After 42 years, a killer revealed?
Marinette County authorities hope DNA-based image can crack cold case
MARINETTE, Wis. — New technology that predicts a person’s physical appearance from DNA may help Marinette County authorities crack a cold double homicide case.
Marinette County Sheriff Jerry Sauve released new images Monday of the man they believe may have killed 25-year-old David Schuldes and then raped and murdered 24-year-old Ellen Matheys at McClintock County Park in the northwest Marinette County town of Silver Cliff exactly 42 years ago.
One image shows what the suspect may have looked like when the murders occurred, when he would have been about 25 years old, and the other shows what he may look like now, at about age 65.
“What we are hopeful for is that the public is going to see this, somebody’s going to make the right call, they’re going to call our dedicated line and that we’re going to get to the right person and make a match in this case,” Sauve said at a press conference.
Schuldes and Matheys, an engaged couple from Green Bay, Wis., had set up a campsite at the park July 9, 1976, and decided to start out on a walk when Schuldes was shot and killed. Matheys’ body was found the next day.
Sauve said sex was the motive for the murders, based on the sexual assault of Matheys.
Two witnesses believed they saw the suspect, estimated to be in his 20s, walking with a rifle in the woods after the crimes were committed.
The witnesses’ description of the suspect produced a police sketch and DNA taken from the victims’ clothing remains in a database checked regularly by state and national authorities. But no arrest has yet been made.
So Sauve earlier this year sought the services of a DNA technology company from Virginia that specializes in DNA phenotyping, which predicts physical appearance and ancestry from unidentified DNA.
Crimes have been solved with this technology, Sauve said, pointing to a successful case out of Texas that produced an image very similar to the actual suspect.
“It was clear to me this was money well-spent and we needed to do it,” he said.
Total cost for the images was about $4,000.
The technology predicts the suspect is of northern and southern European ancestry, and has a fair to very fair skin color, blue or green eyes, reddish brown to black hair and some freckles. It can’t determine body mass index, changeable features such as facial hair or environmental factors such as those caused by smoking or drinking.
“This is science, folks,” Sauve said. “This is no longer an artist conjecture from a witness; this is science.”
But Sauve admitted investigators have no way of knowing if the suspect still is in this area or is even alive. No matter the circumstances, he still wants people to send in tips.
“For closure for us, for the victims’ families, we certainly would take it right to a tombstone and see about making a match even that way,” Sauve said.
Anyone with information on the case is urged to contact the Marinette County Sheriff’s Office at 715-732-7310 or send an anonymous tip to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-427-5857.