The Green Bay Northwoods Killings — Ch 13
Chapter Thirteen: Profiles and the Territoriality of Serial Killers
In the Journal of Federal Probation, Volume 44, Issue 2, authors Robert M. Holmes and James E. DeBerger, University of Louisville, expound on the subject of serial murder:
Serial murder [...] is not a totally new kind of criminal behavior. Generally, however, this crime represents the emergence of a form of homicide which is very different from murders commonly investigated in earlier times. Stranger-perpetrated, this form of murder often reflects neither passion nor premeditation stemming from motives of personal gain. More frequently, it tends to reflect nonrational or irrational motives or goals, and its victims stand in a depersonalized relation to the perpetrator. One alarming aspect of contemporary serial murder is the extent to which its perpetrators believe that violence against human beings is a normal and acceptable means of implementing their goals or motives.
Holmes and DeBerger define serial murderers as falling into 1 of 4 subcategories:
Serial killers may be transient or geographically stable, but can be categorized into four major types according to motivation. The visionary type attributes his crimes to visions or voices directing the killing. This type could be termed psychotic. The mission-oriented killer sees his goal as eliminating an identifiable group of people such as prostitutes or young women. The hedonistic type kills for the pleasure derived from the act of killing. Finally, the power/control-oriented type derives gratification from exerting control over a helpless victim.
With those defining descriptions as a framework, the unsolved cases in 1970s Wisconsin, specifically in Marinette County, take on a different aspect. They begin to feel like more than just isolated cases of violence.
Mrs. Pat Wisniewski was killed by a gunshot through her screen door at 1 o’clock in the morning. Police believe the killer may have asked to come in, and shot her when she denied him entry. According to author Holmes’ abstract, that would seem to suggest either a power/control-type killer, or perhaps hedonistic, or a mixture of the two.
David Schuldes was murdered with no motive whatsoever, except to get him out of the way. Ellen Matheys was marched into the woods at gunpoint, raped and murdered. Again, power and control are at the forefront and the hedonistic thrill of murder seems apparent.
Three reported Badgeman rapes in 1977—one in Marinette County and two others south of Green Bay, in De Pere and Appleton—appear to be perpetrated by a predator with little concern for valuables. He bound his victims and took his time inside the home in the De Pere and Appleton assaults. Power and control.
The two indigenous women found murdered near Amberg in the fall of 1979, likely a mother and child, were shot in the head and left for dead. No apparent motive. Was it power and control, or just the thrill of treating humans like garbage?
Cynthia Allen, forced to strip at knifepoint and raped. Power and control.
All of the attacks fit the defined characteristics listed above; non-rational motives, and apparently, stranger-perpetrated. A compelling argument can be made that one predator was responsible for some or all of those assaults and murders.
There also seems to be a territorial nature to these killings, since all but two of the assaults happened in Marinette County.
From an article in The Item, 1995:
According to criminologist Michael Newton who compiled the stories of 544 serial killers in 1990's "Hunting Humans: An Encyclopedia of Modern Serial Killers," most are territorial (they stalk a specific territory like a neighborhood, city or set of highways); one-third are nomadic (transients wandering the country and killing) and a few are stationary (they kill only in one place, like a nursing home or hospital).
I can’t conclusively say a serial killer stalked Wisonsin’s Northwoods in the 1970s, but I think the picture is starting to become fairly convincing. I am not a criminal profiler, but in my self-educated opinion, Ray Vannieuwenhoven is not excluded by profile or MO from any of these cases. That doesn’t make him guilty, but investigators don’t generally believe in coincidences.
A case could be made that a geographically stable serial killer like Wayne Williams, Albert Fish, or John Wayne Gacy was operating in Northern Wisconsin in the 1970s because, otherwise, it seems like a pretty rural county to have so many unexplained murders.
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When Ray Vanniewenhoven was arrested in 2019 and I started to consider writing about this case, I started by researching unsolved crimes from around the time of David and Ellen’s murder—July, 1976. I searched as early as 1970 and as late as 1979, sifted through hundreds of newspaper articles and websites, and that’s how I found the cases you’ve read about so far.
As I’ve noted however, Ray was in trouble with the law as early as 1957, murdered two people in 1976, but remained a free man until he was finally caught in 2019 and convicted.
Is it possible Ray Vanniewenhoven killed more than the two people he was convicted of murdering? So far, in addition to the double murders of David and Ellen, I’ve presented a list of four unsolved murders and (at least) three rapes that happened between 1972 and 1979 on Ray’s turf. In my opinion, Ray could be responsible, which would make him more than a convicted murderer. It would make him a serial killer.
How long could it have gone on? What about the 1980s? The 90s? If I broaden my search, will there be more?
Yes, there will.
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. Subscribe to the Until Night Falls Newsletter on Substack. Reach out: email@example.com