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. leeintulsa

    Hey! I was in high school in '84. We had color photographs...

    July 27, 2011 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Nate

    Better headline: SANTA SUSPECT IN LOUISIANA MURDER

    July 27, 2011 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Nisroc

    I am going to bed here that after he avoided police he was low on money, tried to rob the bank by crawling down the chimney and got stuck in. He probably suffocated within a few hours and was reason nobody knew about him. The odd part is how long has it been since his chimney has been clean out?

    July 27, 2011 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
  4. ken

    Who are members of his family? Curious since I am from there and knew a guy by that name as a kid.

    July 27, 2011 at 6:55 pm | Report abuse |
  5. John B

    I've heard of dumb criminals before....but what a dumb question. The answer is a bit obvious but since he's dead we can't say he was guilty of anything.

    July 27, 2011 at 7:13 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Miranda

    It was probably in the bank for safe keeping

    July 27, 2011 at 7:46 pm | Report abuse |
  7. cwhatsNew

    It is so dangerous to believe in Santa too much and for too long!!!

    July 27, 2011 at 8:31 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Osagie

    wait couldn't anyone have smelt the body decompose???!! its not like its a mice, its a grown-ass adult human being!!!

    July 27, 2011 at 9:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • ChelleShock

      1) The chimney opened to the second floor which was storage. Someone might have caught a whiff of something and said "Gee, whats that smell?" but since the smell probably went up, not down, its not likely that it was strong enough for anyone to take notice or think it was anything more then a dead animal.

      2) The word you are looking for is MOUSE. Mice is plural, mouse is singular. "a mice" makes zero sense.

      July 28, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Guest

      It wasnt a mices it was a mans

      July 28, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Guest

    If he would have survived to get caught he would be out of prison by now

    July 27, 2011 at 10:35 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Marion

    How horrible for his family. To answer the question, I don't know whay he was there, did the coroner figure out a cause of death?

    July 28, 2011 at 12:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Uh, really?

      "To answer the question"...you say that as if CNN was asking you directly. Of course you don't know. Unless, you put him there. In which case, the authorities would probably like to speak with you.

      Cause of death? Didn't read the article did you? Just read the headline and commented away....

      July 28, 2011 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
  11. chana

    hmmm maybe he was hiding and got stuck in there... that would drive me nuts not knowing what happened... but he probably tried to rob the bank and flee hmmm dont know just guessing,

    July 28, 2011 at 4:44 am | Report abuse |
  12. joann

    What,a way to go after 27 years;being stuck in a chimney.At,least his mother found closure in this.But,I don't why the smell of a dead body;didn't,overcome the bank employees and customers. JoAnn Bartholomew

    July 28, 2011 at 6:40 am | Report abuse |
  13. chillipepper

    He'd be great for Halloween.

    July 28, 2011 at 8:40 am | Report abuse |
  14. chillipepper

    Last they head of him, he had just finished watching Mary Poppins then walked out the door.

    July 28, 2011 at 8:42 am | Report abuse |
  15. warex

    LOL!! Anouther dumb criminal for the record books. Listen people this happens all the time. Dumb criminal decides to rob a place, goes through the room/ducts/airvent only to get stuck. But they usually call 911. But 29 years ago cell phone were not prevelent.

    July 28, 2011 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
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