Man involved in fatal accident, Tyler James Schaeffer, pleads guilty to robbery charges
By J.J. Kindred | (email@example.com)
KNOXVILLE — The man involved in a head-on crash with a Maryville church van that killed two people pleaded guilty to unrelated robbery charges in U.S. District Court Tuesday afternoon.
Tyler James Schaeffer, 22, pleaded guilty in front of U.S. District Judge Thomas Varlan to robbing two Subway restaurants in Knoxville and Seymour, burglarizing the Mayra Moreno Insurance on Alcoa Highway in Louisville, and robbing a Dollar General Store in Seymour, the Romantic Escapades business in South Knoxville and a Kenjo Market in Knoxville between July 26, 2010, and Sept. 14, 2012.
Schaeffer had additionally been charged and indicted on four counts of brandishing a firearm during a robbery, one count of conspiracy to distribute methylone and one count of possessing a firearm in a drug-trafficking crime, but he made a not-guilty plea in federal court last month and will go to trial on those charges, along with burglary.
With his attorney Chris Oldham by his side, Schaeffer told Varlan that he is disputing the allegation that he used any firearms during the incidents.
With the plea, Schaeffer faces up to 20 years in prison on each of the counts. A sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled.
Involved in crash
On Sept. 16, 2012, Schaeffer was driving an SUV that crashed head-on with the van of Cedar Grove Baptist Church in Maryville that killed 45-year-old youth pastor Jeff Trussell and 16-year-old Courteney Kaliszewski, who was a student at Seymour High School. Several other youths were also injured in the crash.
Schaffer was allegedly high on bath salts when the crash occurred. He was arrested on robbery charges as soon as he was released from the hospital after the crash. He is being held as a federal prisoner in the Blount County Detention Facility.
A federal grand jury returned a 14-count indictment last month against Schaeffer and his accomplices. Also charged in the same indictment were Jerel Bray-Shawn Johnson, 20, Knoxville, and Rodney James Ruffin, 21, Sevierville.
Schaeffer also faces pending multiple charges in Sevier County relating to the church van case, including vehicular homicide by intoxication, vehicular assault, DUI and drug charges.
Kim Trussell, widow of Jeff Trussell, and members of Cedar Grove Baptist Church were present in the courtroom Tuesday afternoon.