The “Capital City Killings” Part 2: Conspiracy or Cover Up?

Photo by Benjamin Balázs on Unsplash

Continued from Part 1… On March 27, 1979, a local woman named Julie Speerschneider mysteriously vanished without a trace. Witnesses stated they saw her at the 602 Club, which is a bar located on University Avenue in Madison. Later that night she called a friend and told them that she would be right over, but never showed up. Shortly after her disappearance, a man came forward and stated he picked Julie up and that he had recognised her from the pictures on the local news. He also stated that he was with a male companion and he ended up dropping the man and Speerschneider off at a corner. Authorities were never able to identify the mysterious man.

Just like some of the other murders, the remains of Julie Speerschneider were disposed of in 1981, and a gold hoop earring that was related to the case was destroyed in October of 1981. Then in 1993 documents related to this particular murder case were destroyed. All that’s left now are videotaped interviews of either various witnesses, friends, family, etc. Is there some sort of a cover up with several of these murders? If so, who exactly is trying to cover them up and why? Two years went by, and then in April of 1981, 16-year-old Charles Byrd was hiking along the Yahara River which is in the town of Dunn, Wisconsin, and he ended up discovering skeletal remains. Due to the state of the body, investigators were never able to rule the cause of death.

In April of 1980, the nude body of 24-year-old Susan Kathleen LeMahieu was found in the University of Wisconsin Arboretum. Her body was discovered on the ground of a marshy area that has been referred to as the “Lost City” part of the Arboretum. Susan was reported missing from her room in Allen Hall at the college on December 15, 1979. Allen Hall is a treatment facility for physically and mentally handicapped individuals living outside institutions.

At first, police officials thought maybe she had run off or had possibly fallen in the dense brush in the marshy area and died. However, after an autopsy was conducted, the result of her death was found to be multiple stab wounds to her torso. LeMahieu was actually identified because of a ring she was wearing and also dental records. Sue had been described as mentally handicapped on the left side of her body. It’s not clear as to if she was murdered at the location she was found, or if her body was moved there after the crime was committed.

On January 2nd of 1980, 17-year-old Shirley Stewart left her job as a maid at the Dean Clinic in Madison. Then in July of 1981, remains were discovered in a wooded area in the town of Westport. The body was decomposed and therefore, the coroner was not able to figure out the exact cause of death. Shirley’s body was actually found by four University of Wisconsin-Madison archeology students. They saw the body about 50 feet into thick woods, and it was partly covered by brush.

After this find, the Dane County Police Department were connecting Stewart’s death with four other women (all of which have already been mentioned in this article) and wondering if they had a serial killer on their hands. Shirley Stewart’s body, plus the four others were found in wooded areas and most of them were concealed in thick brush. The only difference in this case compared to the others is that Miss Stewart had no known connection to the college other than her remains were found in the general area of the school.

In July of 1982, a 23-year-old UW-Madison student named Donna Mraz was walking home from her job as a waitress at the State Street restaurant called The BitterSweet. She never made it home. A student heard screams that night and saw Donna running and then falling to the ground, but never saw a person attacking her.

Her body was found on the north end of Camp Randall Stadium just after midnight. She had been stabbed multiple times with no signs of sexual assault. The killer left her wallet that had money in it, her paycheque, and keys behind so robbery was quickly ruled out. It was a brutal slaying, and the victim was stabbed on the left side of her chest that penetrated her heart. She also had stab wounds to her face, chest, and left arm.

Just like the other women’s cases, authorities wondered if Donna Mraz had met with the same assailant; perhaps a serial killer. Two years after her death, her body was exhumed to compare her teeth with bite marks from a possible suspect that was currently incarcerated. No charges were filed and the suspect later passed away.

Tragedy struck again when a body was found by deer hunters on November 17, 1984. A woman’s partially clad body was found in a wooded area southeast of Highway 54. Local authorities were able to later identify her as 20-year-old Janet M. Raasch. Like many of the previous victims, she too was a University of Wisconsin student.

Janet was in her third year of working on her business major and also had a part time job at a centre on campus. Her friends had first reported her missing on October 15, 1984, however, she was actually last seen October 11 when a friend dropped her off on Highway 54 in the town of Buena Vista, which was only a couple miles from where her body was found. Due to the condition of the body, the coroner stated that she could have died a week to ten days before she was found and that it appeared she had been strangled to death.

I came across an article online from May 27, 2014 written by “Crimesider Staff” entitled, “Letter writer may help solve 1984 homicide case.” The article starts out stating, “Authorities investigating a 1984 homicide case in Portage County, Wisconsin are looking for the anonymous author of a letter they say could help solve the case.”

Initially, investigators were a bit reluctant to say anything about this letter, as it had arrived only about a month after the local newspaper ran a feature about the cold case. The article also states that in 2002, Raasch’s body was exhumed to test any DNA that may perhaps remain on her body, but all tests failed to find any sort of DNA evidence. As for the mysterious letter, I’m not totally sure what came of that.

I found yet another article from 2014 written by Michael Zennie that stated the victim may have been pregnant at the time of her death. The author also stated, “Police haven’t said exactly what was in the letter, however, it contained several details about the killing that led investigators to believe the writer had intimate knowledge of the murder.” For now, this is not described as a cold case at all, but one that many have not forgotten, and detectives keep searching for any leads in this crime.

So many mysterious deaths, many of them with strong similarities such as hair colour of the victims, and the fact that most of them were tied into a college environment. Was this the work of a serial killer? Or are none of these cases related in any way and all a coincidence. I find it ironic that much of the evidence from many of the cases were “lost” or “disappeared.” Perhaps this was the work of someone who worked for the local PD and to cover up any possibilities of their DNA such as fingerprints or even a strand of hair or fibre, they disposed of it all. Maybe they are now retired from the force and still living comfortably while there are eight young women who lay cold in the ground.

All these women were at the cusp of something new, their lives having barely just really started. They were treated like garbage, their bodies tossed aside as if their lives did not matter. Now all that’s left are memories and dusted files from the “Capital City Killings.”

Devon Bell currently resides in Wisconsin with her husband Tony. Devon and Tony own a paranormal film company called The Haunting Experiments. She has published five books on the ghostlore of Wisconsin and her latest, Haunted Summerwind: A Ghostly History of a Wisconsin Mansion, will be released by The History Press in Spring 2016.


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