GREENPORT—The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office arrested a Queens man October 4 in connection with the dumping of the body of a Copake woman.
An autopsy report recently revealed that Halle P. Schmidt, 21, of Copake died of a heroin overdose.
No one has been charged with causing her death.
Ms. Schmidt was reported missing by her family September 4. She was last seen on foot in the area of state Routes 66 and 23B in Greenport during the early morning hours of September 3.
She was found dead in the woods off Old Post Road, Kinderhook, September 10. Her body had been there about a week, Sheriff’s Office Senior Investigator Kevin Skype told The Columbia Paper this week.
Ms. Schmidt was identified by matching clothing she was last seen wearing, body tattoos and information obtained through the investigation. Positive identification was confirmed by an autopsy conducted by Pathologist Dr. Jeffrey Hubbard at St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany, September 11. Results of lab tests on DNA and blood samples determined that a heroin overdose was the cause of her death.
Since Ms. Schmidt was reported missing, the Sheriff’s Office and Columbia County District Attorney Paul Czajka have conducted an “aggressive” joint investigation into her disappearance and untimely death, according to a press release from Sheriff David Bartlett.
They interviewed several friends and acquaintances, looked into numerous leads and spent hours reviewing area surveillance footage, which investigators say was of great assistance in creating a time-line of Ms. Schmidt’s whereabouts up until the time she went missing.
Investigators traveled to Queens September 9 to speak with people they believed had relevant information about Ms. Schmidt’s disappearance. At that time, investigators interviewed Rasheem Cotman, 32, of Queens, who, during the interview, made admissions about his involvement in the case, which ultimately led investigators to the search and discover Ms. Schmidt’s body September 10, the release said.
On September 13, authorities released surveillance camera footage taken at the Joslen Motor Lodge, 320 Joslen Boulevard, Greenport of a woman called Molly they believed to be a potential witness in Ms. Schmidt’s death.
Tips poured in within minutes of the release of the information to news agencies and posted on social media. Within a couple of hours the woman was identified and interviewed.
Mr. Cotman was arrested October 4 at Rikers Island Correctional Facility, East Elmhurst, Queens County and charged with concealment of a human corpse, a class E felony.
Sheriff’s investigators brought him to Columbia County, where he was arraigned before Justice Lisa Mills in Kinderhook Town Court. He was sent to the Columbia County Jail without bail and is due back in court at a later date.
Interviewed by phone this week, Sr. Inv. Skype said he would not say where Ms. Schmidt died because the case is still open. He did say Mr. Cotman has prior convictions on drug-related charges and was being housed at Rikers Island on a parole violation when he was taken into custody.
The senior investigator said Mr. Cotman was a friend of Ms. Schmidt and that the witness identified as Molly was with Mr. Cotman and Ms. Schmidt at the motor lodge the night of September 2 and into the morning of September 3.
After he realized Ms. Schmidt was dead, Mr. Cotman allegedly took her body to a wooded area off Old Post Road, left it there and returned to Queens. He reportedly said he panicked because he was on parole, had a violation and did not want to involve police, the investigator confirmed.
Members of Ms. Schmidts’ family, who spoke to television News 10 and other media during a press conference in Hillsdale October 3, said they had tried to get Ms. Schmidt away from Mr. Cotman because they believed she was involved in an abusive relationship with him.
Ron Love, Ms. Schmidt’s stepfather told reporters, that his step-daughter had no money with her that night and he believes the “drugs were administered to her… she was drugged.” The family also said they believed “justice was not going to be served” in the case.
To contact Diane Valden email