FROM THE ARCHIVES: Schaad family feels relief and redemption

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch
Sharon Schaad, left, holding a picture of her father Henry,  poses with her mother and Henry's widow, Sonja Gilmore. Jason Plotkin photo

Editor's note: This article originally was published March 14, 2003.

When word came there was a verdict in the case of the two men accused of killing her father, Sharon Schaad Howe burst into tears.

As the verdict was read, Howe and her family stood frozen, heads tilted to better hear the judge.

Then she wiped more tears from her eyes.

Stephen D. Freeland and Leon “Smickel” Wright were guilty of second-degree murder in the race-riots slaying of rookie Officer Henry Schaad.

Standing on the courthouse steps a short time later, Howe said she now would concentrate on “keeping my daddy’s memory and love alive in our hearts forever.”

Howe, who was only 5 when her father was killed, thanked the prosecutors and police whose efforts culminated in the convictions — especially the detectives who “lived my father’s (case) for the past three years.”

She said she believes justice was done.

“It didn’t matter to us whether it was three years or 33 years,” she said. “We feel the correct decision has been made.”

York City Police Officer Henry Schaad, 22, is shown with daughter Sharon. Officer Schaad was shot while riding in an armored vehicle on the College Avenue bridge on Friday, July 18, 1969. Schaad would die two weeks later.

Her uncle, Barry Schaad, told reporters he was also satisfied with the jury’s decision to convict on second-degree, rather than first-degree murder.

He said he hopes the community “will accept these decisions … and move forward.”

But he said he didn’t feel victorious.

“You don’t have winners and losers in this case,” he said. “We lost Henry — we can’t bring him back.”

Schaad said the family planned to visit his mother, Carrie Schaad, in her nursing home to give her the news about his younger brother.

“We’re going to tell her what she’s been waiting to hear for 33 years,” he said.

Then, he said, they were going to visit Henry’s grave in Prospect Hill Cemetery.

Their father, Russell Schaad, who died in 1977, would have been pleased with the verdict, Barry Schaad said.

A York City Police detective when his son was shot on the West College Avenue bridge, he knew the names of the men suspected in his son’s death, his friends said.

But, Barry Schaad said, “He went to his grave not knowing if his son’s (killers) would be brought to justice.”

Leon Wright exits the York County Courthouse in York, Pa., Thursday, March 13, 2003, after he and another man, Stephen Freeland, were found guilty of second-degree murder in the 1969 race-riot slaying of Henry Schaad, a white police officer. Wright, 54, is out on bail until sentencing. (AP Photo/Brad C. Bower)

And Barry Schaad was relieved the trial was over.

“The last week was probably the hardest,” he said. “The last several nights were sleepless nights.”

He said he doesn’t really want to “go through the anxiety” of another trial — a possibility if Wright’s brother, Michael Wright, is charged with the murder — but will be at every court appearance if it happens.

“So be it,” he said.