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. Chris

    Chim chiminey
    Chim chiminey
    Chim chim cher-ee!
    A sweep is as lucky
    As lucky can be

    July 27, 2011 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Sybaris

    Why was he there?

    Criminals aren't generally known for their mental dexterity.

    July 27, 2011 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      I don't know, but I do thank him for removing himself for the gene pool!

      July 27, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • John in NY

      So true, every year brings more examples of people climbing down vents and chimneys without thinking things through, should we really expect more from criminals 27 years ago?

      July 27, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
  3. qanerd

    Santa Claus!!!

    July 27, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
  4. OU812IC

    Oh come on just because he already had a criminal record does not mean he was going to rob the bank
    It was a ice clear night down in the Bayou, I thought I would try and get a better look at the stars, oh i know i'll climb up on that there bank roof to get better view. Ah this is better as he lights a cig and enjoys the view damn it I dropped my lighter down the chimney I better go get it don't want to start a fire or be a litterer

    July 27, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rejeana

      Wow...what are you smoking??....Puff, puff pass......

      July 27, 2011 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  5. WhatWhat

    Mother never mentioned that he was in the service. Must of not been that important, though she provided his military photo.
    He could of had a plastic bag with him to carry loot out. After time the plastic dissolved. He is not the first to get stuck in a chimney or duct trying to pull a Mission Impossible scene.

    July 27, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • John McGrew

      She could have told the news, but they decided not to include that. She did not write the story you simpleton.

      July 27, 2011 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Frank

    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?

    Because he was in the @#$% chimney!!!!

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

    Really...a mystery!!!!

    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."

    He didn't know that going in!!!!!!!

    Boy, what a mystery......I'm stumped.

    July 27, 2011 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • b. Slider

      true dat!!

      July 27, 2011 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Susan

      You remind me of my husband with all the anger and yelling and intimidation. Are you getting high off this?

      July 27, 2011 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • bonehead

      How can someone die of dehydration and starvation? I would say he died of asphyxiation, since they were likely burning coal at the time of his death. so he probably died in 3-4 minutes, otherwise, he would have screamed and or banged on the chimney to be found. Great police forensics on this one?!?!?

      July 27, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Robrob

    Poorly thought out bank robbery. Not all that uncommon.

    July 27, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
  8. b. Slider

    It really makes you wonder how Santa Claus does it every year????

    July 27, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • hecep

      He doesn't... because he isn't. Next! (PS: If you're 5 years old... just kidding... otherwise... Next!)

      July 27, 2011 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Susan

    Must have been hot if there was a fire in January.

    July 27, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Susan

      Let's hope so or it would have been a long slow death with lots of screaming somebody might have heard.

      July 27, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Susan

      Yeah, I mean how many days can a bank stay closed after all?

      July 27, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Susan

      And, going down must have been the easy part.

      July 27, 2011 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
  10. John McGrew

    What a horrible way to die.

    July 27, 2011 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Sam

    Maybe he was playing hide and go seek, and he was just really good at it.

    July 27, 2011 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Timothy Anton Gigliotti

    Either Melinda the Head Teller or Frank the Security Guard must work for cnn. Otherwise you would have printed my first comment, which was just as funny as these other ones. Shame on you CNN.

    July 27, 2011 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
  13. wake up

    Unfortunately, he was locked in the bank at closing time. Wanted a cigarette really bad and had to find a way out.

    July 27, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Mr. Bones

    Q: Why was skeleton in chimney of Louisiana bank?
    A: Because the closet was full.

    It really does read like the setup to a really bad joke, doesn't it?

    July 27, 2011 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Jennifer

    Sounds like an episode of NCIS.

    July 27, 2011 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
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