James Vernon McVay wanted to kill President Obama. After his arrest in Wisconsin earlier this month, he told police that he believed the best way to do that was to stalk the commander-in-chief while he was playing golf and pick him off from afar with a rifle.
But McVay, a 41-year-old at least partially raised in the Houston area, was living in a Sioux Falls, South Dakota halfway house when he concocted this scheme. There was a lot of work that needed to be done -- including stealing some weapons killing a few people along the way -- to get him from the Badlands to the nation's capital.
On July 2, after swiping a camping knife and some other stuff from a Walmart, the next thing he needed to do, according to his own warped mind, was break into the Sioux Falls home of 75-year-old hospice care nurse Maybelle Schein. Once inside, he slit her throat with the stolen knife and stole her cash and car.
He would later explain that slitting Schein's throat had not been necessary per se, as all he really needed was her money and her wheels. But like he told police, he felt it necessary to butcher the woman as she slept because he had never killed before. He said he "wanted to get blood on [his] hands" and rack up some "experience killing people." As he put it, Schein was merely "collateral damage."
From Sioux Falls, McVay planned to drive to Madison, Wisconsin, where he intended to "ambush and kill a police officer and take their [sic] guns." He also planned murderous pit stops in Chicago or Indianapolis before the final leg of his trip to Washington. McVay told Wisconsin TV station WKOW that he'd been listening to Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh in the months prior to his June 30 release. (He'd spent much of that time segregated from the rest of the population.)
"I'm going to kill and kill until I get [Obama]," he allegedly told authorities.
He never made it past Madison.
Later on the day of her murder, Schein's Buick Lucerne was reported stolen and had an OnStar system on board. McVay was quickly located on the outskirts of Madison and after a short car chase and highway standoff, McVay was taken into custody and without prompting, told both police and multiple Wisconsin TV stations everything, both about Schein's murder and his plan to kill Obama.
McVay has waived his extradition and is now back in South Dakota, where he's facing charges of first-degree murder and burglary. He could get the death penalty.
McVay's criminal career apparently got started here in the Houston area in 1987. Then 17, McVay was living in Fresno, a tiny village way down Almeda Road in far northern Fort Bend County. At the age of 17, he was accused in Harris County court of aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon, and while that charge was later dismissed, he was convicted here in 1990 of car theft and evading arrest and sentenced to five years in TDCJ. He has since been locked up in Texas prisons for crimes committed elsewhere in Texas, and also done still more hard time in both Nebraska and South Dakota.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the mission of the Houston Press. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Houston’s stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
While imprisoned in Nebraska, McVay threatened the life of Vice President Joe Biden. He later recanted those sentiments and was subsequently cleared by the Secret Service, and McVay's brother Rory Lieb says they bear some of the blame for Schein's murder.
"At that time I told them he's a convict that just wants to stay in jail. Lock him up, throw away the key, and he'll be fine. He has no intentions of really hurting anyone, he just wants to be locked up," Lieb told Sioux Falls TV station KELO.
"He should have been stopped from getting out of jail. I say the cause of it is our judicial system not taking care of people like this, stopping people like this from getting out of jail," Lieb added, before saying he hopes his brother would be made to pay for his crime.
The South Dakota State's Attorney in Minnehaha County, where Schein was murdered, has not said whether he intends to seek the death penalty.