Martin Jansen, Murdered in 1968 in Grand Chute, WI

Martin Jansen

Martin Jansen was born March 19, 1933 in Kimberly, Wisconsin. He was a veteran of the Air Force, having served in Korea. After the war, he went to work for Kimberly-Clark as an apprentice.

Jansen was shot in the back of the head with a shotgun on January 20, 1968, when he interrupted a burglary at the Cloud Buick dealership in the town of Grand Chute, where he worked as a part-time night watchman and janitor. His killer would never be held responsible.

See also: Podcast Website

Cloud Buick Dealership, Grand Chute

On January 20, 1968, someone broke a window to get into the Cloud Buick dealership, and stole about $511 from a safe in the manager’s office. The janitor apparently had already left the dealership, realized he had left some medicine on a windowsill and went back to get it, stumbling onto the burglary, authorities said. Jansen was shot twice in the head with a 20-gauge shotgun, according to an autopsy.

A 1960 Buick was also missing, which shortly after police found in the parking lot of Elm Tree Bakery (later Rich Products) on Bluemound Drive.

Jansen’s wife, Lorraine Jansen, found her husband’s body at the dealership around 4:00 am after he didn’t return home or answer her calls to the business. He rarely, if ever, arrived home later than 2:00 am.

A Real Maniac

The morning of January 22, 1968, Sheriff Norbert Marx declared, “We’ve got to catch this guy. He’s a real maniac.” This new announcement came following an autopsy at St. Elizabeth Hospital where it was determined that Jansen had been shot a second time – a shotgun blast to the face after he had hit the ground. The first shot, fired a few feet away, would have already been fatal. More than 40 pellets were removed from Jansen’s body.

January 25, 1968: The sheriff says the public has been very helpful, and officers and stenographers have been working overtime on interviews, but as of yet “there are no good suspects.” The Jansen family would later claim the police “knew” almost immediately who the killer was.

Joseph Van Laarhoven

Joseph Van Laarhoven, 41, of Combined Locks was arrested after confessing to the crime on January 25, 1968. He knew Jansen because they worked together at Kimberly-Clark, and he did own a 20-gauge shotgun. Van Laarhoven called police from the Mile-Away Tavern on Route 57, south of DePere, and when they arrived they soon knew he was drunk but probably not the killer. He was jailed eight days anyway for disorderly conduct.

Howie’s Fiesta Club and Richard Unser Robberies

On February 1, 1968,  the sheriff speculated that the killing was committed by the same man who was responsible for an armed robbery of Howie’s Fiesta Club (West Northland) in Grand Chute on January 6 where $335 was taken. In both cases the weapon used was a 20-gauge shotgun and the assailant had no clear means of transportation. The robber fired a shot into the ceiling of Howie’s; no one was injured.

There may also have been a connection to the robbery of Richard Unser, an Appleton tavern owner, who was hit in the head January 30 outside his home (3133 North Ballard) and had $600 taken from him.

February 2, 1968: The American Legion in Oshkosh turned over a bloody $1 bill to authorities, wondering if it had come from the Cloud Buick crime scene. They had received it from an Oshkosh man known to have several shotguns. [Long story short, not the guy.]

February 8, 1968: A state crime lab analysis revealed the shotgun shells used in the murder were the same brand as those used in the armed robbery of Howie’s Fiesta Club. However, the kind of pellets inside the shells was different.

Robert D. Mitchell

Robert D. Mitchell of Kaukauna, Wisconsin, a 37-year old Thilmany Pulp and Paper employee, robbed the Howards Grove Bank of $7,900 with a sawed-off shotgun on February 15, 1968. He escaped in a stolen truck and went to Evergreen Park (in north Sheboygan on Highway 42), where he had two Parks employees drive him to downtown Sheboygan at gunpoint. Despite police roadblocks, Mitchell managed to escape the city. Before he left, he stopped at the Citizens Bank in Sheboygan and opened a safety deposit box to store the loot. The cashier was suspicious, and when he returned the next week to open the box, police and FBI swooped in. When he was caught, he had a .38 on him but did not resist, and pleaded guilty to the bank robbery and endangering others. Almost all the cash from the bank robbery was recovered.

Mitchell was a suspect in the Jansen case. He bought a car from the dealership just days before the killing, and records show he bought a 20-gauge shotgun about a month before the murder. Given his Fox Cities connection, he was also now a suspect in the October 30 bank robbery of the Sherwood State Bank, just a few miles south of Kaukauna.

March 28, 1968: Mitchell testified at the bank robbery trial of Charles L. Cox, 34. “I’m not bothered by my conscience,” Mitchell said. “I don’t figure a man should get it for something he didn’t do.”

Harold Edward Morefield

Harold Edward Morefield was raised in California, and his parents divorced when he was a child. His father was sent to a state psychiatric hospital where he died and was buried in the yard. Whether this affected his tendency towards risky, criminal behavior is not known.

On April 9, 1968, the FBI arrested Harold Edward Morefield, 46, in Chicago and held on $75,000 bond. He was charged with robbing the Sherwood State Bank on Highway 114 of over $9,000 in October 1967 while living at 2500 South Sullivan Avenue in Kaukauna with his wife and roommate Robert Mitchell. Morefield flashed his pistol and was given the money by bank vice president Elaine Sprangers. She described the robber as “About 50” and “seedy looking.” He worked at Wisconsin Wire Works in Appleton at the time.

After Mitchell was arrested for the Howards Grove robbery, Morefield and his wife went to Chicago. Morefield pleaded not guilty on May 2, 1968.

July 11, 1968, Harold Morefield was found guilty of robbing $9,600 from the Sherwood State Bank. Morefield had lived in Kaukauna for a while but swore he “never knew that Sherwood existed.” He said he did not rob the bank and was surprised to hear that Mitchell, a former roommate, had robbed the bank.

Robert Mitchell Found Guilty

On May 28, 1968, Robert Mitchell was found guilty of robbing the Howards Grove Bank. Judge John Reynolds sentenced him to 20 years in prison; Mitchell, 38, had spent most of his life behind bars since age 12. Reynolds said, “I feel sorry for you. The sentence will be a long one. You may not realize it, but you are a dangerous man in society’s eyes.” Defense attorney Francis Croak asked for leniency because Mitchell pleaded guilty, but Reynolds said he would be released when the parole board decided he was no longer a threat. On June 25, Mitchell was given another five years in prison for his escape attempt from the Waukesha County Jail, though the sentence was to run concurrently.

Charles Cox Found Guilty

On May 29, 1968, Charles Cox was found guilty of the $19,000 Silver Lake State Bank robbery (near Kenosha) of November 1967 and endangering the lives of those in the bank. He had denied any involvement, but admitted he was friends with Phillip Royal, a man shot and killed by police while fleeing the scene. Despite Mitchell’s testimony, the jury deliberated for six hours and decided against Cox.

Purjury – Robert Mitchell

Robert Mitchell was charged with perjury – his testimony was declared to be false when timesheets at Thilmany Pulp and Paper showed he was working in Kaukauna. 

July 22, 1968: Mitchell’s perjury trial for lying about the Silver Lake State Bank.

Mitchell was imprisoned from 1968 to 1978 and from 1979 to 1988 for various offenses, including robbery and recklessly endangering safety.

Jansen Homicide Decades Later

A decade after the slaying, Mitchell’s girlfriend, Cindy Greil, told investigators she asked Mitchell about Jansen’s murder once when she visited him in prison. Cindy asked Robert if he had killed the man and he replied, ‘I did,’ at which time she became upset and walked away.

Robert D. Mitchell, 75, was arrested November 17, 2005 at a group home in Monroe County, was charged with first-degree intentional homicide in Outagamie County Circuit Court. DA Carrie Schneider said Mitchell recently confirmed information investigators received from others, which helped persuade her to charge him. “Mitchell has been a person of interest all along. He has been cooperative,” Sheriff Brad Gehring said.

Mitchell appeared in court November 18, 2005 in a wheelchair. His attorneys said they would seek a competency exam to determine whether Mitchell could help in his defense. Authorities were holding Mitchell in a secure facility outside the jail to address his medical needs, Gehring said. Mitchell’s attorneys said he recently had surgery.

Mitchell told investigators he knew the watchman left between midnight and 12:30 a.m., and he would not have gone into the dealership if the watchman was there, according to the complaint.

A friend of Mitchell’s, Kenneth Bean, told investigators Mitchell came to his Appleton home on the morning of January 20, 1968, and told him, “That he had done the job and Bean knew the job to mean Cloud Buick,” the complaint said.

In setting a $500,000 signature bond for Mitchell, Outagamie County Court Commissioner Brian Figy described Mitchell as physically and mentally frail. He also acknowledged Mitchell’s criminal record. “It could be alleged Mitchell has been a career criminal,” Figy said.

According to his public defenders, Eugene Bartman and Michael Dally, a judge had placed Mitchell under guardianship and protective placement in Monroe County after ruling he was physically and mentally impaired to handle his own affairs. Schneider said that does not necessarily mean a judge will deem Mitchell incompetent to aid in his defense in the criminal case.

Mitchell faced a mandatory life in prison sentence if convicted. The state has no statute of limitation for murder. The court commissioner did not immediately set a preliminary hearing date.

Jansen’s brother, Archie Jansen, 84, of Combined Locks, said, “We can’t say ‘happy.’ We’re glad that it started,” he said. His sister, Tillie Stuyvenberg, 87, of Appleton, carried newspaper clippings of her brother’s death into the courthouse before Mitchell’s appearance. “He is going to be at peace, my brother,” she said.

Charges Dropped

Sometime later the charges were dropped, but Mitchell died just a few days later.

Post Tags

Scroll to Top