The Indiana financial consultant who was captured at a Florida campsite after allegedly crashing his plane to fake his own death led a double life, hiding malicious acts and financial troubles behind a mask of community activism, one of his best friends said Wednesday.
“On [a] business level, Marc was always running from something, it seemed like. He always was nervous,” Tom Britt said of Marcus Schrenker during an interview with TODAY’s Meredith Vieira in New York.
Schrenker had sent Britt what seemed to be a suicide e-mail on Monday, the day after his six-seater turboprop plane crashed in Florida after he had radioed for help. After stopping in a local motel, authorities believe Schrenker made his way to Birmingham, Ala., where he recovered a red motorcycle he had stashed in a storage unit last Saturday.
On Tuesday, U.S. Marshals found Schrenker at a campsite in northwestern Florida. He was bleeding heavily from a deep cut to his wrist.
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One man, two faces?
Britt and Schrenker were neighbors and friends in a wealthy enclave at Geist Reservoir in Noblesville, Ind.
“The Marcus that I knew was the guy taking pictures at the football games and giving pictures to the parents; snowplowing driveways for them, just an all-around community guy, giving back, sponsoring events for local charities,” Britt told Vieira. Schrenker also owned a stunt plane and performed at air shows and other events.
But Britt had heard other tales about his friend that were radically at odds with the good-guy image Schrenker cultivated.
“This was the guy who you’d hear about draining somebody’s pool next door, just out of spite,” Britt said. “There’s a legendary story about him driving a pontoon boat off of Geist Reservoir Dam. That side of the story never synced up with the Marcus that I knew.”
‘Just didn’t smell right’
Schrenker’s plane crashed about 200 yards from a residential neighborhood on Sunday night. Britt got a call Monday morning alerting him about the crash.
“I knew immediately that something was up. It just didn’t smell right,” Britt said.
That night, an e-mail popped up on his computer. It came from an unfamiliar Web-based address, but it was from Schrenker.
“My heart stopped when I got this e-mail,” Britt said.
The e-mail began with a “Dear Tom” salutation. “You are the only person I am going to contact and I hope you will set the record straight, or to the best of your ability,” it continued. “My family is surely hurting at the recent events and I hope you can do what you can to help distribute the facts as necessary.”
Pilots of a plane sent up to intercept Schrenker’s aircraft reported seeing an open cockpit door and no lights in the cockpit.
Money and marriage troubles
Schrenker then blamed business associates for the financial problems that had led to a half-million-dollar judgment against him and charges of defrauding investors of several hundred thousand dollars.
Finally, he wrote about his wife, Michelle. “Michelle is a great woman,” he wrote. “Life has been very hard for me and Michelle has certainly felt the brunt of my stress and problems. I hope you will clear her name of any wrong doing. She filed for divorce on December 30th, 2008 … and I deserved it. I still love her deeply and I am so sorry for how terrible I treated her.”
He then wrote as if he intended to commit suicide. “Tom, I have been under so much stress that I have not felt good in some time. Nothing is clear and my thoughts are surely blurred. I have embarrassed my family for the last time and by the time you read this I will be gone. I can not bear the magnitude of the pain I have caused Michelle and the kids. It is true that I have wanted to end my life for sometime.”
He ends with an apology and an observation: “I'm sorry again. I never meant to hurt anyone. When life becomes too much people do stupid things.”
Hard to believe
Vieira asked Britt if he felt that he had been duped by his friend.
“I think a lot of us have been duped,” Britt replied. “As more facts come in that discredit all the information he was giving me in this e-mail, but discredit also things he’s told me in the past about his business, it makes it harder and harder to believe that.”
Two days before the crash, a federal judge levied a $535,000 judgment against Heritage Wealth Management, according to The Associated Press, which has also reported that Schrenker faces fraud charges as well as charges of public endangerment by abandoning his airplane and allowing it to crash.
Schrenker was being treated in a Florida hospital for his injuries and is expected to be charged when he is discharged into police custody.
“I think the victim here is his family and the kids,” Britt said. “As a community, we feel terrible for them … We know what he’s done. We’ve kind of known the stories.”
Of Schrenker’s wife, Michelle, Britt added, “It’s a bad situation for her. It’s got to be terrible.”
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