Marinette County Sheriff’s Office personnel, among many others, deserve mountains of praise for the work they’ve done on the McClintock Park double murder case.

Raymand Vannieuwenhoven, an 84-year-old former steelworker from Lakewood, was convicted Tuesday of two counts of first-degree murder by a Marinette County jury. He killed David Schuldes and Ellen Matheys in July of 1976. The young Green Bay couple, ages 25 and 24, respectively, were about two months away from their wedding.

Friends and family members of the victims spoke about the qualities of these two young people. Some testified; some spoke after the trial.

All indications are Schuldes was an athletic free spirit who liked to poke fun at his buddies. He was an above average golfer and he drove a purple Gremlin. Matheys, according to loved ones, was more of an introvert and extremely intelligent. She was excited to get a new vehicle, but it meant learning to drive a stick shift.

Their lives ended tragically on a hot July afternoon. Vanniewenhoven, described as a skilled hunter, shot Schuldes in the throat killing him instantly. Then he led Matheys into a wooded area where he raped her and then shot her in the stomach and chest.

Horrific, cold-blooded acts carried out in the light of day at a public campground.

As Marinette County District Attorney DeShea Morrow said in her closing argument, the defendant saw an opportunity and he pounced.

The twist is, if not for advanced science and stellar police work, Vannieuwenhoven might still be a free man. Detective Todd Baldwin, who started working on this case in 2003, not long after he joined the Marinette County Sheriff’s Office, never gave up. He, and others, followed every lead. They had the full support of department leaders, including current sheriff, Jerry Sauve.

Advancements in DNA testing led to the establishment of an evidence profile taken from the shorts worn by Mattheys. The first profile was made in 1995 and it was updated 20 years later. It wasn’t until 2018 when local investigators sought the service of Parabon Nanolabs, a Virginia-based lab that had developed new DNA testing that utilized genealogy testing.

All this would have been useless if the shorts worn by Matheys, which contained a semen sample from her killer, had not been preserved. The sample was tested by Parabon and results were traced to a Vannieuwenhoven clan in the Green Bay area.

That led to the eventual arrest of Raymand Vannieuwenhoven, whose DNA was cleverly obtained by Baldwin and Oconto County Chief Deputy Darren Laskowski, who had the suspect lick an envelope after being told he was taking a survey on local law enforcement.

It’s safe to say this case required a little bit of luck and whole lot of patience and persistence. Investigators did an outstanding job as did prosecutors and crime lab personnel. The jury’s work can’t be understated nor the job by Circuit Judge Jim Morrison, who always runs a tight, efficient courtroom.

For their part, the defense duo of Lee Schuchart and Travis Crowell, performed flawlessly. They presented a strong defense and gave their client outstanding legal representation.

But the highlight of this case, again, is clearly the work done by the investigators. Baldwin was quick to credit the resolve of countless men and women before him. He knows this was a team effort that took more than four decades to solve.

One family member said she didn’t believe justice was totally served because Vannieuwenhoven lived 43 years as a free man after the killings. It’s hard to disagree, but it’s our hope that friends and family members of the victims can find some closure.

Our thoughts also go out to the defendant’s children and their families. To have their father/grandfather convicted of such heinous crimes after so many years is unfathomable.

Baldwin, after the trial, said this case has dogged Marinette County investigators for years. Thanks to him, and others, this case can be put to rest following sentencing next month.