The Green Bay Northwoods Killings — Ch 6
Chapter Six: The DNA Trail Leads to a Name
Let’s go back to the beginning for a moment. Remember when I told you the investigators needed the killer to make a mistake?
Well it turns out, he did.
He allowed Ellen Matheys to put her shorts back on after he raped her. Some theorize he may have done it because he needed her attention to be on something else as he picked up his rifle to shoot her. If she knew she was about to die, she might scream. So he allowed her to put on her shorts while he retrieved his rifle, but it would be his undoing.
According to one forensic examiner, it helped preserve the biological material that led to the development of her killer’s DNA profile years later.
In the 90s, the authorities used the semen left in Ellen Matheys’ shorts to develop a DNA profile of their suspect. However, the DNA profile didn’t match anything in the FBI’s CODIS database. It was a dead end, until technology caught up with the evidence.
In a manner of investigation we’ve now seen in hundreds of cases, the investigators proceeded to establish a phenotype profile. With it, they could predict the killer’s physical traits. They were 93% sure the killer would have light skin and either blue or green eyes. They were able to tell with 99% certainty that he had reddish hair and at least some freckles. They were able to narrow their search.
Investigators then used Parabon Nanolabs to do forensic genealogy analysis and by December 2018, they were able to provide investigators with a family name.
I know. What a name, right?
Perhaps not surprisingly, if you do a newspaper archive search for the name Vannieuwenhoven in 1970s Wisconsin, one prominent result is for an entire family who filed legal paperwork to change each of their surnames from Vannieuwenhoven to Vann.
It’s a mouthful, but it was a unique name, and that was good for investigators.
However, the family name was not enough.
Investigators knew Edward and Gladys Vannieuwenhoven of Suamico, a Green Bay satellite community, had four sons who could be the right age to have committed the murders of David and Ellen. In addition, there were four grandsons investigators also considered as possible donors of the semen that generated the DNA profile of Ellen’s murderer. To start, they needed DNA samples from the Vannieuwenhoven sons to compare against the killer’s profile. The question was how to get them.
In 2019, The Appleton Post-Crescent detailed the operation:
Detective Todd Baldwin of the Marinette County Sheriﬀ’s Oﬃce grabbed a garbage bag from the front curb of Cornelius (Neil) Vannieuwenhoven, one of the Vannieuwenhoven sons. DNA collected from a discarded pair of socks, a bandage and an inhaler was sent to the State Crime Lab for analysis. The DNA ruled out Cornelius as a suspect but conﬁrmed he was from the same paternal line as the suspect.
Neil was not the guy but detectives were a step closer — they knew the killer had to be one of his brothers.
Baldwin then turned his attention to [another] brother, Edward Vannieuwenhoven, who lives next door to a retired Oconto County sheriﬀ’s detective with whom he was on friendly terms. The retired detective provided Baldwin with a coﬀee cup Edward had drunk from at his house. DNA collected from the lip of that cup also didn’t match the suspect proﬁle, though it also conﬁrmed it was from the same paternal line.
Two brothers down, two to go. Edward was not the killer.
The third brother [...] was Raymand, who lived in the town of Lakewood in Oconto County. Baldwin enlisted the help of Oconto County Chief Deputy Darren Laskowski, who asked Vannieuwenhoven to ﬁll out a brief survey about policing in the county. Laskowski had Vannieuwenhoven complete the survey, then seal it in an envelope, which required licking. That provided Baldwin with the DNA sample he was looking for, and the state Crime Lab analysis deﬁnitively proclaimed it matched the DNA sample collected from Matheys so many years ago.
The police returned to Raymand Vannieuwenhoven’s Lakewood home with an arrest warrant and he was taken into custody, in March, 2019, 43 years after he murdered David Schuldes and Ellen Matheys.
Ray’s home from 1996 to 2019 was only 15 miles from where David and Ellen were shot in 1976.
The suspect who “just wanted to scare the girls” in the Suamico attack in 1957 was Raymand Vannieuwenhoven, who at the time was using his middle name, Lawrence.
It was also Ray Vannieuwenhoven that had the violent fight with the girl that bailed out of his moving car on Memorial Drive in Howard. (I went to some lengths to correlate the identity of Lawrence Vannieuwenhoven with Ray Vannieuwenhoven and found that the Green Bay Press Gazette confirmed Ray and Lawrence are one-in-the-same in a report from April 13th, 2019.) Ray also sometimes went by “Larry” later in life.
He wasn’t the only brother who exercised some flexibility with his identity, either. His older brother Sylvester, sometimes referred to as “Sy” when he was younger, was using his middle name, too. He was known as Sylvester when he ripped off his own employer at the auto parts company in 1948, and in 1953 when he stole a cash box from a truck stop. His given first name was the same as his father’s. Edward.
According to my research, he is the same Edward Sylvester Vannieuwenhoven who reported a movie camera, a police scanner and a .308 rifle stolen 10 months after the murder of David and Ellen.
My investigatory mind immediately wonders if Ray could have stolen the items from his own brother. A perfect murder kit that included a police scanner and a rifle, the same caliber that was used to kill David and Ellen.
Maybe the items were out in the garage, they got stolen during the previous season, but then a cold Wisconsin winter blew in and Ray’s brother didn’t notice they were missing until warm weather came around again. Hypothetically, when he discovered it, he reported the items stolen.
It’s absolute speculation on my part, but since I found the newspaper article reporting the theft of the items, the thought hasn’t left me.
We’ll talk about the suspect and his trial in the next chapter.
Troy Larson is a harbinger of things that go bump in the night; a true crime writer, researcher, and digital content producer with hundreds of podcast and broadcast credits to his name. Follow Troy on Medium. Reach out: email@example.com
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