Ex-Mississippi Deputy Accused in Bizarre Plot to Murder German Farm Owner

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Justin Rohrlich, Pilar Melendez
·6 min read
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Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty
Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty

When Thomas Schwarz, the owner of a struggling organic farm, didn’t show up at his office in the Netherlands one morning, his co-workers were immediately alarmed.

After hours of silence, a colleague decided to go to Schwarz’s home in Bergen, in the Dutch province of Limburg, to check on him—and discovered the front door open and the handle stained in blood.

Inside, Dutch police found a grisly scene: Schwarz lay dead on the floor next to his dining room table with his hands and feet bound with wire. A pool of blood surrounded his lifeless body; a laptop and wallet full of credit cards lay on the floor nearby.

An autopsy report would later confirm that Schwarz, a German national and endurance athlete in his 30s, had suffered a series of deep stab wounds to his right leg and arm, as well as several injuries to his back and ribs. The fatal blow, however, was a deep gash to the throat, according to a trove of newly unsealed court documents.

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Prosecutors believe Schwarz’s gruesome murder on Nov. 26, 2019, was likely the consequence of an unpaid debt to a German investor—who allegedly hired a former Mississippi sheriff’s deputy and a New Jersey man to snuff him out.

The stunning allegations are detailed in a series of extradition requests that were filed over the last two weeks. The alleged mastermind of the bizarre scheme, 51-year-old Lukas Fecker, is the owner of Innovation Brain, a company that buys businesses “on the verge of bankruptcy” and attempts to turn them around, according to the court papers. Schwarz owned Taurus Farms in North Macedonia, near the Greek border, and the business was known to be struggling, the documents say.

“Dutch authorities believe it likely that the [Schwarz] and Fecker had a business relationship, and that the victim possibly owed Fecker money,” the documents state. “Fecker is currently detained and awaiting trial in the Netherlands.”

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Documents also allege Jacob Mazeika, 38, and William Lyle Johnson, 34, were involved in the scheme. The Forrest County Sheriff’s Office confirmed to The Daily Beast that Johnson was employed by the department from May 2017 to April 2019. A 2018 audit report from the Mississippi State Auditor’s Office listed Johnson as a sheriff’s deputy. Dutch authorities have charged the two men with numerous counts related to murder, manslaughter, and hostage-taking, along with attempted extortion, premeditated physical abuse, and a slew of others.

A Colorado man, Justin Steven Causey, is named in filings related to Mazeika’s extradition request, as well. He was arrested on state charges in December 2020, for allegedly violating drug and firearms possession laws. During questioning by investigators, Causey said he had been doing “protection work” for Fecker. An analysis of financial records showed a $5,980 deposit by Innovation Brain into Causey’s bank account the month after Schwarz’s murder. It was not immediately clear if he has been charged with a crime in relation to this case.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment. Reached by telephone at his home in Connecticut, Mazeika’s father, William, abruptly shut down any questions about his son and the criminal case against him, hanging up without further comment.

Innovation Brain did not respond to requests for comment, and Fecker, who is presently detained in the Netherlands, was unable to be reached.

About a month before his violent death, Schwarz arrived at his home some two hours outside of Amsterdam to find two English-speaking individuals demanding money, an April 27 extradition request for Mazeika states. When the farm owner said he did not have the funds, the two said that a third person “who was not as friendly would return to request money from him.”

While all the details of the scheme to murder Schwarz are not immediately clear, prosecutors allege Causey and another individual checked into the Van der Valk hotel—about 15 miles away from Schwarz’s home—on Nov. 19. Security camera footage from the hotel shows Causey stayed at the hotel for three days and that Mazeika and Johnson joined him on Nov. 25.

Cellphone records also placed both men in the area during this period.

Travel records provided to Dutch investigators by German authorities show Maleika and Johnson flew from Newark International Airport in New Jersey to Dusseldorf, Germany, on Nov. 24. The reservations were made by Fecker just hours prior to their departure, according to court documents.

The filings state that on the morning of Nov. 26, Schwarz’s neighbors saw a Volkswagen Polo with a German license plate pull up to a street near his home. Two men got out, while a third remained inside the car.

One neighbor told Dutch authorities he heard Schwarz’s front door slam and people fighting before a “loud bang” rang out from inside the house. The neighbor said he ran to Schwarz’s house and rang the doorbell. When nobody answered the door, he looked through the living room window and “saw one person bent over, holding a sheet or blanket, as well as a woman.”

“A woman left the victim’s house, slammed the front door, and entered the Volkswagen Polo, which promptly drove away,” the court document states. Two men, wearing hats, later entered the car.

German authorities later learned that two days before the murder, Causey and Fecker had rented the Volkswagen Polo in Frankfurt. On Nov. 26, Causey returned the car without the floor mats.

“Causey stated he had cleaned the floor mats but had forgotten to put them back in the car before returning it,” the court document states. Forensic examination showed the car had “trace amounts of blood” that matched Schwarz’s blood samples.

Mazeika and Johnson returned to the United States on Nov. 28. In an extradition request for Johnson, authorities say “Individual-2,” who appears to be Mazeika, transferred money into his bank account “on three occasions between January 2019 and May 2020.”

Now Dutch prosecutors are eager to extradite Mazeika and Johnson to the Netherlands where they can be held accountable for their alleged roles in the murder plot. Johnson, who has been arrested by U.S. authorities and detained without bail pending his next court date, was unable to be reached.

Authorities argued against releasing Mazeika on bail as his extradition case makes its way through the system, saying he “sought to obfuscate and conceal his conduct in the Netherlands by minimizing documentary proof of his activity there.”

In their argument, prosecutors pointed out that Mazeika “took an indirect route to his destination, flying to Germany and driving into Holland.” On his way back to the U.S., Mazeika took “what appears to be a deliberately circuitous route—back through Germany, and then via a series of flights back to the United States through seemingly disparate countries, specifically Russia and Switzerland.”

The documents add: “There is no evidence that Mazeika was a tourist in Europe during the relevant timeframe, and his overly complex itinerary appears more consistent with calculated evasion and concealment of his activities in the Netherlands than with innocent behavior.”

Mazeika’s next court hearing is scheduled for June 23. Johnson is set to appear in court again in July.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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