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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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McClintock Park Murder Saga Comes To An End

Issue Date: July 5, 2022

The saga of Marinette County's McClintock Park murders came to an end on Friday, June 17, when Raymand Vannieuwenhoven, 85, passed away at the Oshkosh Correctional Institute. He had served only 10 months of the two consecutive life sentences that were imposed by Judge James Morrison on August 26, 2021 in Marinette County Circuit Court for taking the lives of a young couple from Green Bay while they were camping at McClintock Park in Marinette County nearly 46 years ago.

John Beard, director of communications for the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, reportedly could not provide a cause of death, saying it would be determined by the medical examiner. However, Vannieuwenhoven had used a wheelchair since soon after he was arrested and received special nursing care at the Marinette County Jail while awaiting trial.

Vannieuwenhoven was sent to the Oshkosh Correctional Institute after a 7-day trial in Marinette County Circuit Court that ended on July 27, 2021. A 12-member jury had determined Vannieuwenhoven was responsible for the murders of a young Green Bay couple in McClintock Park nearly 46 years ago, on July 9, 1976. In view of extensive pre-trial investigating, Judge Morrison determined that as pre-sentence investigation was not needed, and set the Aug. 26, 2021 sentencing date.

Vannieuwenhoven had insisted he was innocent, and an appeal reportedly was in progress.

Because the case drew national attention to Marinette County, partly because it had remained unsolved for over four decades, and partly because newly developed DNA identification techniques led to Vannieuwenhoven's arrest on the double homicide charges. He had initially also been charged with rape, but that charge had to be dismissed due to Wisconsin's Statute of Limitations laws.

The victims, David Schuldes, who was 25 at the time, and his fiancé, Ellen Matheys, who was 24, had plans to be married in fall of 1976. They had been camping at remote McClintock Park on the fateful weekend when their lives were taken. Matheys had been beaten and then raped before she was shot. Evidence presented at the trial was that Schuldes had been shot once and Matheys had been shot twice.

Marinette County investigators had a few suspects at the time, but none that led to an arrest. They carefully preserved evidence connected with the case in hopes that some day the culprit would be found. Evidence included semen-stained shorts, from which DNA samples were obtained and preserved.

In the decades following the double homicides, Vannieuwenhoven had led a relatively quiet life in Oconto County, which included marrying and raising a family. He was living alone at his home at 17043 Remus Woods Lane in the Oconto County Town of Lakewood at the time of his arrest on March 14, 2019. He had reportedly lived there since 1996 or 1997.

Formal charges against him were filed by District Attorney DeShea Morrow on March 21 and he was subsequently held on $1 million cash bond until he was sent to begin his sentences at the Oshkosh Correctional Institute.

Prior to his conviction, Vannieuwenhoven spent considerable amounts of time undergoing psychiatric evaluations at state mental institutions. He was in poor health when his case came to trial, and required special medical care during his months as a Marinette County jail inmate.

McClintock Park is located near the remote northwest border of Marinette County, quite near the Oconto County Line and about 25 miles from Vannieuwenhoven's home in Lakewood.

The murders had gone unsolved until new DNA identification capabilities led determined Marinette County Sheriff's Department "cold case" investigators to Vannieuwenhoven.

Marinette County Sheriff Jerry Sauve and his investigators were able to solve the decades old cold case thanks to new methods of using DNA to identify national origin, family groupings and then individuals, and thanks to preservation of that evidence by investigators at the time.

According to information presented by Sauve at press conferences connected with the case, DNA collected from Mathys' shorts by investigators shortly after her body was found had been carefully and correctly preserved through the intervening years.

Decades later, after the new DNA technology became available, Sauve re-opened the cold case and hired Parabon Nanolabs of Virginia to help solve it. The company was able to phenotype DNA and identify ancestry and predict physical appearance of the person the DNA came from.

The quest led to members of Vannieuwenhoven's family in Green Bay, and then finally to Vannieuwenhoven, who was located and identified with the help of Oconto County Sheriff's Department.

Detailed information on portions of that quest were presented as evidence at a preliminary hearing for Vannieuwenhoven before Judge Morrison on June 27, 2019.

According to information presented by Marinette County Sheriff Jerry Sauve at press conferences connected with the case, DNA collected from Mathys shorts by investigators at the time of the initial murder investigation had been carefully and correctly preserved through the intervening years.

Decades later, after new DNA technology became available, Sauve re-opened the cold case and hired Parabon Nanolabs of Virginia to help solve it. The company is able to phenotype DNA and identify ancestry and predict physical appearance of the person the DNA came from.

The quest led to Vannieuwenhoven, who was located and identified with the help of Oconto County Sheriff's Department. DNA from Vannieuwenhoven was obtained by Marinette County Sheriff's Deputy Todd Baldwin and Oconto County Chief Deputy Darren Laskowski, by convincing him to lick an envelope for what they said was a survey for his opinions on local law enforcement.

At Vannieuwenhoven's initial appearance, Baldwin testified for nearly an hour, giving a background of the case dating back to 1976 when Detective Craig Bates was able to send DNA samples to the Wisconsin State Crime Lab to generate a DNA profile.

Baldwin, who became a Marinette County Sheriff's Department officer in 2001, testified that there were hundreds of suspects, but said no serious headway was made until last year, when he and the Sheriff's Office began working with Parabon Nanolabs.

An expert there was able to bring the suspect pool down to a specific family, identified as that of Gladys M. Brunette and Edward K. Vannieuwenhoven. The expert had predicted the DNA match would be one of their four sons or one of their grandchildren. Raymand Vannieuwenhoven is one of their sons.

On March 6 DNR was obtained from Raymand Vannieuwenhoven by Laskowski and sent to the State Crime Lab, which declared a match between that and the semen found on Matheys' shorts so many years before.

Laskowski testified he had obtained current DNA from Vannieuwenhoven by going to his home and posing as a person doing a survey on police patrol in area towns. After Vannieuwenhoven answered the survey questions he had him seal the envelope by licking it, and then brought the envelope to Baldwin, who was waiting in a vehicle nearby. Baldwin then sent the DNA evidence to the State Crime Lab and it matched.

After the DNA match was verified Vannieuwenhoven was arrested, and then later convicted and sentenced. Now, with his passing, the case has passed into history, and the ghosts that at one time were said to haunt McClintock Park have hopefully been laid to rest.


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