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Detective explains how DNA was obtained; week 1 of murder trial complete
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EagleHerald Editor

MARINETTE—A seasoned detective from the Marinette County Sheriff’s Office, who has worked on a cold case double murder for about 18 years, explained how he was able to obtain vital DNA evidence from the suspect in the case.

Det. Todd Baldwin took the witness stand Thursday and told how he and an Oconto County officer used trickery to get the evidence from Raymand Vannieuwenhoven, 84, Lakewood. Vannieuwenhoven is accused in the July 9, 1976, murders of a Green Bay couple who was camping at McClintock Park in the Town of Silver Cliff. David Schuldes, 25, and Ellen Matheys, 24, were shot and killed at the campground. They were engaged.

Matheys was sexually assaulted, but that charge has been dismissed because the statute of limitations has elapsed. There is no statute of limitations for the two first-degree homicide charges against Vannieuwenhoven.

The first week of the trial is complete. There was no testimony Friday and the state is expected to call its last witnesses on Monday. Defense witnesses will follow.

Baldwin told special prosecutor Mark Williams that he has been with the Marinette County Sheriff’s Office for nearly 20 years, most of those as a detective. Before that he was a Milwaukee police officer for five years. He said he has been working on the McClintock Park case sporadically since about 2003, combing through thousands of pages in the files.

Williams asked the detective if Marinette County ever gave up on this case. “There wasn’t a time when the Marinette (County) Sheriff’s Department threw their hands up and said ‘we’ll never solve this, let’s just close it?’” he asked.

“No we did not give up on this case,” Baldwin said. “We always followed up on suspects.”

A DNA profile obtained through evidence was already on file with the State Crime Lab, according to previous testimony.

The case went cold for many years until about three years ago. Baldwin explained how a breakthrough came in 2018 when Parabon Nanolabs of Virginia developed new technology to examine DNA evidence, which could provide certain genetic characteristics of possible suspects through DNA.

Baldwin testified that he and Lt. Barry Degnitz, along with Sheriff Jerry Sauve, decided to hire Parabon Nanolabs after researching the company and what its new program had to offer.

On Dec. 21, 2018, Parabon contacted Baldwin and informed him that a possible suspect was found through the DNA testing.

He said they gave him a Green Bay-area family—the Vannieuwenhovens—that had four sons and four grandsons who possibly could be a match.

The detective’s next task was to obtain DNA from the possible suspects. He started with the four sons. Two (Cornelius and Edward) were quickly eliminated as suspects through DNA testing. A third son, Francis, is deceased. The grandsons were eliminated as suspects because they were simply too young.

That left Raymand Vannieuwenhoven’s DNA to be tested. Because Lakewood is in Oconto County, Baldwin sought the services of Darren Laskowski, the chief deputy in Oconto County and someone he said he has known through years of detective work.

Laskowski also testified Thursday how he was asked by Baldwin to help in getting a DNA sample from the suspect under the guise of conducting a survey of residents in northern Oconto County. He provided details of the visit, stating he sat at the suspect’s kitchen table, conducted the survey, had the suspect seal the envelope and then he returned the envelope to Baldwin.

Vannieuwenhoven was arrested in March 2019.

Co-defense attorney Lee Schuchart, in cross-examination, asked Baldwin what items were collected in a search of the suspect’s Lakewood home. Baldwin said he could not recall everything, but some of the items were a mat, four shell casings and some pictures.

“Is it fair to say there is a list of items that were taken from Ray’s house?” Schuchart asked.

“Yes, it’s documented,” Baldwin responded.

“Which of those items ended up being in any way related to the July 9, 1976, homicides,” Schuchart asked.

“We really couldn’t find a connection,” Baldwin answered.

Earlier on Thursday, Dr. Robert Corliss, professor of pathology, forensics pathologist and the autopsy director at the UW Hospitals in Madison, told Marinette County District Attorney DeShea Morrow that he has performed an estimated 3,000 autopsies in his 15 years at UW Hospitals. He estimated that more than 100 of those autopsies involved gunshot wounds.

Corliss testified that he agreed with the findings of his mentor at UW Hospitals, the late Dr. Robert Huntington III, as to the cause of death of the two campground victims.

He said Schuldes died of a single gunshot to the neck that caused blunt trauma to his brain stem resulting in immediate death. He said Matheys was shot first in the chest and second in the abdomen, either of which would have been fatal by themselves.

Karen Doerfer Daly Zander, a retired employee of the Wisconsin State Crime Lab, testified that she assisted with the autopsies of the two victims conducted by Huntington. She also talked about the advancements of DNA technology through the years.


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All American Circus come to Marinette

EagleHerald Staff Writer

MARINETTE—The All American Circus came to the Community REC Center in Marinette for the first time Thursday to entertain locals for a night of acrobatics, fire dancing and motorcycles.

Before the show commenced, attendees milled around looking for seats and stood in long, snaking lines to buy pink cotton candy, popcorn, soda, neon-illuminated toys and plastic trumpets at the booths standing near the entrance. The gymnasium was a kaleidoscope of chatter, blaring trumpets (they sounded like the unfurling horns handed out at kids’ birthday parties) and syncopating lights.

Lindsay Bjorkman, who grew up in Marinette but currently lives in Peshtigo, was standing next to a row of folding chairs with her son before the show. She said it was her first time going to a circus in Marinette and didn’t recall one ever coming to town in previous years. When she asked her young son if he was excited to see the show, he shyly shrugged his shoulders.

“I think he’s more excited to see the motorbike,” she said with a laugh, referring to the finale in which a motorcyclist would ride around inside a spherical cage.

Menominee resident David Freiss, who was standing in line with his grandson for one of the booths, also said he had never been to a circus in Marinette. He recalled, however, going to a circus in Menominee with his daughter over 20 years ago.

“I feel kinda scared because I’m scared of clowns,” Freiss’ grandson said with a smile when asked if he was looking forward to the show. He added that he had never been to a circus in Marinette before and only came to the REC Center to sign up for soccer.

Attendees filled the bleachers and rows of grey folding chairs and spilled onto the artificial turf surrounding the maraschino-red circus ring as the time came closer for the show to start. About a quarter after 7 p.m., circus host Oscar Garcia told everyone to settle in for the performance.

The show opened with a dance act by two women in white leotards, silver high heels, tiaras and purple boas, followed by a young man with a blue velvet jacket and black top hat who played the clown and juggled neon orange discs and pins. The music was grainy and thunderous, forgoing the traditional circus theme in favor of modern pop and jazz.

Next, two men in shimmering yellow shirts and orange pants entered the ring, one of them hoisting a pole above his head and the other nimbly climbing to the top where he balanced and lifted his legs into the air.

The lights dimmed and a woman emerged to perform a pyrotechnic dance, spinning her spoked hoops until they framed her in halos of fire.

Afterward, the young man in the blue velvet jacket invited two men, both goateed, into the ring and instructed them to hold a hoop which he lept through. He also singled out a young woman to join him and had her hold sticks onto which he placed spinning soccer balls. After this, he donned a pair of red heart-shaped glasses and lip-synced Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” as he offered her a white rose.

A group of four performed a choreographed juggling act where they fluidly moved around one another as pins flew up spinning in the air.

During intermission, Kerri Ducaine-Whiting, who grew up in Crivitz but currently lives in Marinette, stood by the bleachers holding her daughter. She said she and her family were enjoying the show, but that it was late in the evening for her kids to be out.

“We love it, but our kids are tired and want to go home,” she said, laughing.

She added that it was nice to have a performance come to Marinette.

Greg Tronson-Westby was standing in line for cotton candy with his son during intermission. He said the show was “alright” but that, as a former member of the military, he had traveled quite a bit and seen more impressive circuses in bigger cities. In particular, he said other circuses had more animals, whereas this one featured just the miniature horse.

Tronson-Westby took a pause when he got to the front of the line to order three cotton candies and two Pepsis, then added that his favorite part of the show was the juggling. His son said with a grin that he enjoyed the pyrotechnic performance the most.

The intermission ended and the second half of the show featured several acrobatic performances on climbing ropes and ribbons, the performers’ shadows projected on the rainbow-lit walls. The show concluded with the motorbike act; a woman with a pink helmet rode on the sides of the spherical cage then revved the engine and drove the motorcycle upside-down, after which another woman joined her in the cage and stood still in the center as the motorcyclist performed the same tricks.

After the show, Garcia, the circus host, stood by the circus ring high-fiving kids from the crowd.

Garcia is a fourth generation circus performer, and his troupe consists of four families. He said it was his first time visiting Marinette and that his experience with the community had been positive.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better crowd,” he said.