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. john smitthers

    A game of hide and seek that went horribly wrong.

    July 27, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Lisa

    The last story I heard like this was about a drunk woman trying to break into her own home. She got stuck in her chimney and died there. Moral of these stories: break a window or pry a door and leave the chimney to Santa.

    July 27, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chupachabra

      I thought she was obsessed with an ex-boyfriend and was trying to break into his house. Whatever the case it happened recently.

      July 27, 2011 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Susan

    I'm glad I don't have an impulse to post a comment here.

    July 27, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Chupachabra

    You can't conclude that he didn't intend on robbing the bank just because he didn't have a "loot" bag. Obviously he wasn't a mastermind however he did have gloves on to avoid fingerprints.

    July 27, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • David

      Yea and you can't conclude that he was going to rob either... ever realize that he may be wearing gloves because it was January when he dissapeared?? Moron.

      July 27, 2011 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • David in Corpus

      C'mon David, he ain't a moron. It wasn't like they found him in the chimney of a candy store. He was in all likelihood trying to get into the bank and thus was in all likelihood wanting to steal money from the bank. Who needs a bag to steal money? A box would do just fine. Banks have these things called banker boxes that they store files in.
      I have known criminals in my time. Why take the things you will need for a robbery when you can get them where you are robbing.
      cigerette lighter = light
      gloves = no fingerprints

      That is all he needed (he thought)

      July 27, 2011 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • NKM

      David, why would you call someone a moron simply for pointing out a possible explanation for the guy being in a chimney? No, there is no way to conclude that's what he was there for, and there is no way to conclude that he wasn't. That's no reason to call someone names.

      July 27, 2011 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • MaggieJS

      He didn't call anyone a moron – what he said was "He ain't a moron" Read more carefully next time.

      July 27, 2011 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • MaggieJS

      Oh, 'scuse me – I was looking at the wrong David. You're right – he DID call him a moron. My bad.

      July 27, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • NKM

      I could say something about "reading more carefully", but I won't. Peace.

      July 27, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chupachabra

      David do you really think he was wearing winter gloves? The average temperature in Louisiana during the month of January is 54 degrees Fahrenheit.

      July 28, 2011 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Steve-O

    This guy looks strikingly like Steve-O

    July 27, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Logan9773

    Oh! So thats what that smell was!

    July 27, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
  7. SKR

    I wonder which way he was facing – head down, or head up? Either way, what a lousy way to die. He must have lived for at least three or four days trapped there – wonder if he ever called for help? If he did, wonder why nobody heard him? Banks don't close for more than a few days at a time...

    July 27, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • kake79

      My thoughts, too. I also wonder why no one smelled him after he did die.

      July 27, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Anthony

    You should all be ashamed of yourselves, he might have been a criminal, but you shoule at least show some respect.

    July 27, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
  9. MentalGiant

    He was a petty criminal, motive simple, robbery. Execution flawed, he died doing what he loved. Glad he was off the market for so long. I'm sure he would have continued to be a community pain in the butt.

    July 27, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  10. bill

    What, all the santa positions were filled?

    July 27, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Susan

    Why can't I post comments to all CNN stories without a login?

    July 27, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
  12. RonnieReagan

    When I hear these stories, it also makes me wonder what/who else is just laying around out there in plain sight.

    July 27, 2011 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kevin

      Naked is sometimes the best cover...

      July 27, 2011 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
  13. john


    July 27, 2011 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Susan

    I hope you all appreciate all the distractions that are created here just so we can keep you, the top 5% of our thinkers, from actually paying attention to what is important and doing something about it.

    July 27, 2011 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
  15. mike

    A "Jay walking" reject

    July 27, 2011 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
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