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Vannieuwenhoven gets two life terms in 1976 double murder

RAYMAND VANNIEUWENHOVEN, 84, is wheeled into Marinette County Circuit Court on Thursday for his sentencing after being convicted in July on two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of 25-year-old David Schuldes and 24-year-old Ellen Matheys at a Marinette County campground on July 9, 1976. Vannieuwenhoven was handed two consecutive life sentences in prison. (Brian Christensen/Daily News photo)

MARINETTE, Wis. — One after the other, family and friends of David Schuldes and Ellen Matheys — slain at a campground in Marinette County more than four decades ago — condemned Raymand Vannieuwenhoven for denying the engaged couple their future together.

“We loved Ellie and were so excited to welcome her into our family,” said Schuldes’ sister, JoAnn Mikulsky. “And then on that one day in July, it was over. David and Ellie were gone forever, along with all their dreams and our hopes and dreams for them.”

Mikulsky said she prayed justice would be served at Vannieuwenhoven’s sentencing Thursday in Marinette County Circuit.

A jury in July had convicted the 84-year-old Vannieuwenhoven on two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of 25-year-old Schuldes and 24-year-old Matheys on July 9, 1976.

Thursday, Marinette County Circuit Judge James Morrison ordered Vannieuwenhoven serve two consecutive life sentences in prison for the killings almost a half-century ago.

“The rest of his life in prison wouldn’t be much justice for what he did to David and Ellie and for the 45 years he stole from them, but at this point it’s the only justice that’s left,” Mikulsky said.

Cindy Chizak, Matheys’ niece, said the murders “shattered” her family’s lives.

“(Vannieuwenhoven) made a decision to take away Ellie and Dave’s future. Please, let that sink in,” Chizak said. “Realize also that choice that he made took away all of our futures with Ellie and Dave.”

Lynn Baumgartner, who was to be Matheys’ maid of honor, spoke directly to Vannieuwenhoven.

“As far as I’m concerned, you have no soul and no regard for human life,” Baumgartner said. “My God, Dave didn’t know what hit him. You dropped him like an animal. And I know Ellie knew what was coming. I can’t begin to imagine how scared she was, how you made her feel.”

Baumgartner said she was angry Vannieuwenhoven was able to live free for more than 40 years after Schuldes and Matheys were killed.

“You denied us the right to write our story, to write our story together into old age,” Baumgartner said. “We were all deprived of so many experiences we could have shared.”

“I hope you live many more years so you can be as miserable as possible, locked up where I think you belong. Now, I’m finished with you,” Baumgartner said.

Marinette County District Attorney DeShea Morrow said the murders were “cold, vicious and brazen,” committed only for Vannieuwenhoven’s gratification.

“Through this whole process, there’s really been no sense of remorse from Mr. Vannieuwenhoven,” Morrow said before asking Morrison for the two consecutive life sentences.

Dorothy Vannieuwenhoven, the defendant’s youngest daughter, said the DNA evidence the state presented during trial only proved her father had an affair.

“I don’t think you have the right guy. I really don’t,” Dorothy Vannieuwenhoven said.

Speaking to her father, Dorothy Vannieuwenhoven said he was the only one who knew what took place 45 years ago.

“You are the only one, truthfully, that knows what happened. Whether you did anything, whether you didn’t do anything. I believe that you did not and I’m going to continue to believe that,” Dorothy Vannieuwenhoven said. “All I know for sure, dad, is you are my dad. You always will be my dad and I love you. I always will love you.”

Defense attorney Travis Crowell asked Morrison sentence Vannieuwenhoven to concurrent rather than consecutive sentences, saying his client posed “zero risk” to the public at his age.

Speaking on his own behalf, Vannieuwenhoven gave a largely unintelligible statement in which he seemed to suggest the case against him had been fabricated.

“The whole damn works has been rigged,” Vannieuwenhoven said.

Morrison rejected the idea, noting Vannieuwenhoven had been convicted by a jury after a “well-tried” case.

The two life terms, Morrison said, were because rehabilitation was “completely and utterly unimportant” in his case.

“There is no practical possibility that Mr. Vannieuwenhoven will ever see the outside of a prison again,” Morrison said.

After sentencing, Morrow told The Daily News the sentence was appropriate considering all the facts and circumstances in the case.

“I’m very satisfied with the outcome — mostly for the families,” Morrow said. “They finally got a chance to express what they haven’t been able to express all these years.”

Lori Smith, another of Matheys’ nieces, said the sentence was “spot on.”

“It’s what (Vannieuwenhoven) deserved,” Smith said. “Forty-three years he lived his life. This was what we hoped for.”

Smith acknowledged the Vannieuwenhoven family would grieve over the sentence but said she hoped both families could now heal.

According to the criminal complaint, Schuldes was fatally shot through the neck with a .30-caliber firearm as he waited for Matheys outside a bathroom at the McClintock Park campground in the Town of Silver Cliff. The shooter then either ordered or chased Matheys into a nearby wooded area, where she was sexually assaulted and, after being allowed to put some of her clothing back on, shot twice in the torso.

Though the case went cold, Marinette County detectives continued to have DNA from semen left in Matheys’ shorts periodically analyzed to see if a possible match might surface, the complaint stated.

In 2018, investigators submitted evidence to Virginia-based Parabon Nanolabs, which traced the DNA to a specific couple with ties to the Green Bay area.

Further investigation led to Vannieuwenhoven, by then a widower living in Lakewood, Wis. A DNA sample obtained from Vannieuwenhoven in March 2019 proved to be a match.

Vannieuwenhoven originally also was charged with first-degree sexual assault but that was dismissed in May 2019 because the statute of limitations had passed. There are no such limitations for homicide.

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