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. Bill

    Nice choice of picture. The "war hero" photo is much better than a car thief/bank robber snapshot.

    July 27, 2011 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
    • bspurloc

      yeah cuz every photo of a servicemen i see, my inept brain instantly sees war hero

      July 27, 2011 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      Would someone explain sarcasm to bspurloc? Thanks.

      July 27, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
  2. markus

    21 gun salute to you.

    July 27, 2011 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
  3. Myrmidon

    His friend was on the roof with bags to hold the money in. When Schexnider became stuck he told his accomplice to go get something to help, but the other burglar had difficulty getting off the roof and back on again. Schexnider waited for assistance that wasn't coming and stayed quiet to avoid detection. After nearly a full night and day of exposure he lost consciousness and stayed in the chinmey for thirty years until his remains were found.

    July 27, 2011 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
    • melvinslizard

      How do you sleep at night knowing that you left your buddy up there?

      July 27, 2011 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Kindasorta

      You should have at least told his Mother.

      July 27, 2011 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
    • meg

      My thoughts exactly, melvinslizard.

      July 27, 2011 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
    • FauxNews

      Sounds right, but something must have happened to his buddy because he would have made an anonymous call to the bank.

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

      Some friend... anyone who did not anonymously report where the friend was, so that he could be rescued, was/is evil.

      July 27, 2011 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Bob

    So no one noticed any smell back then?

    July 27, 2011 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
    • KevininCanada

      No you wouldn't notice the smell because it travels up and exits at the top of the chimney where no one ever is.

      July 27, 2011 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Tarkin

      This is Louisiana remember?

      July 27, 2011 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Playjojo

      Plus they said it was pretty much an enclosed chimney. But seriously, he was going in to rob the place. He just didn't know about the chimney, and probably figured he'd grab bank bags. The cops couldn't figure that one out?

      July 27, 2011 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
  5. asgardshill

    Maybe he didn't know that the chimney didn't lead to an opening inside the money part of the bank. Or he saw a cop on patrol, climbed up the building and down the chimney to hide, then got stuck.

    July 27, 2011 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Canadian Genius

      It just sounds like a burglery that wasn't well planned out.

      July 27, 2011 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Sean

    Theres this song I hear every Christmas sung by a little girl called, 'Theres Something Stuck Up in the Chimney' that is now stuck in my head..

    "Theres something stuck up in the chimney and I dont know what it is
    But its been there all night long..
    It jammed up tight above the fireplace,
    Now the house smells funny such a big disgrace.."

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

    Das jus ignunt.

    July 27, 2011 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
  8. citizenUSA

    Blimey! He was a Chimney Sweep, he was.

    July 27, 2011 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
  9. peggy

    This reminds me of the story of Rainstorm that I read as a kid!

    July 27, 2011 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
  10. James in Louisiana

    Damnit! Now the nation knows where we keep our bodies!

    July 27, 2011 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
  11. Maurice

    Can you imagine how his mother must have been wondering every day since he disappeared thoughts like "I wonder where Joseph is right now and what is he doing. Does he have a wife and children? Why doesn't he ever write me or call at least? Was it something I did wrong?" For over 20 years she must have had her mind on her missing son, "just knowing", but in actuality just hoping that he was still alive, just to find out he has been dead all that time.

    July 27, 2011 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
    • jowl

      On the other hand she raised a criminal, so she might not be asking any deep questions like that. She might not really have cared.

      July 27, 2011 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cloud

      jowl, That is cruel. I am sure she cared very much. Even mothers of criminals love their children and have hope that their children will change.

      July 27, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chartreuxe

      Yes, it's sad to think that she had hopes he was living happily somewhere, perhaps with a family, but not writing or calling her. Good that some folks here have compassion and understanding.

      Perhaps he had a psychotic break, it can happen at about that age. Schizophrenia can make people do the strangest things. A friend of mine was convinced she walked on water during her first psychotic break. In reality it was a neap tide.

      July 27, 2011 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  12. jowl

    I can't believe the headline is "Why was skeleton in chimney of Lousiana Bank?". Are CNN reporters really this dense. I mean cmon.. this Obama generation is really freakin stupid..

    July 27, 2011 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Cloud

      It is possible things aren't what they seem. Even if it was the obvious, that still begs the question why it took so long for the discovery to be made.

      July 27, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chartreuxe

      Do the reporters write the headlines? Perhaps the stupid is on the other hand.

      July 27, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Dave

    Natural selection at its best ...

    July 27, 2011 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Stevieray

    Shouldn't have eaten all those crawfish!

    July 27, 2011 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Marzi

    I d i o t comments

    July 27, 2011 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Huh

      W h y d o youhave s u ch trou b le t y ping ?

      July 27, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
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