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Murder charges dropped against Florida woman accused of killing her mother in 2018 in Dennis Township

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CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — A Florida woman accused of intentionally poisoning her mother to gain access to a $90,000 inheritance has been cleared of murder charges, her attorney said.

Josephine A. Scheid, 38, of Sarasota, Florida, pleaded guilty Aug. 17 before Cape May County Superior Court Judge Bernard DeLury to stealing her mother’s Bible, a valuable family heirloom, and hindering, attorney John Zarych said. All other charges, including murder, were dismissed, the court confirmed.

“My client was charged with a murder that she did not commit. And but for the family’s ability to hire Dr. (Michael) Baden and support us in our work, we don’t know what the outcome ultimately would have been,” Zarych said. “It goes to show that when you have a family feud in an estate case, and there was one here, anything can happen.”

The Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office did not respond Thursday to a request for comment.

Scheid’s mother, Gabrielle Michaelis, 59, of Belleplain in Dennis Township, died Oct. 31, 2018, after a brief battle with stomach cancer.

A year later, Scheid was charged in Michaelis’ death. Police at the time said they received information in December 2018 that Michaelis’ death was suspicious. On Sept. 23, 2019, medical examiners changed Michaelis’ manner of death to homicide, and her cause of death to intoxication due to a combination of alprazolam, lorazepam and hydromorphine. Scheid was indicted later that year on charges of murder, endangering, theft by unlawful taking, theft by deception, hindering and obstruction.

Zarych said the state’s entire investigation was built on lies and misrepresentations.

According to an affidavit in the case, Scheid had power of attorney for her mother and contacted an attorney in the weeks before Michaelis died to find out how she could get a $90,000 inheritance from her grandmother’s estate, which Michaelis controlled.

Zarych said that after Michaelis died, no autopsy was performed and her body was cremated. Michaelis’ blood was drawn at the funeral home by a forensic pathologist hired by Scheid’s sister-in-law.

Scheid was arrested and held in jail until September 2020, when a judge released her following the submission of new evidence, including an analysis by forensic pathologist Baden.

“We on an ongoing basis began to submit evidence to the Prosecutor’s Office which contradicted the main arguments that they had, that a murder had been committed and that any other crime had been committed,” Zarych said.

Baden determined that the blood evidence used by police to show a high level of drugs in Michaelis’ system was improperly drawn because it came from her heart and not her femoral artery. He said Michaelis died of cancer.

In addition, Zarych presented evidence that the grand jury testimony of a state trooper that Scheid had used her computer to search how to use drugs to cause an overdose was a misrepresentation because that search occurred after Michaelis had died.

Sentencing is scheduled for 9 a.m. Oct. 15.

Contact Claire Lowe: 609-272-7251. Twitter



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Staff Writer

I began covering South Jersey in 2008 after graduating from Rowan University with a degree in journalism. After seven years at The Current and Gazette newspapers, I joined The Press in 2015. I currently cover education.

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