An octogenarian who for years was known as the “helpful handyman” in a small Wisconsin town has been charged with the murders of a couple found shot dead on a camping trip more than four decades ago, officials said.
Raymand Vannieuwenhoven, 82, was charged with fatally shooting David Schuldes, 25, and Ellen Matheys, 24, in McClintock Park in the town of Silver Cliff in the summer of 1976. He has also been charged with raping Matheys, authorities said.
Vannieuwenhoven’s arrest in March came after a DNA analysis performed by the state of Wisconsin Department of Justice crime lab allegedly linked him to the crime, the Marinette County Sheriff’s Office said.
Schuldes and Matheys, engaged to be married, were found dead on July 9, 1976.
Schuldes had been shot in the neck from 50 feet away as he stood outside a bathroom his fiancee, Matheys, was using, police said in a criminal complaint.
The bullet, fired from a .30-caliber rifle, killed Schuldes instantly. Another bullet was found lodged in the wall of the bathroom, which investigators said Matheys either fled from in an attempt to escape or was threatened with as she was ordered to leave by the killer.
“In the wooded area Ellen was sexually assaulted,” police said. “When the suspect finished with the assault, it appeared as though he allowed her to put her shorts back on. She was putting her shirt back on when the suspect shot her twice in the chest with the .30-caliber rifle.”
Schuldes’ body was found by a parks worker, who contacted police. They discovered Matheys’ body about 200 yards away.
Investigators had little to go on, as there was no known reason why the couple was targeted and few leads followed.
Semen was found in Mathey’s shorts, which investigators sent to the FBI’s national database, but no matches were found, and the case again went cold.
Then in 2018, detectives tapped DNA technology company Parabon NanoLabs to help them search for a suspect. Parabon uploaded DNA from the crime scene to GEDmatch and in December found the parents of a possible suspect lived in the Green Bay area, cops said.
Two of Vannieuwenhoven’s three brothers were ruled out as suspects with DNA samples taken from one man’s trash and another’s used coffee cup.
Then investigators knocked on Vannieuwenhoven’s door in Lakewood, about 25 miles from where the killings occurred. They said they asked Vannieuwenhoven to fill out a brief survey on area policing and told him to return the survey in sealed envelope. He agreed to the request and sealed the envelope with his saliva, officials said.
Vannieuwenhoven’s DNA allegedly came back a match.
Vannieuwenhoven, a widower and father of five grown children, had reportedly lived in Lakewood for about two decades, The Associated Press reported. After his wife died in 2008, he spent his days fishing, hunting and camping, his brother-in-law told the AP.
“A very loving father to his wife and kids,” his brother-in-law said of Vannieuwenhoven.
But in 1957, Vannieuwenhoven was sentenced to six months for attacking a 17-year-old girl seemingly at random.
The teen had been walking with three friends when Vannieuwenhoven struck her on the back, face and shoulder, according to reports.
He was also known to have a temper when he drank, according to neighbors, who said he stopped consuming alcohol a few years ago.
“I know this much — when he was drinking, he was one son of a b****,” resident Fred Mason told the AP.
Vannieuwenhoven’s bond has been set at $1 million.
He has pleaded not guilty. When asked by a judge in March if he understood the charges against him, Vannieuwenhoven replied: “Not guilty, not guilty, not guilty.”
He is due back in court June 19.