Why was skeleton in chimney of Louisiana bank?
Joseph W. Schexnider, in an undated photo, disappeared in 1984. His remains were found in a bank chimney in May.
July 27th, 2011
09:41 AM ET

Why was skeleton in chimney of Louisiana bank?

Skeletal remains found in the chimney of an Abbeville, Louisiana, bank two months ago have been identified as those of a local man who hadn't been seen in 27 years.

The remains are those of Joseph W. Schexnider, who vanished at age 22 in January 1984, Abbeville police said. His disappearance was noted after he failed to show up for a court hearing on a charge of possession of a stolen vehicle, according to a report from CNN affiliate WAFB-TV in Baton Rouge. When Vermilion Parish sheriff's deputies showed up at his home to take him in to custody, Schexnider's mother said he had fled to avoid arrest.

The remains were discovered in May when construction workers were doing renovations on the Bank of Abbeville, WAFB reported. Tests by the Louisiana State University Forensic Anthropology and Computer Enhancement Services Laboratory established the remains were those of Schexnider, who would be 49 years old now. Authorities say he likely died of dehydration and starvation, reported CNN affiliate KATC-TV in Arcadia-Lafayette.

What remains a mystery is why Schexnider was in the chimney.

Abbeville Police Detective Lt. David Hardy told KATC that Schexnider had gloves and a cigarette lighter on him, but no bag or anything to indicate he planned to carry loot from the bank. And Hardy told the TV station there was nothing to indicate that Schexnider was killed and his body dumped in the chimney.

"There's no signs of foul play in this investigation, so as of now it's going to be a closed case," KATC quotes Hardy as saying.

Hardy told The Advertiser newspaper that if Schexnider had planned a burglary, the chimney was not the way into the historic southwestern Louisiana bank.

"There was no wide-open fireplace at the bottom," The Advertiser quoted Hardy as saying. "It wasn't like a wood-burning fireplace - there was no opening, no large space at the bottom. It wasn't a traditional fireplace - maybe more like something that would burn coal."

And the chimney didn't even open to the bank's main floor, but rather office space on the second floor that had been used for storage for many years, Hardy told CNN.

And how could Schexnider have been missing for nearly three decades in the main branch of a bank which sits right on the main square in the town of 25,000 people?

"His family said he had a history of leaving ... and spending a lot of time away from Abbeville. In fact at one time, he joined the circus and traveled around with them until they left the country," Hardy told KATC.

Relatives are planning a funeral when remains are returned from the LSU lab, police told KATC. In the meantime, they were not commenting.

"His mother is upset that she lost a son, of course, but she is at ease that she now knows where her son is," KATC quotes Hardy as saying.

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Filed under: Crime • Louisiana
soundoff (410 Responses)
  1. banasy

    This is a strange story....

    July 27, 2011 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
  2. michaelfury

    Any signs of foul play in this investigation?


    July 27, 2011 at 9:54 am | Report abuse |
    • TheMovieFan


      July 27, 2011 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
  3. banasy

    Condolences to his family.
    I hope they find the answers they need.

    July 27, 2011 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
  4. little timmie

    way cool story. i wonder if he was the real santa claus?

    July 27, 2011 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
  5. banasy

    It was Colonel Mustard with a candlestick in the parlor.

    July 27, 2011 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
  6. NCSouthernBelle

    Nobody smelled anything for 27 years?

    July 27, 2011 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
    • futurelawyer2005

      it would have only smelled for 30 days....or have you learned nothing from the Casey Anthony case?? hahaha (had to say it) Besides, smells like that pop up all the time in buildings with external openings, awnings, etc because animals get in there all the time, get trapped and die. Somebody back in 1984 probably thought it was a dead animal....after all, the nation was just then realizing what the heck AIDS was....even though it had been in the US for 6 years and claimed more than 1400 at the time. People just weren't that educated back then.....and that was across the country; NOT just in Louisiana, my home state. (And don't make potshots at me calling me stupid too b/c I have a J.D. and M.A.) lol

      July 27, 2011 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
    • chris

      for futurelawyer2005

      what does aids have to do with anything? That's quite a stretch you are making.

      His corpse would have smelled yes. It may have been double or even triple layered which may have insulated the smell from entering the structure. Being a chimney it is possible the smell was vented out of the exit at the top of the chimney and simply spread around the immediate vicinity with nobody knowing exactly where it was coming from.

      July 27, 2011 at 10:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Uraluni

      People just weren't that educated back then??? In 1984??? You make it sound as if we'd just entered the stone age. Even WAY back in 1984, we knew what death smelled like.

      July 27, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  7. anthro girl

    How can they make so many assumptions just based on the skeleton? Died of dehydration and starvation? No foul play? There are no conclusive tests that can be made on bones that would prove this. I think these assumptions are just guesses.

    July 27, 2011 at 10:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Lisa

      Better go back to class Anthro girl. There are often signs of knife wounds on bones, a cracked skull, something. There are many things bones can tell you including dehydration and starvation.

      July 27, 2011 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
    • futurelawyer2005

      has the Casey Anthony case taught you nothing??? hahaha

      July 27, 2011 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
    • The Best

      Well he certainly is dehydrated now.

      July 27, 2011 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
    • lolalolito

      you think we all would've learned that from the anthony trial....

      July 27, 2011 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
    • steeve-o

      It'd be a far fetched idea that someone would kill someone, then drag them to the roof of a building and stuff them down a chimney... considering this is not a surefire way to hide a body (smell, smoke, chimney obstruction would usually lead someone to check there). Plus if he had no lacerations or broken bones, you can bet that's where and how he died.

      July 27, 2011 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
    • james

      how could you learn anything from the ca trial? except this country is in more trouble than most realize.

      July 27, 2011 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
    • mgottlieb

      Do you have any alternative suggestions? Lung cancer? Kidney disease? What happens when a person is stuck in a chimney for an extended period without food or water? I think these are reasonable assumptions about the manner of death for this unfortunate young man.

      July 27, 2011 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
  8. J

    A least the family is able to have closure over such a long and extremely distressing period, even though this guy was pretty obviously trying to rob the bank.

    July 27, 2011 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
  9. bumcheek7

    NC – My thoughts exactly!

    July 27, 2011 at 10:23 am | Report abuse |
  10. steeve-o

    Well, you can be sure nobody put him there, except for himself.
    Why wasn't he prepared to rob a bank? Probably because it was a hastily made decision... frankly you can't question his rationale behind his demise, when you take into consideration that climbing thru a chimney does not usually work too well in terms of entering a building. He obviously didn't do the proper research.

    July 27, 2011 at 10:24 am | Report abuse |
    • futurelawyer2005

      agreed....this man obviously had a history of stupid choices....lol

      July 27, 2011 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Uraluni

      It wouldn't surprise me if some mind-altering substances may have been involved with poor decision making.

      July 27, 2011 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  11. My2Sense4U

    Another Darwin Award candidate.

    July 27, 2011 at 10:24 am | Report abuse |
  12. Rhapsody

    @banasy: lol!

    July 27, 2011 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
  13. Truth and the American Way

    He was one of the original Tea Baggers. Leading the way and setting an example for contemporary Tea Baggers. Act insane. Get on TV. Destroy the world.

    July 27, 2011 at 10:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Rocky

      Sounds like you have a fixation on politics. Maybe you need to find a political story where your comments would at least be germane to the story.

      July 27, 2011 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
  14. C

    Mr. Schexnider. Your score is in. Attempted Burglary....Epic Fail.

    Hope I don't accidentally get stuck in my bank's chimney next time I go to make a deposit.

    July 27, 2011 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
  15. Logan

    Man, what a horrible way to die. Can't imagine what his final moments must have been like.

    July 27, 2011 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
    • you

      My thoughts exactly. What a slow and painful way to die knowing your stuck and there is no way out. He probably had about a week to 10 days with no water to think only of his pending death.

      July 27, 2011 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
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