SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – Nearly two and a-half years after being charged, a former Carbondale police officer has pleaded guilty in connection with an off-duty shooting death.
Frank Schulze was originally charged with homicide for the death of Joseph Molinaro in February 2016.
He pleaded guilty Thursday morning to one count of voluntary manslaughter.
That is basically an intentional killing where Schulze thought he would be protected by law but is not.
For the last 29 months, Schulze’s attorney described this case as a “blood bath,” involving legal fights that went up to the Pennsylvania Superior Court.
The judge acknowledged Thursday’s plea deal wouldn’t have been possible without the blessing of the victim’s family.
Frank Schulze has already spent more than two years in prison.
He’ll spend at least one more year locked up after being immediately sentenced Thursday after his guilty plea.
Arlene Molinaro is the victim’s mother.
“I have forgiven him, yes, I forgave him a long time. I have a lot of compassion for this young man who messed up his life and not only ours, but his life and his family’s life,” Arlene Molinaro said.
In February 2016, the former Carbondale police officer killed Molinaro while off duty.
Schulze said he went outside of his home to investigate noises but came back and got a loaded gun instead of simply calling 911.
The Molinaro family has been waiting all this time for Schulze to admit what happened.
“I felt my heart go pitter-patter. It really did. I even went like this, because yes, he did accept it,” Arlene Molinaro said.
“I feel a sense of relief that he finally admitted that he did it,” Susan Molinaro, the victim’s step-mother said.
While Thursday was difficult for the victim’s family it was also difficult for Schulze’s family.
They’re thankful the Molinaro family agreed to the plea deal.
“I know for many people, they may not be able to ever come to that point so I believe by the grace of God she was able to do that,” Meredith Woolverton, mother of Frank Schulze said.
While the plea won’t bring Joseph Molinaro back, his family says it’s a big step in the healing process.
“We can’t look back. We have to move forward and the next step is to go on, lets have our happy moments, lets have our sad moments but now lets move on,” Arlene Molinaro said.
Molinaro’s family members say they’re going to continue to honor his memory.
They’re hoping to plant a tree in his honor soon because they say he loved working on trees.
When Frank Schulze is released from prison, he will also have to serve five years on probation.
He will also never be able to work as a police officer or own a firearm again.