Meet the Author Ria Jean in Where the Truth Lies

Ria Jean Schumacher Photo Credit: Toni B Photography

Ria Jean Schumacher was born in the small, country town of Greenville, Illinois on December 27, 1978 to Twyla & Roy Schumacher. A redheaded surprise came bouncing into the world at 6:47 pm just two days after Christmas. Little did Twyla Schellenger know, her world would forever be changed by this blue eyed baby girl.

By the age of 2, Ria’s parents had divorced and Ria moved North with her mother and sister to the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. Ria’s biological father, Roy, would not see his daughter again for over ten years and would remain estranged her entire life.

By the age of 12, Ria had attended over a dozen schools, relocated more than a dozen times, and endured childhood poverty and neglect.

At the tender age of 17, Ria Jean Schumacher was arrested and convicted of First Degree Murder and Armed Robbery in the state of Illinois and sentenced to serve 100% of a 30 year sentence in the Illinois Department of Corrections. On August 19, 1996, Ria began serving her sentence in an adult prison in Illinois for a crime that she claims she did not commit.

Cast out of society for 12 years and 3 months, Ria slowly watched as the world passed her by. After a ten year fight from inside prison and representing herself, Ria finally won an appeal and was released from prison early at the age of 28. Ria spent a total of 12 years and 3 months in prison in the United States.

Today, Ria Jean Schumacher is a successful Mother, Entrepreneur, Author, Fitness Guru, Model, Motivational Speaker, and Business Owner. Ria continues to inspire other former prisoners to reach their dreams and highest potential. Ria Jean Schumacher wears many hats and is known for wearing them all well.

When Ria isn’t with her family she could be found traveling for a photo shoot or around the corner looking for her next adventure. People who know her well jokingly call her “dora the explora” and the name fits Ria Jean well.

Ria has lived the downward spiral to hell and back more than once and has lived to share her story of trial, tribulation, loss, depression, poverty, child abuse, adversity, and misery and the ability to overcome it all!

Ria Jean Schumacher has looked adversity in the eyes and overcome that which everyone who knew her thought she could not. Inspired by troubled youth and the desire to share her story with them, Ria sat down to write an account of the tragic events that led to her arrest, the corruption of the American Judicial System, what prison was really like, and what it takes to survive and overcome it all.




It’s happened over a thousand times. In the beginning, it would follow me around like a haunting, but over the years I’ve sort of grown used to it. Still today it happens at random, twenty one years later, while I’m lying in my bed all curled up for the night. After the house is dark and quiet and all the kids are tucked in and dreaming about all of their new toys and games. Suddenly, it will hit me and I’ll open my eyes, hoping that doing so will make the memory disappear, as quickly as it came. There have been many afternoons while I am sitting on a wooden bench at a park, watching my toddlers play and I’ll find myself lost in memories of a forgotten time like skeletons in a closet dancing and waiting to come out. It happens when I’m surrounded by other mothers and children’s laughter is heard in the air. As I sit watching my own children going down slides I can hear the other mothers around me talking about their lives. Telling each other stories about their days, their husbands and their crooked ways.

Out of nowhere I’ll feel the heaviness in my chest as a memory forms its way into my mind. A tear will slowly form in the corner of my eye and I’ll choke it back so that I don’t cry.

As I watch my children play I know I’m a bit more over protective than most moms, because I am reminded of how everything in this life can change in just an instant all of the time. Most times those changes can be for the good. Then, there are those dreadful and tragic times that this world will produce enough evil to catapult an entire family. It was that kind of evil that happened to my family in 1996.

Try to imagine a young woman sitting alone on a bench in a park crying as she watches her children play. I hold back my tears so as not to appear crazy to the people around me. Luckily, I learned to hold back my tears a long time ago. It’s happened while I’m at family functions. My face goes blank as I stare off into space for a second and I know my family members don’t know what to say. After all, I am the only person in my entire family who’s ever ended up in an adult prison. Let alone spend over a decade in one.

I never know when the memories will pop into my mind. I never know what will take me back to the hell I once lived, or what will make me remember. It just happens at random and I am reminded that I am so very lucky to be here. Lucky to be sitting here writing this book for you, at all. Life would have rather seen me dead, or still locked away in a cold prison cell for many, many years to come.

With my eyes closed I focus and try to hear the Judges voice that day. No matter how hard I try I’ve never been able to though. Instead, I can only see him clearly as he sat on his throne and sentenced me to serve every single day of thirty years in the Illinois Department of Corrections.

I can’t remember a lot of things about that particular day. It’s weird the things I do remember though. I remember the date. I know I’ll never forget it. I have a tendency to forget dates, even doctors appointments. If you go walking through my home you will eventually find a list I once made out for groceries, vacation needs, or my kids’ appointment reminders.

August 19, 1996; I’ll never forget that day. It’s been etched into my brain like the memories of a first born child coming into the world; the kind of day that no one forgets. The day I was in the elevator handcuffed and shackled, being led like a dog by a Sheriff’s deputy on both sides of me to the Courtroom.

My sentencing date. Standing there in the elevator I looked up at one of the guards as we waited for our floor and I realized that no one would be there to stand beside me in the courtroom as society threw me away and it made me suddenly feel a little bit sad and a lot claustrophobic. As we moved slowly up to the third floor I wished the elevator would have just kept going up, right into the big blue sky. The walls seemed to be closing on on me. Breathe. I kept reminding myself to breathe in and out. I would have rather died than stand there alone that day.

That’s the way of my family though. We just aren’t supportive like that. To this day I don’t even get phone calls with invites to birthdays and I’m just as guilty for not sending them out. My father left when I was three years old. Mom was at work. There was no one else.

I remember thinking I just wanted to go home. I felt so afraid. The fear making surges of adrenaline run through my veins causing my palms to sweat and my fingers to shake. I remember seeing all the lawyers in their fancy suits. If I close my eyes long enough I can still see the woman in her skirt and heels who walked passed me with the look of such sadness in her eyes as she looked into mine.

I remember thinking to myself, “I wish I had a lawyer like that. Why can’t I have a lawyer like that”?

Like I said I, don’t remember all of the details about that day, but I do remember the smile on his face as the Judge looked into my eyes and murdered me. As I looked back at him I wondered if he expected me to smile back and I remember thinking one day I would, but I knew it wouldn’t be that day. Another part of me didn’t die that day, all of me did. It would be quite some time before I would ever feel alive again. Years actually.

Today, over twenty years later I think back on that lost, alone, and afraid seventeen year old young girl and I know without the shadow of a doubt that it’ll never be my daughter handcuffed and shackled awaiting a sentencing. Never. For this knowledge I am forever grateful.

As the hearing went on and the Judge asked me all the appropriate legal questions of the sentencing process, I remember how his voice began to fade away until it sounded like he was in an open field far away calling out my name. I closed my eyes and could feel my body swaying just a little. My hands were cuffed to a chain around my waist but I was able to hold on to the bench in front of me to keep from losing my balance. Fingers turned pale white as I held on to the last bit of reality I could.

I remember thinking over and over to myself, “Why hast thou forsaken me, Lord?” as the tears began to roll down my pale, thin face.

Even as it was happening I still couldn’t believe it was real. How could any God allow this life to happen? My faith in God and all of humanity was gone.

They said I was a Murderer, but I never killed anyone.

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