Convicted Murderer Released After 18 Years in Prison

She said she spotted her father's gun in the basement, grabbed it and went upstairs. By then her father had passed out again. She held the gun a few feet from where he lay, rested it on a ledge, closed her eyes and pulled the trigger.

She hadn't aimed, however, so her dad had been hit in the shoulder.

"He woke up," Stacey said on the police video. "He thought that he had broke his collarbone."

Tom Lannert was too drunk to know he'd been shot. He sat up, startled, with a bullet in his shoulder and called out to Stacey for help.

"And then I thought to myself that he didn't deserve to live. So I shot him again," she said, looking down.

"I didn't care," Lannert told McFadden.

Her sister, Christy, said she also wanted her father dead. "I may have said, 'Just do it,'" Christy said.

The Lannert Jury's Dilemma

The jury heard from both Lannert and from the baby sitter she confided in about the years of sexual abuse. In some states, if a jury believed claims of abuse, Lannert could have pleaded self-defense even though at the moment she shot her father, he was passed out drunk. But under Missouri law, the self-defense argument was not valid because she wasn't in actual danger at the moment she pulled the trigger.

After a one-week trial, the jury voted to convict Lannert of murder in the first degree, which carried a mandatory sentence in Missouri: life in prison with no chance of parole.

"The verdict was absolutely appropriate. It's the verdict that should have been returned. She got the sentence that she deserved, and that's where she ought to be," McCulloch said.

Lannert's lawyer began petitioning for her release, and a key part of that request was an affidavit by Schulte. Two governors dismissed the request, but Blunt believed Lannert had been abused, and on Jan. 16, she was set free.

First Taste of Freedom

After 18 years in prison, Lannert met up with her mother and her sister as a free woman.

"I'm so happy," she said, hugging them.

She later told McFadden that she had managed to stay sane and optimistic by learning how to train dogs for the handicapped.

"You can find freedom in prison if you look for it," she said. "I chose to train the dogs, I chose not to get into fights or arguments. And you make choices and you find your freedom where you can."

For now, she continues her volunteer work while looking for a steady job. She stays busy adjusting to the modern world and all of its technological advances, such as using a cell phones or surfing the Internet.

After about a week of freedom Lannert decided to meet with Schulte for the first time since her imprisonment, knowing everything he did to try and win her freedom.

"I haven't seen him or spoken to him this entire time, but I feel a connection with him that I'll probably never feel with another human being because he was the first person who helped me, who believed me," she said. "It took a long time for it to come to fruition, but he did stand behind me and helped. And I'm just very thankful."

They met up again on a cold, snowy day in St. Louis in late January.

"You owe me something," Schulte said.

"What's that?" Lannert asked.

"You need to train my dog for me," said Schulte.

She smiled. "OK, anytime."

During their reunion, Lannert said she hoped to make Schulte, and all of the people who supported her, proud.

"The justice system really did, to me, prevailed in the end. Others might not agree but to me it did," Lannert said.

Stacey Lannert is currently developing a resource Web site for sexual abuse survivors called Healing Sisters.

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