crime

A six-person jury found a Gainesville man guilty of trying to kill his wife and lying about it to authorities after more than five hours of deliberation Thursday afternoon. 

Michael Reuschel, 63, was found guilty of attempted murder, false imprisonment, obstruction and tampering with evidence. His sentencing is set for December. 

Michael Reuschel

Michael Reuschel

Michael Reuschel was first arrested in February 2018 after his wife, Susan Reuschel, told Alachua County Sheriff’s Office deputies he stabbed her multiple times and forced her to stay in bed as she bled profusely. He then cut himself so they could die together, according to the initial arrest report. 

The two were separated and not living together at the time of the incident. According to the arrest report, Susan Reuschel returned to their west Gainesville home to discuss their marriage when the conversation quickly escalated into a fight over a potential divorce. Michael Reuschel then allegedly grabbed a kitchen knife and repeatedly stabbed his wife and himself.

Susan Reuschel was not present when the six female jurors reached their verdict Thursday. 

During his testimony on Wednesday, Michael Reuschel told a story of innocence. He said his wife had a history of abuse and he claimed that she tried to kill him and pleaded with him to create a false story to protect her from arrest. 

Calm and collected on the witness stand, he said he had nothing to hide and that Susan slit her own wrists that evening. He said the delayed call for help, while his wife lay in her own blood and vomit, was per her own wishes and that she told him the police would question what happened.

“She pleaded not to go to jail,” Michael Reuschel said Wednesday.

During closing statements Thursday morning, Michael Reuschel sat emotionless in the courtroom with his legal counsel.

State attorney David Byron stressed that Michael Reuschel lied to law enforcement and other officials throughout the case. He said it isn’t plausible that Susan Reuschel lay in bed for hours covered in blood, vomit and feces of her own free will. 

“He wove little pieces of truth into the lie,” Byron said. “If she had died, the truth would have died with her.” 

Byron showed the jury pictures of scars and stitches on Susan Reuschel’s neck, claiming that her husband’s “intent to kill is apparent.” 

Defense attorney Ann Finnell said it didn’t make sense for Susan to wait to get help if she was attacked. If Michael intended to kill her, he would have and could have, the attorney said.

“What he did was totally reasonable,” she said. “If somebody is attacking you with a knife, you try to get ahold of the knife.” 

Finnell said Michael “gave his wife everything she wanted and then some,” but she was abusive toward him physically and emotionally when she drank. Susan admitted to texting Michael on their wedding anniversary, “I hate you, you d***,” the defense attorney said. 

“Please do not let Michael Reuschel get sucker-punched in this case,” Finnell told the jury. 

The defense could not immediately be reached for comment after the verdict or by phone. 

When the judge discussed Dec. 13 as a potential date for sentencing, one defense attorney noted it was an “unlucky day.” She was shrugged off by the judge, who said it is when his schedule is free. The prosecution looks forward to sentencing.

“We’re very happy with the verdict and we believe justice has been served,” Byron said.

Dana Cassidy is an 19-year-old UF journalism sophomore and crime reporter at The Independent Florida Alligator. Outside of writing she loves fitness, film analysis, Mad Men, bad reality TV and excessive amounts of coffee.