Grandson arrested in East Dundee stabbing death

Richard Schmelzer (Kane County state's attorney's office / August 26, 2014)

The arrest of a suspect in the July stabbing death of an 85-year-old East Dundee woman brought up mixed emotions in the neighborhood where she was killed.

On one hand, Rich Schmelzer's arrest on charges he killed his grandmother, Mildred Darrington, appears to mean police are making progress toward solving the slaying of a generous, kindhearted woman, said her neighbor, Jean Collingbourne.

But the murder charges also suggest that some of Darrington's survivors may have to cope with another family member, Schmelzer, being drawn into the justice system, Collingbourne said. People should pray for the family, she said as she struggled not to cry.

"They're going to be going through so much," she said.

With authorities offering few details on the investigation, Schmelzer's arrest Monday at his home near Dallas has done little to explain why Darrington was killed. After she missed a regular hair appointment July 18, her hairdresser found her dead of a stab wound in bed in the house where she lived alone, authorities said.

Schmelzer — until recently an athletic trainer at a Texas high school, officials said — is being held in Denton County, Texas, as he awaits extradition proceedings, authorities said. A Chicago-area attorney said to be assisting Schmelzer could not be reached for comment.

Schmelzer, 41, grew up near his grandmother's house and graduated from Dundee-Crown High School, authorities said. His online resume says he has spent nearly the past two decades working as an athletic trainer for various businesses and professional sports teams.

Last school year, he was a trainer for Princeton High School, a Dallas-area school where he worked in the athletic department with injured students, said district Superintendent Philip Anthony. In recent weeks, Illinois police informed school officials of the investigation, and the district asked for and received Schmelzer's resignation, Anthony said.

Schmelzer is married with four daughters, according to a profile on the district's website.

"It is a bit of a shock," Anthony said. "He did a good job as far as the care and treatment of the students and their health issues."

Authorities have said Schmelzer was a focus of the investigation from its early days.

Darrington, known as "Dodie," worked at several area grocery stores, finishing her career at Dominick's in East Dundee, according to her obituary. She was a bagger, and she "worked like a horse," even late in her career, Collingbourne said.

She loved spending time with her great-granddaughters — Schmelzer's children — before they moved to Texas, her neighbor said. Darrington was also a reliable volunteer for charitable efforts and would buy items to donate to food pantries or churches, Collingbourne said. She was an ideal neighbor, she said.

"When my kids would get mad at me, they'd run away to her house," she said.

dhinkel@tribune.com