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. JoJo

    I wondered why Santa didn't come this year. :<

    July 27, 2011 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Alex

      Since 1984 I was wondering where he's been at!

      July 27, 2011 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
  2. Sheila

    Dying of starvation and dehydration while stuck in a chimney – what a way to go.

    July 27, 2011 at 11:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Chartreuxe

      Perhaps he was lucky enough to have a stroke or heart attack while he was in there.

      Poor man. No one deserved that kind of death.

      July 27, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
  3. elvis316

    Don't question a carny's ways.

    July 27, 2011 at 11:01 am | Report abuse |
  4. steve

    Reindeer DNA was found at the scene.

    July 27, 2011 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
  5. CSnSC

    Sometimes bad things happen to good people. Sometimes bad things happen to people who absolutly deserve it !

    July 27, 2011 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
    • patriot1942

      thank you judge and jury, who died and made you God...?????

      July 27, 2011 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
    • God

      I agree. He desrved it.

      July 27, 2011 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Jesus and Bhudda

      Count us in too.

      July 27, 2011 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chartreuxe

      Judge not, lest ye be judged.

      July 27, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Native Texan

      LOL @ the God, Jesus and Buddah posters!

      July 27, 2011 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
  6. RaeRae

    I wonder why no one investigated the smell of a decomposing body? Yuck!

    July 27, 2011 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
    • collins61

      Bankers smell the same way, thats why.

      July 27, 2011 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
  7. Rsprings

    Hmmm. he died of dehydration and starvation? I would think he would call out for help and someone inside the bank would have heard him. Very strange.

    July 27, 2011 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Chartreuxe

      Schexnider was far enough down the chimney that he was inside the bank's walls...if he went in on a Friday and there was a weekend, he could have been dead by Monday. Depending on the amount of soot he dislodged when he went in, he could have had trouble breathing as well.

      In the link it says the chimney was adjacent to storage areas on an upper floor. Could someone hear you through firebrick, mortar, plaster, walls and insulation? No one heard him and he died, maybe before the bank opened. One wonders if this bank had Saturday hours and if it was a three-day weekend...

      July 27, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  8. m

    Didn't it smell? Didn't anyone notice a smell?

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

      If they did they didn't find the source, did they?

      July 27, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
  9. I. Jacoffalot

    Dang! I'll bet he don't try that again.

    July 27, 2011 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
  10. db

    How many people have we heard about that get stuck in chimney's and die? I know I have read about at least a half dozen or so. If anyone knows how they are built with a damper in them that seals it shut and is a choke point one can see that it is not an entry point. Once committed into the decent down the chimney there is no escape. If one is lucky and caught while alive the rescuers have to knock a hold in the side of the chimney to remove you, which kind of defeats the sneaky efforts you went through. Heck of a way to go though, suck in a small, dark, stinky, dirty, hole to rot until discovered. I am surprised no one detected an odor when it first happened.

    July 27, 2011 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
    • homer simpson

      "Trapped! The Story of Floyd Collins," is a thrilling true story of a Kentucky caver who got his foot pinned in a tight space just a few yards below ground level. Lots of things were tried to extricate him–most of them bone-headed. The book is available thru Amazon–very recommended.

      July 27, 2011 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
  11. Rob Schaeffer

    Can we hear from somoene that worked at the bank in 1984?

    July 27, 2011 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
  12. Amazedbutture

    Are Darwin awards given retroactively?

    July 27, 2011 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
  13. hippediva

    A skeleton in a bank? Only one? Must have been a really small bank.

    July 27, 2011 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
  14. Fred

    Don't mess with the Claus!

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

    He kinda looks like President Obama lol
    No disrespect: Obama is my guy.

    July 27, 2011 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      Well, except that Obama wouldn't be caught dead in a military uniform.

      July 27, 2011 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
    • melvinslizard

      good one, Bill.

      July 27, 2011 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Thatch

      ...Or in a chimney.

      July 27, 2011 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
    • David S.

      .... neither would Bush.

      July 27, 2011 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
    • alboze

      Lol, he does look like Obama, he would even be the same age!

      July 27, 2011 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      David. Last time I checked National Guard was still considered military.

      July 27, 2011 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Jon KIng

      Obama may not have been military but neither were Newt, Hannity, Rush, Cheney, Ashcroft, Beck, and on and on and on.

      July 27, 2011 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Micha

      ...or especially Cheney. He had "other priorities" when it came to joining the military...in a time of war...quite a patriot.

      July 27, 2011 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Jon KIng

      Stop, Bush was a draft dodger plain and simple. He never chowed up. It was a symbolic guard duty to dodge the draft.

      July 27, 2011 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Jon KIng

      In fact pretty much every war mongering neocon is a draft dodger.

      July 27, 2011 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
    • katahdin

      There were no wars going on when President Obama was a young man. There was a war when Bush was young, and squirmed and squealed and wiggled like the dickens to get out of it.

      July 27, 2011 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Bill Duke

      Yeah but Obama is pretty good at getting us involved in several new wars instead of shutting the old ones down.

      July 27, 2011 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • sneeka

      hahaha, awesome...neither would Bush. hahaa...that was funny!

      July 27, 2011 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason K

      Yeah, his partner was like "hmm...can we pull off this robbery?" Then Schexnider replied "YES WE CAN!"

      Bringing Obama into this picture we can draw a lot of parallels actually.

      July 27, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
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