Bottom: Sketch at age 65 years old.
Suspect Jailed For 1976 McClintock Park MurdersIssue Date: March 21, 2019
Thanks to good investigative work and careful preservation of evidence in 1976 combined with good use of the latest in recently developed DNA analysis techniques, Marinette County Sheriff Jerry Sauve was able to announce at a press conference on Friday, March 15 that a 42-year-old "cold case" double homicide 1976 has been solved.
The suspect, Raymond L. Vannieuwenhoven, now 82, was taken into custody by Oconto County officers on the afternoon of Thursday, March 14, at his home in the Oconto County Town of Lakewood. He was turned over to Marinette County and is now being held in Marinette County Jail.
Sauve said that although an arrest has been made, "The investigation is far from over. We have a lot left to do."
Sauve said he and other investigators are working with Marinette County District Attorney DeShea Morrow to come up with official documents and formal charges. As of press time on Wednesday, March 20 official charges had not been filed and there had been no hearing date set.
Victims of the homicide were David Schuldes, 25, and his fiancé, Ellen Matheys, 24, both of Green Bay. They had planned to be married in September of that year. The couple had left Green Bay at about 10 a.m. on July 9, 1976, headed for a weekend of camping at McClintock Park, in the northeast corner of Marinette County, not too far from Lakewood and the Oconto County line.
On the way to McClintock they had stopped at Goodman Park, and were last seen alive by tourists in McClintock Park at about 1 p.m. The last campers to register before them had been there three days earlier, on July 6, 1976. According to 1976 news reports, one of the four people in that camping group had been a Brown County Sheriff's Department officer who said while sitting around their campfire they had seen a man watching them from the woods but before they could take any action he was gone.
After arriving at the park, Schuldes and Matheys had set up their campsite and started out on a walk through the woods. Not far into that walk, at about 2:30 p.m., Schuldes was shot and killed. That was less than half an hour before his body was found by a park caretaker on a path near the rest rooms. The caretaker arrived at 2:55 p.m. There was no one on duty in the park at the time of the shootings.
Search for Matheys that day was unsuccessful. Her body was found the next day about 400 yards away, in a wooded area with three foot tall grass. She had two gunshot wounds and had been beaten and sexually assaulted.
There were reports at the time of a young man, probably between 20 and 30 years old, being seen walking in the remote area in and around McClintock Park, carrying a gun of the .30 caliber type rifle used to commit the double murders. An artist's sketch was produced and distributed but no viable suspect was ever identified. Despite intensive efforts and multiple interviews of possible suspects, the case was never solved. However, DNA samples were taken and carefully preserved.
Sauve said thanks to all the good work done then, the suspect now is in jail and charges will be filed. Seated with Sauve at the head table for Friday's press conference were Chief Deputy Jim Hansen and Detective Todd Baldwin of Marinette County Sheriff's Department, Oconto County Sheriff Todd Skarban and Chief Deputy Darren Laskowski of Oconto County Sheriff's Department, Morrow, and Brad Kust of the Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigations.
Sauve saluted Lt. Barry Degnitz and Baldwin, who had the lead assignment, for their work on the case, and thanked Marinette City Police, Oconto and Brown County Sheriff's Offices, and the District Attorneys who had assisted.
Sauve began by thanking his predecessors in investigating this crime - prior sheriffs Earl Wagner, Joe Larson (who had hired him), James Kanikula, Robert Harbick, and Mike Kessler - for their efforts. "All these former sheriffs made decisions along the way to press on in this investigation and never give up hope that we would be successful," he said.
"There have been talented and dedicated law enforcement officers who toiled on this case for many years," Sauve went on, mentioning Robert Kuhlman, who had been Chief Deputy and "was in on the investigation from day one," along with Craig Bates, Jerry Jerue, Mike Waugus and others. He thanked all those from whom there had been calls of congratulations on finally solving the case.
He said he had been with the families of the victims when they were informed on Thursday night that the case had been solved and expressed sympathy for them, as well as empathy for Vannieuwenhoven's family, who were shocked and dismayed about the arrest. He is a widower but has several children. The arrest was made at Vannieuwenhoven's home in Oconto County.
After reviewing events on the day of the murders and the early stages of the investigation, Sauve declared it was the efforts of those initial investigators,"with proper and careful preservation of the evidence, that made it possible to resolve this case!"
In a general timeline of events that led finally to the arrest, Sauve said the initial investigators had collected and carefully preserved DNA evidence, but no match was made for many years.
In 2001, when Sauve was a lieutenant with the department, there was a big push to solve the case, which was then 25 years in the past. With technology available at the time they had profiled the DNA evidence obtained from Mathey's autopsy. With the help of witnesses who had seen the person with his gun in the park, initial investigators had developed an artist's sketch of what their suspect may have looked like, and in 2001 that sketch was computer advanced to what he might look like 25 years later. Copies of both likenesses were widely distributed. They received many phone tips and interviewed 50 possible leads with no results, Sauve said.
As the years continued to pass, DNA research continued to advance. They regularly cross-referenced the DNA evidence with files in the National Criminal Justice data base known as CODiS - the Combined DNA Index System, but a match was never found. They also obtained DNA from possible suspects over the years, but none matched the crime evidence.
Then they learned of a process called DNA Phenotyping, which was being was done by Parabon NanoLabs, Inc., a Virginia firm that specializes in "phenotyping" DNA to determine ancestry and predict physical appearance of crime suspects.
Sauve and his investigators began working with the firm after learning of their successes elsewhere in the nation, and at a press conference in July of last year he explained the process and displayed the original artists' sketch and the two newest likenesses created with the help of the Parabon technology. The technique is able to determine hair color, eye color, skin tone, nationality, and even general body structure, although it cannot predict weight, hair style and life style factors that influence appearance. One of the recently produced likenesses showed the suspect as he would have looked at 25 years old, the other as he would look at age 65.
With over 90 percent accuracy, the technology also was able to determine national origin, coloring, and eventually even narrow it down to possible family groups.
Sauve said his department made numerous contacts with the Parabon people in the last months, and with on-going testing Vannieuwenhoven was identified and verified as the suspect. They submitted a DNA sample to the Wisconsin State Crime Lab and that led to the arrest.
"I state again that the accused has the presumption of innocence until proven guilty," Sauve declared as he concluded his summary.
He then opened the floor to questions, and confirmed that the DNA came from the body of the victim and is not circumstantial evidence.
Asked how they came down to Vannieuwenhoven, since he has no known criminal record, Sauve said the Parabon technology can determine heritage, "right down to a surname." He had never been connected to previous stages of the investigation.
He said Vannieuwenhoven appears to be in good health for a man of 82. Asked about his reaction when arrested, Sauve replied, "Not over the top...He didn't have much of a reaction." His family, however, "was distraught... shocked....surprised...emotional..." when informed of the arrest.
Sauve was with Skarban and Laskowski when they met with several members of Vannieuwenhoven's family.
Skarban said the suspect is a 17-year resident of the Town of Lakewood and lived in the area before that, but the law enforcement community has had very minimal contact with him. He received a speeding ticket in Oconto county in 2018. As to prior history, investigators are still going through records, but have found nothing.
Asked about his own reaction to the news that the DNA matched, Sauve commented, "When you get the call and the first thing they ask is if you're sitting down...you know it's an important call."
Baldwin said he has sent in hundreds and hundreds of samples over the years that he has been working on the case. "You always feel like the sample you sent in is going to be the one...but you always get the "No'. ...Finally I heard the "Yes,' and it was pretty amazing. I was on a cloud all day..." He said he is very relieved for the victims' families and the department, and is grateful for all the hard work the previous investigators had done.
"Absolutely, yes!" Sauve declared when asked if this gives hope for families of other cold case victims that their cases too many some day be solved.
He asked anyone with information on this case or any other Marinette County case to call the sheriff's department tip line at 715-732-7310.
Anonymous callers can also contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-427-5857.
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