Murder in Deloit
Investigators: scrap metal heist led to double-murder, arson
March 14, 2014
Marvin Huelsing, 79, of Maple River, and Alice Huisenga, 81, of rural Arcadia, were allegedly murdered Monday on Huelsing’s rural Deloit acreage, where the two often met with neighbors for coffee in a mobile home. Investigators allege the three suspects torched the building on the acreage, which burned the victims’ bodies.
Three people, who were caught red-handed stealing scrap metal from a rural Deloit acreage Monday by the landowner and his longtime friend, killed them and set fire to a mobile home - which burned the bodies - and fled, investigators allege.
Michael D. Schenk, 26, Jayden R. Chapman, 19, and Erika M. Haberberger-Dains, 36, all of Denison, were arrested overnight Wednesday at a friend's house in Denison by an Iowa State Patrol tactical team and charged with first-degree murder and arson, Special Agent Dan Dawson, of the state Division of Criminal Investigation, said Thursday.
"It's one of the saddest cases I've seen," Dawson said. "These were (elderly people who died). We certainly don't want, in our final hours and minutes, to be shot and burned.
"It's a horrible way to die."
Chapman allegedly admitted to investigators that he and Schenk shot Marvin Huelsing, 70, of Maple River, and Alice Huisenga, 81, of rural Arcadia, according to court documents.
"Chapman (said) after both victims had been shot, Schenk poured flammable fluids on the residence, with the victims inside, and set the trailer on fire," a criminal complaint alleges.
Investigators confirmed Thursday that Huelsing died of the gunshot wounds but couldn't say for sure how Huisenga died because an autopsy of her body was pending.
The fallen friends had likely planned to drink coffee and chitchat with neighbors that day on Huelsing's acreage at 1872 Milford Road, which was a neighborhood gathering spot in the rolling hills southeast of town, Deloit Mayor Alan Johnson told the Daily Times Herald.
"Lots of people in town knew Marvy," Johnson said of Huelsing. "The community is just stunned."
A passerby teenager had seen two men at the acreage about 8:10 a.m.
Chapman admitted that he and the other suspects had gone there to steal scrap metal, which they could sell for money.
It's unclear what time Huelsing and Huisenga were killed, but the mobile home fire was reported about 12:45 p.m. The suspects also allegedly set fire to a pickup truck more than 200 yards away.
Dawson said investigators were unable to fully inspect the crime scene until several hours later. They initially had few clues to unravel the crime.
"These investigators did an absolutely remarkable job in this case," Crawford County Attorney Roger Sailer said Thursday. "They went from almost zero leads a couple days ago to arrests last night."
A Walmart receipt discovered near the burnt truck listed a debit-card number that investigators traced to Schenk.
They later located Schenk's truck at his Denison house in the 800 block of Broadway. They interviewed Schenk's friend and girlfriend, who said the suspects went to the friend's house between 12:45 and 1 p.m. Monday - Schenk and Chapman in Schenk's truck and Dains-Haberberger in a car. Their clothes were dirty and smelled of chemicals or burnt rubber, court documents show. Several fence posts lay in the pickup truck's bed.
"They had just gotten stuck in a corn field and loaded up the truck with whatever they could find," the suspects claimed at the time, according to the friend.
Law officers used a warrant to search another house in the 800 block of Broadway overnight Wednesday and apprehended the suspects, Dawson said. He declined to say what other evidence of the crimes they found at the house.
A woman who answered a knock at the front door at the house Thursday - holding an infant drinking from a bottle - said the suspects are her friends and that they didn't tell her about their alleged crimes of midday Monday.
"I don't believe it," she said of the allegations. "I'm still in shock."
Huelsing's friends and family gathered at the murder scene Thursday afternoon - after the criminal charges against his alleged murders were announced in a press conference in Denison. They stood in solemn circles and talked as cows walked and fed in nearby farm fields but declined to speak to reporters.
Court records show that two of the suspects have been charged or convicted of theft and drug offenses in the past.
Schenk faces several theft and drug charges for a series of crimes about a year ago that began when he was allegedly caught with methamphetamine on March 21, 2013. That night, Schenk allegedly went into a Vail shed and stole a pickup truck, court records show. He then allegedly went to McDonald's, where he worked, on March 24 and stole money from the restaurant's safe.
Schenk and a woman later drove to Missouri, where they were arrested in the stolen truck by a Missouri state trooper.
After Schenk was released from jail April 4, he allegedly stole another pickup truck in Denison and drove it to El Paso, Texas, where he was arrested April 9 in the truck with a boy, court records show.
Schenk was held in Crawford County Jail until June 11, when he posted $3,500 bond. A judge had reduced Schenk's bail amount from $10,000, court records show.
Schenk's trial for three felonies for burglary and theft is set for May 20.
Chapman has been accused of several thefts in the past two years - including that of two vehicles - but he made a deal with prosecutors in which he pleaded guilty to lesser crimes to avoid a felony conviction.
Chapman, Haberberger-Dains and Schenk are held at Crawford County Jail in Denison. They each face two counts of first-degree murder and one of first-degree arson.
The murder charge is punishable by up to life in prison.
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