The Green Bay Northwoods Killings — Ch 15
Chapter Fifteen: An unsolved murder in Ray's kinda place.
Sheboygan, Wisconsin is a city of about 50,000 residents at the mouth of the Sheboygan River, on the western shore of Lake Michigan. A little to the northwest is a place called the “Town of Sheboygan,” a separate municipality within the greater-Sheboygan metropolitan area. The Town of Sheboygan is where a terrible crime came to light, just a few weeks before Christmas, 1988.
On December 1st, 1988, a story in The Sheboygan Press read:
The suspicious deaths ot an elderly Town of Sheboygan couple whose bodies were discovered in a barn on their property Wednesday morning continued to baffle local authorities today.
Edward Cizauskas and his wife Frances were found dead.
Cizauskas, a retired and well-known junk dealer, ran a business known as Eddie's Jalopy Jungle at 2215 Mill Road. Investigators who could give no motive as to why anybody would want to murder the couple or why either of the victims would have wanted to take their own lives said they are looking to autopsy results to, hopefully, give better direction to the investigation.
The murders of Edward, 75, and his wife, Frances, 73, were shockers to the community. The Cizauskas were a kindly old couple with no kids.
The inspector described the scene when deputies arrived in response to a 911 call at 9:38 a.m. Wednesday by the man who discovered the bodies, Herbert Baumgart. [...] Baumgart reportedly worked for Cizauskas on a once-a-week basis, doing chores around the yard. Cizauskas still did some salvage dealing.
[Deputy Inspector James] Hoffmann said Baumgart found his boss lying on the barn floor. Baumgart had gone to the barn after rapping at the door of the couple's nearby home and getting no response. "Mr. Cizauskas was laying on his back on the floor in the barn," Hoffmann began. "There were two noticeable wounds to his upper left forehead and ... the accumulation of coagulated blood. Mrs. Cizauskas was found laying on her side with her face down, adjacent to the body of her husband. A cursory examination showed no apparent trauma to Mrs. Cizauskas." No weapon was found.
The lack of physical trauma to Mrs. Cizauskas left some questions for investigators as to what her cause of death was, however, autopsies later confirmed Eddie was bludgeoned to death and Frances was strangled.
Two weeks later, the Sheboygan Press reported, essentially, things weren’t going very well. The story, under the headline “Investigation May Soon Produce Motive for Murders,” painted a pessimistic picture of the investigation.
A cold, empty silence now pervades Eddie's Jalopy Jungle at 2215 Mill Road. It's been nearly two weeks since the bodies of Edward Cizauskas and his wife, Frances, were found murdered on their barn floor. They were good people, a warm and loving elderly couple who had no children, but cherished their pet dogs. Honesty was their creed, and their friends were many. So who killed Eddie and Fran Cizauskas? Was robbery really the motive? Are the police any closer to establishing a motive? Will the killer, or killers, ever be identified? These are questions that haunt a peaceful community.
You can sense a slight undercurrent of frustration from Deputy Inspector Hoffmann as he detailed the difficulty of the investigation.
A tough hurdle in the investigation is the lack of witnesses who really knew the little, personal habits of a couple who, in spite of their many friends, were very private in their personal lives. "So many people tell us they knew them close, but we keep getting conflicting stories that we find ourselves constantly going back to check," said the chief detective. For example, he said, "about half of the people you talk to say Eddie carried a wallet and the other half tell you, no, he carried his money in a monev clip." That small detail may loom large in an investigation that appears to hinge on robbery. But one thing is certain. No wallet was found on Eddie Cizauskas' bludgeoned body, Hoffmann said.
The nature of the Cizauskas’ business made the crime scene investigation particularly difficult. Imagine searching for the blunt object used to bludgeon someone to death in a salvage yard.
Herbert Baumgart, who discovered the body of his longtime employer, described the building: "It's an old-fashioned barn with a stairway going up to the loft. He used the building to store salvage. The front of the barn, where the bodies were found, is partitioned from the back, where entire vehicles were parked and stored. Baumgart said the barn is cluttered with "iron and valuable metals, some in barrels and some piles of stuff laying on the floor. Part of it was hard to even walk around. There is so much."
The authorities canvassed the neighbors and requested they search their memories for anything; the faintest memory about a vehicle or a visitor to Jalopy Jungle. Nobody could remember anything significant. Edward was last seen alive by a longtime friend the day before his body was found. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary.
Investigators would soon announce they believed robbery was the motive. Through bank records, they determined Eddie Cizauskas was carrying money on the day of his murder, and they believe he was robbed.
However, no empty wallet or money bag was ever found, and neither was the blunt object used to bludgeon Mr. Cizauskas.
Six weeks after the murder, the story in the Sheboygan Press made things look bleak.
So far all tests have failed to shed any light on the investigation. Deputy Inspector of Detectives James Hoffmann of the Sheboygan County Sheriffs Department said today. "Some items have come back negative," said Hoffmann. "For example, we have not been able to classify any fingerprints." One of several pieces of evidence that officials gathered from the barn where the bodies were found, a vacuum cleaner tank, proved useless as a clue. "There was blood on it, and we were hoping to find some fingerprints on it," said the investigation supervisor.
The holidays had come and gone and maybe it was the sudden doldrums of January that had everybody focused on what was happening in the investigation. The reporters were asking the obvious questions.
Has the lack of evidence hindered the investigation? "Naturally. The ultimate result would be to identify the suspect, either through a witness or from fingerprints," said Hoffmann. "We haven't gotten either."
Hoffmann’s investigators stuck with the theory that robbery was the motive.
Hoffmann said detectives don't think the murder was a "revenge thing" nor any spur of the moment aggression on the part of trespassers, even though Cizauskas was known to get into some heated verbal clashes with hunters who disregarded his "no trespass" signs. "Then why would they take the money?" Hoffmann asked. "And why would they kill her?" Mrs. Cizauskas' body was found near her husband's. Hoffmann said he leans toward the theory of a robbery "that just got out of hand." So has the murder investgation come to a standstill? "No. we're still working on it. We haven't given up hope that we're going to solve it," said Hoffmann, "1 guess I'm being guardedly optimistic, Some day we're going. to get a break on this case." he added.
Five Years Later
In 1993, a five-year anniversary piece by the Sheboygan Press pointed out, the break James Hoffmann was hoping for had not yet come.
Despite an intensive investigation that involved interviews with more than 200 people and questioning of suspects as far away as California, the murder of the elderly couple remains unsolved.
Even after five years, investigators still clung to robbery as the motive, and for the first time, they revealed what they believed to be the sequence of events.
Detectives theorize that just before they were killed Frances had prepared lunch in their home a short distance away from the barn in which Eddie had accumulated years of automobile parts. "We have learned that they were creatures of habit, so we think that when Eddie didn't come to the house in time for lunch, Mrs. Cizauskas put on her coat and went to the barn to see why," Hoffmann said. Their bodies were found near each other in the front portion of the barn by a friend who did weekly chores at the business.
Is it possible the authorities were too focused on the robbery motive in this case? I have written before about a tendency by the police to believe a crime must be motivated by money or monetary gain. In historic criminal investigations from the last century, cases were sometimes bungled (Cincinnati’s Cumminsville Ripper comes to mind) partly because the police thought money was the only motive. The depth of human sickness was not yet understood. Many in the law enforcement community simply did not understand, there are people out there who kill because they enjoy it.
I believe the investigative tendency toward robbery still persists today, because, let’s be honest, a lot of the time, it’s true.
Who killed this guy?
That guy that wanted his money. Or that person who thought he was owed money.
But if we incorrectly assume the killer was motivated by money, it might take the investigation in a direction that allows a predator who was motivated by evil to get away.
Maybe the murder was motivated by the power and control of physically dominating an old, frail couple. Maybe the murder was motivated by a hedonistic thrill from the kill. Maybe the money was only a theft of convenience. I’m sure you already know where I’m going. In my opinion, robbery may have been a part of the crime, but that doesn’t necessarily make it the motive.
Hoffmann said investigators have looked closely at several suspects from the Sheboygan area during the five years. "Of that number, we have been able to determine those suspicions have been misplaced in many of those cases," Hoffmann said. "However, there are other people we have looked at and continue to look at as suspects. "And we're not foolish enough to close off our suspicions with those suspects. We are continuing a very open investigation.”
None of the suspects they questioned ever faced charges, and investigators were soon forced to admit the crime scene itself had to be razed.
The murder scene itself has disappeared with the razing of the barn in which the bodies were found. "We recorded the entire scene, with video tapes, still photography and drawings," Hoffmann said. "That's never as good as the genuine article, but we'll have to make do because we couldn't maintain the scene indefinitely, we had to release it."
With the passage of time, the investigation had become much more difficult.
Some people have died, and memories of others who still recall bits of a puzzle that remains unsolved are fading. "Eddie and Frances have told us all that they can about what happened," Hoffmann said of the evidence found at the scene. "But I am confident that someday, somehow, we are going to clear this up; I am very optimistic that somehow we will get the information to do that."
Unfortunately, James Hoffmann never got the closure he sought. In September of 2015, he passed away at the age of 72, and that kind of pisses me off a little bit. A good man and a good cop who never gave up fighting for the truth in this case, but the clock ran out on him.
Was Ray Vanniuewenhoven Ever on Their Radar?
I would be willing to bet they never checked into (never had a reason to check into) Ray Vannieuwenhoven’s whereabouts on November 30th, 1988.
Ray was a total grease monkey.
His Lakewood neighbor, Wayne Sankey, said Ray would occasionally repair his lawnmower or snow blower.
Fred Mason from the Lakewood town dump said Ray was seen frequently rummaging through scrap piles for small engine parts.
Jalopy Jungle is exactly the kind of place Ray Vannieuwenhoven might visit.
Green Bay to Town of Sheboygan is barely an hour drive. Was Ray on a roadtrip for some other reason on November 30, 1988? Was he delivering a boat to winter storage in Sheboygan, a boating haven on the shore of the big lake? Did he have family in Sheboygan that he stopped-in to visit for the holidays?
Have the authorities ever tested any potential Jalopy Jungle forensic evidence against the DNA profile of Ray Vannieuwenhoven?
Have the authorities tested the forensic evidence in any of the cases I’ve presented here against the DNA profile of Ray Vannieuwenhoven?
We’ll get to that subject shortly. However, I feel confident saying, Ray, who would have been 51-years-old in 1988, is a possible perpetrator in the Jalopy Jungle murders.
An Updated List
1972: Cynthia Allen murdered near Grover. Unsolved. Ray Vannieuwenhoven possible perpetrator.
1975: Mrs. Pat Wisniewski Murdered near Amberg. Unsolved. Ray Vannieuwenhoven potential perpetrator.
1976: David Schuldes and Ellen Matheys murdered. Ray Vannieuwenhoven convicted, 2021.
March 12, 1977 (approx): Reported rape by Badgeman in Marinette County. Unsolved.
March 14, 1977: De Pere woman raped by Badgeman in her home. Unsolved.
March 16, 1977: Olive Cunningham and Vera Zimmer raped by Badgeman in Appleton. Unsolved.
Aug/Sep, 1979: Two indigenous women murdered near Amberg. Unsolved. Ray Vannieuwenhoven potential perpetrator.
Nov. 30, 1988: Edward and Frances Cizauskas murdered at Jalopy Jungle, in Town of Sheboygan. Unsolved. Ray Vannieuwenhoven potential perpetrator.
In the next chapter, we’ll talk about another murder, just three years later, that went from unsolved, to solved, and back to unsolved again. Could Ray have been the perpetrator?
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