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Funeral of missing police suspect found entombed inside bank's chimney 27 years after he disappeared

The narrow, brick chimney of a Louisiana bank became his tomb for 27 years and now Joseph Schexnider will be laid to rest on Sunday in a proper grave with a proper farewell by his family.
Still, his brother Robert wonders, how did he wind up in that chimney? Didn't anyone hear any cries for help? Was it a robbery attempt gone awry, an accident or something more sinister?Mr Schexnider, 48, said: 'At least we know where he is now. At least he's home', tears welling in his eyes ahead of his brother's weekend funeral and burial.
Nearly three decades after he disappeared, much mystery lingers about the case of Joseph Schexnider and involving a small town bank in the southern Louisiana city of Abbeville.
Police say Schexnider became trapped and apparently died in the bank's chimney in 1984. But beyond that, they know little more.'Everybody has an opinion,' said Lt David Hardy, chief of investigations for the Abbeville Police Department. 'But no one has evidence to say one way or another.'If Joseph Schexnider did cry out for help, no one heard his pleas. The stench of death was never detected.The decades rolled on until last May when a construction worker helping turn the bank's vacant second floor into offices tugged some fabric out of the chimney and was showered with old clothes and human bones.Described as sweet-natured and relaxed by the few who remember him, Joseph Schexnider was 22 when his family last saw him in January 1984.
He had no criminal record, but was wanted for possessing a stolen car.A lanky, rambling man, Schexnider was prone to wandering at an early age.Renovation: The man's body was found inside a chimney at the Bank of Abbeville, Louisiana, in MayIn the years after they last saw them, his family, his mother, and two brothers and a sister, had not reported him missing — and no one searched for him.Robert Schexnider said: 'My mother worried about him, but I just said, "Mom, that's just Joseph being Joseph". He was always taking off for somewhere.'Joseph first ran off around the age of nine or ten, Robert recalled, adding his brother had dropped out of high school in the ninth grade.He worked now and then at this and that, quitting jobs when he became tired and moving on.
More...Boy, 8, who saved 21-month-old toddler from bottom of swimming pool is hailed a hero[/*][/list]He was briefly in the Louisiana National Guard, leaving with a medical discharge. One of the few pictures of him shows him in uniform, his dark eyes looking off into the distance.Robert said: 'He was always going off somewhere. He told me he'd seen every state in the country.'Schexnider followed carnivals and once travelled with a circus. He told his brother he hawked cotton candy and peanuts with the shows, travelling with the circus to New York where he was stranded when it left to go overseas.Tomb: The chimney of an Abbeville bank building where the remains of Robert Schexnider were found 27 years after his disappearanceJason Hebert, now a detective with Abbeville Police, went to elementary school with Joseph Schexnider. He described him as quiet kid, on the fringe of a group of young boys that made mischief in the town.He said: 'He was just another kid. Nothing really stood out about him.'With the remains found in the chimney were a yellow long-sleeve shirt, a pair of jeans, blue tennis shoes, and jockey shorts with Schexnider's name printed in the waistband. There also was a magazine and gloves.He had a wallet with a copy of his birth certificate, a Social Security card and a few pictures.'There was no sign of foul play,' Hardy said. But, he said, there is no way to determine the cause of death.A DNA test confirmed his identity.Mystery: Many wondered how 'lanky' Schexnider ended up in the bank's narrow brick chimneyFrom the way the skeleton was recovered, Hardy said it appeared Schexnider went into the 14-inch-by-14-inch chimney feet first. Because the chimney narrowed sharply at the bottom, he then was apparently unable to manoeuvre his way back out.There was no way out at the bottom of the chute, which ended in a three-inch opening to a narrow fireplace on the second floor of the bank building.'He was stuck with nowhere to go,' Hardy said. If he had called for help — Hardy points out — he would have been 20 feet above the street, and encased in bricks.'His voice would have been carried up and away from the street,' Hardy added. 'We played a lot up there. But I don't remember anyone ever going around the chimneys.'None of the people working on the floor below reported any strange sounds. No one ever went into the seldom-used second floor and reported any strange smells.The chimneys on the downtown roofs were capped in 1987, but Schexnider went unnoticed.His brother won't guess why Joseph went into the chimney, but acknowledged in his final days in town that Joseph had gotten in 'with a bad crowd'. He was carrying no burglary tools when found or anything to carry away money if he had planned to rob the bank.Plaisance said he could see it as a misconceived burglary plan on Schexnider's part, however.'He was the kind of guy who would do things without really thinking them through,' he said.After so many decades and so few clues, Abbeville Police have declared the case closed.

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Added: Aug-13-2011 Occurred On: Aug-12-2011
By: Zipper10
Regional News
Tags: Funeral, missing, police, suspect, entombed, bank, chimney
Location: Pennsylvania, United States (load item map)
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