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

    What the... that guy was 22? He looks like 45 in that picture!

    July 27, 2011 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      Yet another fine example of what happens if you ignore the health of your eyes. Get your eyes checked annually by a health care professional.

      July 27, 2011 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
    • BrianB12

      What? What does his eyes have to do with it? I'm going to say it's more likey his expression that pronounced his wrinkles and bags under his eyes. Possibly due to smoking at an early age. If he had no eyes he would look the same, minus the eyes.

      July 27, 2011 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Canadian Genius

      What a very strange conversation.

      July 27, 2011 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cateyes7

      Kinda looks like Barrack Obama's twin.

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

      Reflective artificial intelligence. See. You said "look" and he said "get your eyes checked" and advertised a health care service. Non-thinkers. They're just here to stir the cauldron, my pretty.

      July 27, 2011 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Mark

    Maybe it was a botched robbery attempt. there are botched home burglaries where the suspect gets injured/killed all the time.

    July 27, 2011 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Cateyes7

      Yeah and they sue the homeowners. Don't you just love liberal America?

      July 27, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
  3. whatever

    Is it really a mystery why someone would be in a bank chimney?? Maybe he was trying to make a deposit the hard way.

    July 27, 2011 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
  4. Mike

    I feel sorry for the person who discovered it! I know if it were me, I would never again make repairs to a chimney....who knows who might pop up! I just can't believe that no one tried to investigate anything while the body would have smelled. I know I would be searching for whatever was giving off a rotting smell if I had to work or live around it. Not sure if I could have "ignored" it – no matter if I thought it was as little as a mouse!

    July 27, 2011 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Cateyes7

      Maybe next time it will be Jimmy Hoffa they find in a chimney (and his briefcase).

      July 27, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
  5. farmerjeani

    Unfortunately there are many versions of this same story. As dumb as it sounds, many people have tried this chimney trick with the same bad results. Years ago some poor dumb criminal tried to enter a fast food restaurant through an exhaust pipe, head first. He ended up with his head in a vat of hot grease. Imagine the horror of the employees when they opened in the morning! Since this chimney didn't go all the way to the first floor he probably thought it would end in a fireplace where he could exit. He probably didn't bring a bag for the money because of the tight fit. You would expect to find containers inside, such as those zippered merchant bags. I've heard lots of stories about crooks being rescued from chimney's and pipes when they called for help, but he probably wasn't in a position where anyone could hear him. What I wonder is has this stupid ploy ever worked?!

    July 27, 2011 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      Actually, it's worked a fair number of times.
      But, the success rate has been declining for over two generations.

      July 27, 2011 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
  6. Bubba

    Pretty sad. I know several people who tried robberies like this when they were young and dumb, and they got stuck or fell through ceilings. Dumb crook news.

    July 27, 2011 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
    • SAK

      You actually know people who tried this? Strange.

      July 27, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
  7. bobcat2u

    Maybe he was told to stash away some money and thought that would be a good place for it ? But all kidding aside, don't you think someone would have noticed a bad smell in the building ?

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

      Nah. If he was above the second floor, most of the decay gasses would just go up and out of the top of the chimney. Probably somebody occasionally noticed a bad smell, but it would only occur when a downdraft wafted by, and wasn't enough to make anybody track it down.

      July 27, 2011 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
    • JeramieH

      Doesn't a rotting body dump fluids and tissue matter once it decays enough to lose its structual integrity?

      July 27, 2011 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
    • joeNYC

      Yes, decaying bodies do that. And the decay fluid is enough to stop grass from growing in a particular spot in a lawn in Orlando, or leave stains in the trunk of a car.

      July 27, 2011 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
  8. Mark

    Restaurant Grease Vent. People try all the time to steal something using vents. Why not try to steal from a bank the way.

    July 27, 2011 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
  9. Baker1

    Wouldn't there have been some sort of smell?

    July 27, 2011 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
  10. ELH

    Mission accomplished–he avoided arrest.

    July 27, 2011 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
  11. thinkngrl

    Oh my god! So that's where Santa's been!

    July 27, 2011 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
  12. Templar1

    Sounds to me like a lowlife trying to skip town to avoid the court appearance. He decided to take a
    few bucks with him from the bank but was so stupid he got stuck in the chimney. Rough way to go.

    July 27, 2011 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
  13. oh no


    July 27, 2011 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
  14. chris

    Now the mother can have closure and know her some in all probability died a morons death.

    July 27, 2011 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      She'll probably sue the bank.

      July 27, 2011 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
  15. Michael Mallon

    Maybe he was trying to rob the bank, maybe not. Maybe he just wanted a place to hide out, and thought sneaking in through the chimney would be less likely to trigger the alarm and alert the authorities than walking in through the front door. We can speculate idly until he rises from his grave and tells us what he really intended, but that won't help anybody. It's just a shame he died in such a fruitless, hopeless way.

    July 27, 2011 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      Why is having one less idiot on the planet a shame?

      July 27, 2011 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
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