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Testimony underway in Marinette County camper killings trial

Published: Jul. 20, 2021 at 7:31 AM CDT|Updated: Jul. 20, 2021 at 7:08 PM CDT
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MARINETTE COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - Testimony is underway in the trial for a man charged in the 1976 slayings of campers in Marinette County.

A jury was seated Monday in the Raymand Vannieuwenhoven trial. The prosecution started calling witnesses Tuesday morning.

Action 2 News reporter Megan Kernan is in the courthouse for the first day of testimony. Follow updates on Twitter: https://twitter.com/megankernantv

Vannieuwenhoven, 84, is charged with two counts of 1st Degree Murder for the deaths of David Schuldes and Ellen Matheys.

The case has been delayed several times due to competency hearings and motions. Vannieuwenhoven has asked a state appeals court to intervene so his defense could introduce evidence they say links another possible suspect to the crime. The Court of Appeals District III denied one of his petitions to leave to appeal Tuesday. That upholds Judge James Morrison’s decision to deny Vannieuwenhoven’s request. A decision in a second petition is pending.

Vannieuwenhoven is accused of killing Schuldes and Matheys on July 9, 1976. The couple was camping at McClintock Park in the town of Silver Cliff when they were attacked.

Autopsies showed Schuldes, 25, was shot in the neck and died instantly. Matheys, 24, was sexually assaulted then shot twice. Her body was found in a wooded area outside the park. Evidence from the sexual assault was submitted, including DNA.

The first witnesses on the stand Tuesday were friends of Schuldes and Matheys, and others were at McClintock Park on the days the victims were killed.

Witness Patrick Fields says he was camping with his family the day of the murder, and he recognized a purple gremlin the victims drove at Goodman Park before noon that day.

Later in the day, Fields says he saw the same car at McClintock Park.

“There was two people sitting at a picnic bench and they appeared to be camping,” said Fields.

Lance Timper, a retired Marinette County Deputy and Forestry Department Employee, was on the way to McClintock Park with his girlfriend on the day of the double homicide when he says he heard a single rifle shot.

Timper says a park caretaker stopped him and mentioned there was a person laying by the women’s bathroom.

“There was blood dripping out of his nose, there was blood underneath him, his face was blue, turning blue, his hands were turning blue,” said Timper.

The defense team spent time on Tuesday questioning the memory of the prosecution’s witnesses, and pointed out it has been decades since the victims were killed.

In addition, the defense is attempting to subpoena a potential witness in Idaho to also testify.

Years went by without a hit in the DNA database. The Marinette County Sheriff’s Office started working with the company Parabon Nanolabs on DNA analysis.

In the fall of 2018, a genealogist was able to narrow down a suspect pool to a family with ties to the Green Bay area -- the Vannieuwenhovens.

Investigators did surveillance on one of the Vannieuwenhoven sons and obtained a garbage bag from his home. Socks, a bandage and an inhaler were set to the crime lab for testing. It was confirmed that he wasn’t their suspect.

They moved on to another brother. A detective had coffee with a second Vannieuwenhoven brother and took the man’s cup for DNA analysis. He was not the match.

The next subject was Raymand Vannieuwenhoven, who lived in the Town of Lakewood. A deputy approached him and asked him to take a survey. The deputy asked Raymand to seal the envelope. Saliva from the envelope was sent to the Wisconsin State Crime Lab. The complaint states that it was found to be the single source male DNA profile developed from semen found on Ellen Matheys’ shorts.

“Our investigators, through proper and careful preserving of evidence of that assault, was vital in bringing us where we are today,” Marinette County Sheriff Jerry Sauve said at the time of the arrest.

Vannieuwenhoven was arrested and charged in March of 2019.

The trial is scheduled until July 30.

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