Suspect bound over for trial in 2006 Unity homicide case
For seven hours on Oct. 24, two detectives from the Marathon County Sheriff’s Department aggressively questioned suspect Cindy Schulz-Juedes about the murder of her husband 13 years earlier and tried to elicit a confession.
Schulz-Juedes repeatedly denied any involvement in her husband’s 2006 homicide, as she has done for years. Detectives left her house in Chippewa Falls without a confession, but they felt they had enough evidence to arrest her a month later after executing a search warrant at her residence.
On Dec. 20, Judge Michael Moran ruled that the evidence presented by police was sufficient to bind Schulz-Juedes over for trial in the first-degree homicide case. His decision came at the end of a nearly three-hour-long preliminary hearing in which special prosecutor Richard Dufour and defense attorney Earl Gray took turns questioning lead detective Dennis Blaser, who outlined the case against Schulz-Juedes.
Blaser’s testimony, under questioning from Dufour, largely followed along with the material in the seven-page criminal complaint filed on Dec. 13, though it did shed some more light on how police arrived at their conclusions. Blaser also faced strong pushback from Gray, who called into question certain evidence presented by police and theories put forward by prosecutors. A fair amount of attention was focused on the 1967 Mallard Duckling camper Schulz-Juedes claims she slept in on the night of the murder. Blaser testified that a couple of people interviewed by police said Schulz-Juedes refused to sleep in the camper when it was at the Monster Hall campground partially owned by Ken. She was characterized as a “clean and neat” person who wanted her husband to buy a newer camper. According to Blaser, one of the officers who visited the Juedes property the day Ken’s body was found checked inside the trailer and said it did not appear as if anybody had slept there the night before. However, when questioned by Gray, Blaser said only exterior photos of the camper were taken by police, so there are no images available of the interior to confirm the officer’s statements.
Gray also said there was evidence suggested that his client took her blanket or bed sheets inside the house with her, as they were found on a couch.
Dafour used Blaser’s testimony to point out various inconsistencies in statements Schulz-Juedes has made to police over the 13 years since the murder. For instance, she initially told police that he heard a “screaming” noise coming from her landline phones when she tried dialing 911 from her house. When it was pointed out to her during a recent interview that the phones would not have been emitting any noises, Blaser said she changed her explanation.
“She said she now realized it was her screaming,” Blaser testified.
The prosecutor entered into evidence a floor plan of the Juedes house and used it to raise questions about the way Schulz-Juedes said she made her way through the house the morning after the murder. He also said she claimed she had trouble opening the door to Ken’s bedroom because the bed was in the way, even though the door swings the opposite direction.
Also entered into evidence was an autopsy report completed by Dr. Hunnington, a forensic pathologist at UW-Madison. Blaser said a wound to Ken’s lung from one of the two shotgun blasts would likely have caused him to cough up blood — which matches a detail of a “dream” Schulz-Juedes said she had about Ken the night of the murder.
Gray, however, pointed out that Blaser is not a doctor or or pathologist and is not qualified to give a medical opinion. In response, Blaser said he has “shot numerous animals in the chest,” and they typically cough up blood as a result. Still, Gray pointed out that the prosecution did not present any autopsy photos to confirm the description of blood coming out of the victim’s mouth.
The prosecution also presented statements from people who knew Ken and said he was unhappy with his marriage to Schulz-Juedes. One of the foster children who stayed at the Juedes household told police that Ken and Cindy would often argue about money, and that Cindy asked him to help manipulate the financial records at the Monster Hall raceway and campground.
An ex-girlfriend of Ken’s who remained friends with him until his death reportedly told police that he expressed misgivings about his relationship with Cindy and said “he needed to get out of the Monster Hall raceway business.”
The police investigation also indicated that Schulz-Juedes was trying to drive a wedge between her husband and his four biological children. One of the detectives noticed that pictures of Ken’s children had been taken off the walls of the Juedes house shortly after the murder, and according to his report, Cindy’s sister told investigators that Cindy had taken the pictures down and spit on them.
Schulz-Juedes also accused one of Ken’s sons of stealing her shotgun in 2005, but never reported it to police at the time, according to the criminal complaint. The 20-gauge Western Field was missing from the couple’s collection of firearms on the day after the murder and has never been found.
In addition to pointing out signs of marital problems, the prosecution also indicated that Schulz-Juedes stood to gain a total of $973,000 from various life insurance policies on her husband. She was also listed as the sole beneficiary in a copy of Ken’s will allegedly prepared in 2004. A handwriting expert has determined that Ken’s signature on that document is “probably” a forgery.
Gray tried to present evidence that his client did not actually receive all of the life insurance benefits listed by the prosecution, but Judge Moran said that issue would have to wait for trial.
Schulz-Juedes also received the property where the homicide occurred and an 80-acre parcel of land deeded to Ken and Cindy by his parents. She sold that property for $200,000 shortly after her husband’s death.
Cross examination While cross examining Blaser, Gray pointed out the lack of forensic evidence pointing to his client as the murderer. He noted that Schulz-Juedes was described by multiple witnesses as wearing a white robe with no blood on it when she went to her neighbors’ houses and asked them to dial 911.
“There was no blood on any clothes they found in the house,” he added.
Blaser acknowledged that none of the detectives investigating the scene recorded any blood evidence on any of the defendant’s clothing, nor did they mention the presence of bruises on her arms or chest, which Gray said would have resulted from the recoil of the shotgun. Blaser also said no blood was found in any of the sinks at the house.
The defense attorney also raised the prospect that his client was not the only one police suspected of murdering her husband.
“At one point in time, there were numerous suspects in this case, is that fair?” he asked Blaser.
“There were different investigative trails to follow,” Blaser responded.
Neither police nor prosecutors have indicated publicly that anyone else remains a suspect at this time.
Gray also questioned the validity of at least one new piece of evidence seized by police when a search warrant was executed at her Chippewa Falls home on Nov. 27, the same night she was arrested. Blaser said an answering machine taken by police has evidence that Schulz-Juedes is writing a book about “a cold case homicide on Spider Lake.”
The defense attorney asked the detective if this would really be considered “incriminating.”
“I don’t know if it is or isn’t until I read the book,” Blaser responded Gray also pointed out that her client willingly handed over some unspecified “papers” sought by police as part of the search warrant. He also emphasized the fact that Schulz-Juedes has continually denied killing her husband, even when Blaser and another detective questioned her for seven hours at her house on Oct. 24 of this year.
“There is just simply nothing new except a seven-hour statement that they picked two or three things out of in this new complaint that were really miniscule,” he said.
Ultimately, Judge Moran said the prosecution had presented enough evidence to show probable cause that a felony had been committed by Schulz-Juedes. He acknowledged that “competing inferences” were presented by the defense and prosecution, but he believes the prosecution has established that Schulz-Juedes had “means, motive and opportunity” to commit the homicide. He ruled that she be bound over for trial.
If a trial is held, Moran said the prosecution would have a higher bar to clear — beyond a reasonable doubt — to secure a conviction.
Before the hearing was adjourned, Gray tried unsuccessfully to convince Judge Moran to release his client to the supervision of her adult daughter in Chippewa Falls. He read a letter from Schulz-Juedes in which she discussed her role in helping to care for her grandson and her desire to fully participate in the case against her.
“Wild horses could not drag me from my day in court,” she wrote.
The next step in the process is an arraignment, where Schulz-Juedes will be able to enter a plea. That has not been scheduled at this point, but a status conference is set for Jan. 16.