attorney, Frank says: “I do, and some of my family members do, feel that Jonathan Schmitz was only as much to blame as the Jenny Jones show. Their people are criminals for what they did. Jonathan Schmitz was sort of like a fall guy in their conspiracy.”

    But Jones, whose show ran from 1991 to 2003 and who now operates a cooking website and philanthropic organization, Jenny’s Heroes, told PEOPLE in 1999 that one person was ultimately to blame.

    “It was not the ‘Jenny Jones murder,’ ” she said then. “It was the Jonathan Schmitz murder.”

    Jones also addressed her show’s role in her 1997 memoir, Jenny Jones: My Story, writing that Schmitz “truly, truly was not ambushed. We are definitely not to blame for the murder.”

    She could not immediately be located for comment on Friday and did not respond to an email sent to her website.

    Frank Amedure says he wishes he’d been able to question Schmitz prior to his parole.

    “What’s it going to be like, if I’m out somewhere and I bump into him?” he says. “I don’t know how he feels about a lot of the issues that he was being scrutinized for, like civil rights. How does he feel about homosexuality now? How does he feel about what he did?”

    “We don’t know about any of that,” Frank continues, “so of course we can’t feel good unless we have some peace of mind knowing that he deserves to be out.”

    He recalled that Schmitz said at trial that he was sorry for killing Scott, but Frank says he was not moved by those words or the timing. “You’re getting ready to go to prison,” he says. “This is your last shot to make people think that you might deserve to get out some day, you know what I mean?”

    No attorney for Schmitz is identified on the Michigan DOC website.

    “Our family was traumatized by what happened over those 10 years of the trials and things being up in the air,” Frank says now. But his memory of his younger brother remains clear.

    “He was a good guy,” Frank says of Scott. “He was flamboyant, fun-loving. He was compassionate. And he knew about honor and good. He served in the Army, and he led a simple life.

    “And he didn’t deserve to be killed, that’s for sure.”


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