MARINETTE (NBC 26) — A Wisconsin man convicted in a decades old double murder has been sentenced to life in prison.
Raymond Vannieuwenhoven, 84, will serve two consecutive life sentences for the 1976 double murder of a Green Bay couple at a Wisconsin park.
Friends and family of both the victims and defendant gave impact statements in front of a packed courtroom during the sentencing hearing.
Vannieuwenhoven’s youngest daughter is now giving a statement in front of the court. She said she believes the court wrongly convicted her father in the double murders.— Kelsey Dickeson (@KelseyDickeson) August 26, 2021
“You are my dad and you always will be my dad…I will always love you.”
“I may have been very young, however I clearly remember the horrific pain in my family’s voices, seeing the anguish and sorrow written on their voices," said Cindy Chizek, Ellen Matheys niece.
Following a week-long trial, a Marinette County jury found Vannieuwenhoven guilty in the killings of David Schuldes, 25, and his fiance, Ellen Matheys, 24.
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The couple was killed during a camping trip in 1976 at McClintock Park in Silver Cliff. Reports show Schuldes was shot in the neck and died instantly. Matheys was sexually assaulted and shot twice, once in the abdomen and once in the chest.
Prosecutors previously said they used DNA and genetic genealogy to connect Vannieuwenhoven to the crime. DNA from the sexual assault was gathered and submitted to a database. That evidence was matched to Vannieuwenhoven in 2018 through genetic genealogy.
Vannieuwenhoven's youngest daughter read a statement in front of the court. She said she believes her father's been wrongfully convicted, and will continue to believe he had no part in the crimes.
“You are my dad. You always will be my dad. And I love you, and I always will love you," she said.
The court followed sentencing rules from 1976, since that's when the crime occurred. The judge stated before the hearing the appropriate sentence for the crime, called first-degree murder at the time, was life imprisonment for each charge and could run concurrent or consecutive.
Due to the gravity of the crimes, the judge said the life sentences would run consecutively.
Friends and family of the victims said the sentencing finally gives them a chance to heal.
"I know Ellie and Dave would not want us to carry this around forever, and ever and ever," said Lynn Baumgartner, a friend of Matheys. "So we need to think in those terms now. And hopefully they're resting better up there watching over us all the time."
Baumgartner bought Mathy's a bracelet some time ago that she wore in court Thursday. She also wore a pair of earrings Matheys gifted her after a trip to Spain.
Others wore shirts with a photo of Schuldes and Mathyes sitting together with words that read, "I've missed you since 1976. 2021 - finally you're getting justice."
Family members said it's time for them to move forward as this cold case is finally resolved.