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. dehcated

    Wow. That's one hell of a vanishing act.

    July 27, 2011 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Point

    No Santa sightings as well for many years. Could something be up?

    July 27, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
  3. mark

    God they are dumb, You ever think he might of been with someone when he got stuck? Which is why they never found a tool bag or anything because the other person took off once he got stuck.

    July 27, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Denizen Kate

      I wondered the same thing. He could have had an accomplice or two and they planned on using that chimney as a means of access to the bank. Then, when he got stuck, they ditched him and left him to die.

      July 27, 2011 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • abidingdude

      God you are dumb. It's might "have" been, not "of'".

      July 27, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • madisone

      Seems like an accomplice would at least put in an annonymous call to alert authorities of his wherabouts.

      July 27, 2011 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • M

      Possibly, but it's also possible he was hiding out. He knew he'd missed a court date, and the police were looking for him, so he may have thought he could hide out in the bank for a while, then leave town once the search died down. After all, the inside of a bank wouldn't be a place the cops would be likely to search. He probably thought there was a fireplace at the bottom of the chimney that he could come out of, then he could leave later by either going back up the chimney or just walking out the front door with some customers.

      July 27, 2011 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Dog from that Cartoon old Cartoon!

    Chim Chiminey
    Chim Chiminey
    Chim Chim Chireee!

    A Dog is as Lucky as Lucky can Bee!

    Chim Chiminey
    Chim Chiminey
    Chim Chim Chi-roo!

    I thought I'd surprise you by coming through the roof! (WOOF)...

    Chim Chiminey
    Chim Chiminey
    Chim Chim Chi-rack!

    In 2011 they'll find me intaaaaaaaaaccct~!

    July 27, 2011 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • PhooBar

      +10 char

      July 27, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ralph

      Applause. Made me really LOL. =)

      July 27, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • lrltree

      Awesome. Hilarious!

      July 27, 2011 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • bobo

      Bravo, sir... Bravo

      July 27, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Bill

    Maybe he was trying to hide and get warm at the same time? Sure seems odd, no one could smell him decomposing. After the Caylee Case, you would think there would be at least one person who went into the bank smell something?

    July 27, 2011 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • tigerwolf

      Well if he disappeared in 1984 that was long before the Cayle case, actually about the time Caylee's mother was born; but as far as decomp, the chimney doesn't open into the bank. It opens into an upstairs storage area, and with a wide opening at the top and small opening at the bottom, airflow would tend to go up.

      July 27, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  6. John Schwendler

    Didn't he yell? Wasn't the stench a clue, even on 2nd floor? Doesn't a body get smaller after decomposing to bones, and fall all the way down? Strange story.

    July 27, 2011 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ralph

      If you read the story closely, the chimney was not a full chimney. It led to storage room. So you have a bank with a high ceiling, then the storage room, then the chimney which opens at the top allowing air to help the smell dissipate. He probably got smoked or dried like jerky from the heat. There would not have been the obvious stench as a closed up dead body. I would speculate he was indeed going to rob the bank. I think he had an accomplice, he got stuck and the other guy took off. Darwin award for sure.

      July 27, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Nick A.

    Joseph W. Schexnider Hide and Go Seek Champion Jan 1984-Jul 2011

    July 27, 2011 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jon


    July 27, 2011 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  9. jessicaber

    Well, that explains all of the ghost stories.

    July 27, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Shifter

    He didn't have a bag. The chimney didn't lead directly into the bank. No one said you have to be smart to rob a bank. Darwin strikes again...make that struck 27 years ago.

    July 27, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  11. teresa, sno-hio@hotmail.com

    hmmm, Riddle me this: they are pretty sure he died of dehydration and starvation, but yet 27 yrs. later technology-wise we cant figure out how a 2 yr. old ( Caylee) died after finding her body 3-4 months later? i dont get it.

    this guy might have been working with an accomplice who was carrying the loot bag and other such items.

    If this were my child missing this long, I would feel so fortunate to have found him, dead or alive.

    July 27, 2011 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • brenda

      very good question. About the Caylee thing, that is.

      July 27, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • malasangre

      because rotting in a swamp is a world of difference from dehydrating in a storage room chimney?

      July 27, 2011 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  12. malasangre

    i never worked on a circus but i was doing rides in the 70's on a carnival and we did not spend any time making good choices the military picture looks like 70's khaki i hope the VA does the right thing.

    July 27, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Dawm

    There is more to the story.. But you know what.. they dont care to look into it.. cannot campair with a child due to he is being laughed at... you cannot laugh at a child and on top of it, he was wanted and was going to be arrested.. they are not going to spend money to investigate it...
    It is not that it is this or that... they dont have a prosecutor nor a defence attorney arguing.. lol..

    sorry this is sad but at the same time... Funny... I agree he had someone with him and he got stuck they took off and people in the bank are just plain stupid not to hear him or smell him..

    July 27, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • malasangre

      if some were with him i hope they feel bad. kinda like murder. they could have called the police

      July 27, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Susan

    So, has anyone asked yet if this is a fabricated news story?

    July 27, 2011 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Susan

      Well, it is a form of entertainment, you know? Besides, they just eat it up.

      July 27, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Susan

      Yes, I do believe they enjoy it. But they don't understand they are in a dream, Dear.

      July 27, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Susan

      What better fuel to feed the flame than false hopes, unsatisfied desires and insoluable mysteries?

      July 27, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Susan

      Well, yes. I suppose if they prefer looking at Hell, they'll never see Heaven.

      July 27, 2011 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • bobo

      You need to find a significant other or a psych ward pronto

      July 27, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
  15. STR

    The police/inspectors are being politically correct to avoid problems but they do know the obvious.
    Joseph W. Schexnider was a thief – plain and simple.
    He was already going to jail for being a thief.
    He wanted to rob a bank.
    He did not have much for a brain in his short term thinking.
    He obviously did not plan this out well.
    Justice was served.

    July 27, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
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