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. Marzi

    wao R.I. P.

    July 27, 2011 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Robert

    If I got stuck in a chimney attempting a robbery, and couldn't get out, I would finally give in and start yelling my head off for help. No need to die. You might go to prison for twenty years, but its better than dying. And why didn't anyone smell his dead body at the bank? Things just don't add up.

    July 27, 2011 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • John N Florida

      It's a CHIMNEY. Air goes UP, not down. Birds flying by might have smelled something but the police never questioned them. ;-(

      July 27, 2011 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Locode

      the story clearly states that the chimney didn't even lead to the main floor of the bank, but to unused office space. He died a pathetic death where no one could hear him.

      July 27, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Troll Police

      Your admitting to being a troll? You should live in a chimney!

      July 27, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
  3. GodDOES


    July 27, 2011 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
  4. will

    Banks in 1984 needed chimneys?
    Personally, I have never been in a bank with a chimney nor would I trust a bank with a ready-and-public means of burning stuff on site.

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

      It's an HISTORIC bank, meaning it's pretty old. The guy vanished in 1984, but the bank wasn't built then. It sounds like the chimney was long-since out of use by 1984. However, architects had a trend of designing businesses, banks and restaurants with fireplaces in the late 1960s and '70s, and I have actually seen several banks with large fireplaces and chimneys in them, which were built in the '70s, so they do exist. Like the bank in the story, though, they are not large open flues that a person could fit through, because they are mostly gas fireplaces...the space is not more than 6 or 8 inches across.

      July 27, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • John N Florida

      The building was erected in 1903, so, yes, banks needed chimneys back then.The linked story shows the fireplace. A quick search identifies the building and it's age.
      My guess, he was hiding from the law and couldn't get out or he fell to the bottom of the chimney and was incapacitated. Maybe the autopsy will reveal what happened.

      July 27, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • will

      I'm amazed. I have left troll-ish comments on at least 1 story a day for the past 2 years waiting to see if someone will reply in a way that implies they read the article. It finally happened. good hustle.

      July 27, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chartreuxe

      Two years before your actions were validated. Was it worthwhile?

      July 27, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Thor

    ...a new twist on having a skeleton in your closet.....

    July 27, 2011 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
  6. banasy

    Obviously, the building the bank is in is much older, seeing as the article said the fireplace was probably used to burn *coal*.

    July 27, 2011 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Skolo

    He watched the Grinch and thought it would be easy. I'd like to see the look on his face when he realized there was no fireplace at the bottom....

    July 27, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Canadian Genius

      When I was a kid, it always scared the hell out of me when the Grinch got stuck for a second. I would run out of the room, etc.

      July 27, 2011 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
  8. banasy

    What the hell does Obama have to do with anything?
    How do you make a leap like that from a bloody headline?
    Whatever generation *you're* from, you are just a bit dim...

    July 27, 2011 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Reagan80

      Der Fuhrer has everything to do about everything.

      July 27, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Tina

    What I'd like to know is why didn't the people at the bank SMELL the corpse decomposing and investigate? That second floor storage room has to have really stunk...

    July 27, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chartreuxe

      Read the article, Tina. The chimney didn't lead anywhere.

      July 27, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jokesterer

    Do bankers have so many skeletons in their closets that they have to resort to putting them in the chimneys?

    July 27, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Cloud

    I think this is horrible. Robbing a bank is wrong, but you don't deserve to die for it. He was only a 22-year-old. Who wasn't dumb at 22? I feel sorry for his family.

    July 27, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Reagan80

      "Robbing a bank is wrong"? You must not be a Democrat.

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

    Guess that is one way to make a "Deposit" into a "Savings" account!!! Deposited his body to be saved for 27 years! LOL

    July 27, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
  13. VegasRage

    Talk about fatal mistake

    July 27, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Ron Johnson

    Did they find fossilized poop in the fireplace?

    July 27, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Al

    The lack of gloves or bag could indicate that it was a spur-of-the-moment attempt at bank robbery for "traveling money". It was not a traditional fireplace: did he know this? Is there any reason that he would have known where the chimney terminated? I would guess that it was an ill-planned robbery attempt, intended to facilitate flight to avoid prosecution. In other words, he wasn't very bright.

    July 27, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Christopher

      The report says that he DID have gloves on him.

      July 27, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Reagan80

      Good detective work. Sounds right on.

      July 27, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
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