Body Parts Found on Playground by Schoolkids, Appleton 1967

Body Parts Found in Appleton

On Monday, September 25, 1967, four children, in first and second grade at St. Joseph Catholic School, found an unusual package on their playground. It was a brown paper sack, which the children were kicking around the alley and throwing at each other. The principal, Sister Illuminata, confiscated the bag and looked inside. When opened, the principal found five dismembered toes and part of a foot. She immediately called the police.

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Officers brought the package to St. Elizabeth Hospital, where it was examined by Dr. James Erchul, the pathologist. All the parts were determined to be from the right foot of a human, probably male. Erchul concluded that this was most likely a very recently deceased person.

More Packages Found

By the end of the day, another package was found, this time a leg bone wrapped in wax paper rather than a brown paper bag. Erchul could only say it was a leg bone, probably a femur, and noted that it had been carefully cut by a sharp instrument. The first clues to the perpetrator were also found: a hunting knife and a pair of prison pants with belonging to a man named Busch were in an alley near the Appleton State Bank. Stains on the pants appeared to be blood.

The next day, September 26, officers went to the Mackville dump to look through trash from St. Joseph’s neighborhood. While wading through refuse, the officers found a small assortment of bones.

Just before midnight on September 26, police were called to a North Division Street residence in the vicinity of Arbutus Park regarding a disturbance. Although the disturbance could not be found, police did find a package that contained a four-inch piece of flesh. Another package was soon found nearby containing human ribs with some flesh still attached.

Around the same time, another officer was dispatched to Dag’s Drive-In at 1309 East Wisconsin Avenue, where a suspicious shoebox was found. Inside was a hunk of flesh.

The pattern repeated itself again and again as more packages showed up. A length of bone was found in shallow dirt, and a package of flesh was dumped just outside of 403 North Clark Street.

Schmidt Residence

The case was accidentally broken wide open when Appleton police officer Darrell R. Berglund arrived at 319 North Division Street, on the afternoon of September 27. Berglund had previously visited the house on September 15, responding to reports of a domestic altercation. At that time, 80-year-old Marie Schmidt asked officers to remove her husband, George because he was “tearing the house apart” and that he was “drunk”. When they informed her that they could not, she asked them to leave. The September 27 visit was merely a routine follow-up, but it soon became much more.

When Marie answered the door, Berglund asked where her husband was. She said that approximately a week prior, a woman had stopped by the house and picked him up, and he had not yet returned. When asked when she expected her husband to return, she said, “I don’t care if he never does.” At that point, she asked the officer to leave.

Berglund thought the incident suspicious, so he went to the apartment above the Schmidt residence, where he told Berglund that he had not heard George through the floor for approximately ten days. He also said that Marie had asked to use his incinerator.

Search Warrant

A search warrant was executed for the Schmidt residence shortly after midnight on September 28th. More than twenty different parts were found in the backyard garden, each wrapped in either newspaper or burlap. Police believed they belonged to 83-year-old George Schmidt.

His head was located the next afternoon in a box under a bush outside the Post-Crescent office. It was evident that George’s head had experienced significant trauma.

Marie Schmidt was Not Mentally Well

Marie was in the hospital due to a suicide attempt that was interrupted by police as they were executing the search warrant. She was found in her darkened basement.

The district attorney was unsure whether this was a murder in the legal sense of the word. Clearly, a crime had been committed, but Marie was not mentally well.

On the afternoon of September 29, Judge Gustave J. Keller ordered the search warrant findings to remain secret until Marie was charged with a crime. The results of the search warrant remain secret to this day. The police stopped back at the Schmidt home on October 2 in an attempt to find any prescription medication that Marie might need. None was found,

On October 2, Marie was committed to the Winnebago State Hospital (presently named “Winnebago Mental Health Institute”). It was reported that she was unable to provide details related to her husband’s death and dismemberment.

February 14, 1969

Marie Schmidt died at the Outagamie County Hospital from a heart attack on February 14, 1969. She was in the state psychiatric hospital from October 1967 until November 28, 1968 when she was transferred to the county hospital. She was buried in Highland Memorial Park Cemetery after a private funeral service.

Authorities were never able to determine how George Schmidt had died, and his cause of death is listed as “undetermined”. George’s body parts were cremated in late 1967.

For more Information

This website contains a condensed version of events related to this case. For a more detailed account, check out Gavin’s book: Fox Cities Murder & Mayhem. (affiliate link)

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