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.