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Trial Proceedings Continue For McClintock Park Murder Case

Issue Date: June 10, 2021

The wheels of justice continue to turn toward a two week-long jury trial to start Monday, July 19 before Judge James A. Morrison in Marinette County Circuit Court Branch II for McClintock Park murder suspect Raymand Vannieuwenhoven. Vannieuwenhoven has been in custody in lieu of $1 million cash bail since his arrest on March 14, 2019 at his Town of Lakewood home for the double murder of a Green Bay couple who had been camping in Marinette County's remote McClintock Park where their bodies were found in 1976. Both had been shot and the female victim had also been raped.

If convicted, Vannieuwenhoven, now 84 years old and in ill health, will almost certainly spend the rest of his life in prison. He faces two counts of first degree murder. A charge of rape has been dismissed due to statutes of limitations, but the alleged rape involvement - shown by DNA evidence - can be used as part of the evidence at the murder trial.

A motions hearing was held before Judge Morrison on Thursday, June 3 in regard to possible introduction of an alternate suspect. At the conclusion of that hearing Judge Morrison said he would make a decision on that issue before the day was out, and on Friday, June 4, he ruled that the defense had failed to prove all three "prongs" required under Wisconsin's "Denny Rule," and will not be allowed to present those arguments to the jury. The three Denny "prongs" are motive, opportunity, and a direct connection to the crime and/or the crime scene.

The process of selecting jurors will begin on Wednesday, June 23, when attorneys will meet with Judge Morrison to begin deleting names from the initial panel of 150 prospective jurors. Morrison had commented that is about double the size of an ordinary prospective juror panel. He asked the Clerk of Courts office to provide lists of questions the attorneys expect to ask when questioning prospective jurors. He also instructed attorneys form both sides to provide him with copies of all the evidence they intend to introduce before it is shown to witnesses or the jury. As requested by defense attorneys, jurors will not be allowed to ask questions in the courtroom due to the risk that the wrong question could prejudice the case. Jurors will be allowed to take notes for themselves except during arguments.

Morrison said his job is to serve as "gatekeeper" for presentation of evidence at the trial, and that "the burden of instructing the jury on the law is my job!"

At one point in the proceedings, Morrison cautioned, "If I think either one of you is playing unfairly with the truth...I will not look at that kindly," and added, "God determines innocence...the determination of guilt is up to the jury."

At 1 p.m. on Thursday, June 10 representatives of prosecution and defense are to travel to the park to view physical issues of the crime scene. All discovery is to be turned in by 4 p.m. on Monday, June 21, except that related to the Deny motion.

There also is to be a motions hearing on June 23 in regard to another defense motion involving evidence from a medical expert in regard to the sexual assault allegations, and a new defense contention that Matheys and Vannieuwenhoven had a consensual sexual encounter." Morrison cited the "Rape Shield" law and cautioned against introduction of any character evidence against the victim.

Vannieuwenhoven is charged with two counts of First Degree murder and one count of First Degree sexual assault in connection with the shooting deaths of David Schuldes, 25, and his fiancé, Ellen Matheys, 24, both of Green Bay. The couple were killed on July 9, 1976, and Matheys was raped.

The case had been cold for decades until it was re-opened when new DNA testing capabilities led Marinette County Sheriff's Department investigators to Vannieuwenhoven, who had married and raised a family and was living in his Town of Lakewood home in Oconto County, a bit west of McClintock Park.

On March 19 defense attorneys Travis A. Crowell and Lee C. Schuchart had filed the "Denny" motion that if granted would have allowed them to try to convince a jury that Robert M. Lukesh, not Vannieuwenhoven, may have been the one who committed the double murder back in 1976.

At the June 3 motions hearing defense attorneys sought permission to argue before the jury that an alternate suspect, Robert Lukesh, who died in 2000, could have fired the fatal shots.

Morrow and Williams argued, among other things, that Lukesh had previously been ruled out as a suspect, largely because none of his DNA was found at the crime scene, and because he would not have had time to get to the park from his home in Michigan, at least a 40 minute drive away. Morrow said after the murders were discovered he had stopped to ask for directions on his way to the park.

Defense attorneys argued his motive would been his desire to commit the perfect crime, and cited his record of assaults on his family members, guests at his home, and even family pets.

Morrow agreed Lukesh appeared to be "a horrible man," but said evidence did not connect him to the crime.

At the June 3 court proceedings arguments against the defense motion were presented by Marinette County District Attorney DeShea Morrow and Special Prosecutor Mark Williams. Morrow declared the sexual assault charges against Vannieuwenhoven had been dropped, not for lack of evidence, but due to the statute of limitations. Defense attorneys sought to submit evidence that Matheys had been sexually active.

Vannieuwenhoven was present in person, but due to a hearing disability and failure of some of the special headphones that had been provided for him, participated from a special "cry room" with a viewing window into the Circuit Curt Branch II courtroom, where the murder trial itself is also to take place.

Others present in the courtroom in addition to press, court officials and law enforcement officers included a woman who appeared to be Vannieuwenhoven's daughter, and a couple who have been identified at previous proceedings as relatives of one or both of the victims.


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