Lynn Schuller (Courtesy the Gazette)
Homicide (presumed murdered but body never found – legally declared dead)
- A short excerpt from Gazette writer Jeff Burnham’s March 19, 1992 story. More page downloads available below.
3100 30th St. Dr. SE
Cedar Rapids, IA
August 6, 1972
A Foreword Note to Commenters
This case summary (like others on this site) was compiled based on statements from law enforcement officials, past and recent news media articles, and other sources. The Cedar Rapids Gazette (in particular, Jeff Burnham’s in-depth “three take” story published March 19, 1992) proved invaluable, along with other articles cited in the “Sources.”
Nowhere in this summary does it allege that Keith Schuller killed his wife, Lynn. Nor does it allege Mr. Schuller fed her body parts to a pet alligator or snakes. In fact, the summary’s second paragraph distinctly references the suspicions and local folklore intertwined in nearly every archived story about Lynn Schuller’s unsolved disappearance and suspected murder.
In response to recent commenters who’ve left volatile personal attacks against us for daring to repeat info clearly in the public domain, you are not the only ones who “know” or “knew” Mr. Schuller. Ironically, the very first person who ever left a comment on this page knew the Schullers, too. (They even bravely submitted a first and last name with the comment.) They’d been told Keith lined the basement of his home with a plastic drop cloth, murdered her and chopped up her body, and then fed it to the hogs he owned or had access to. The person wrote more about what Keith (yes, allegedly) had done with Lynn’s skull, and said Keith’s ex-wife (his 2nd wife, who divorced him) was “much too frightened to ever testify.”
Whether this woman was fed to an alligator, snakes or hogs is all hearsay, but it’s a known FACT that detectives did indeed get a search warrant and seized several evidentiary items from the Schuller home. State investigators – formerly called the BCI, now the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) — were also called in to help.
Newspaper reporters do not make up stories as they go along; as is referenced in the Cedar Rapids Gazette articles, information they published was provided to them by law enforcement officials, investigators, and the Schullers’ family members and close friends familiar with the Schullers’ crumbling relationship and marriage.
This website’s purpose — in addition to celebrating loved ones whose lives mattered to many — has also been to invite thoughtful, civilized discussion with hopes that someone who knows something will come forward and provide investigators with that one small detail that might just help solve a crime. While we are not a law enforcement agency, we are a registered and incorporated Iowa non-profit organization and have shared tips (and sometimes quite detailed information provided to us by our readers, including eyewitness reports) with officials from the local to state to federal level for more than eight years.
The vitriolic nature of these personal attacks on Lynn’s page are a first for this site. We’ve always encouraged discussion and debate (“where little but important details and names” often surface), but conversations have generally remained mature, civilized, and respectful.
Our readers come from various socioeconomic and educational backgrounds, so in efforts to help those who skimmed, I’ve included some additional “text photos” — snippets from published articles where one may click to read the original published newspaper report. These snippets link to the very same references we’d already cited in the “Sources” list. I’ve also added dictionary links to some words that many — in his or her rush to judgement by the second paragraph — clearly did not understand.
I suspect Mr. Schuller — or any teacher, for that matter — would hang his head in shame at the egregious and crass comments left here by former students.
We at ICC take pride in researching and writing case summaries. These are not news articles; they are “summaries” (i.e. overviews) of unsolved cases based on collected articles, interviews, research, and info voluntarily provided to us by our readers. Our cross-referenced database (cases listed by city, county, year, etc.) was designed to in turn provide a valuable research tool to other writers and the general public. We’ve also partnered with agencies like Cedar Valley Crime Stoppers (see their Cold Cases link), and it’s not because we’re some “bogus” site.
In 2013 alone, the ICC website had 488,159 visitors and 2,189,694 page views. We put in long unpaid hours trying to make a difference by ensuring these victims’ stories are told and their unsolved cases not forgotten. We reach out to provide comfort and hope — rather than wishing that someone with whom we disagree “gets herpes.”
Finally, I would like to extend a heartfelt, personal thank you to “Kim,” an astute reader who used facts, tact and diplomacy in numerous efforts to restore public decorum in an online comment forum normally populated with mature adults. Kim went above and beyond the call of duty to explain the facts in this case and how information is cultivated, even as those who’d never read the source reports turned on her as well. So, my sincere thanks to you, Kim, for investing the time and energy you did in efforts to restore basic respect and decency here.
To the others: Civilized disagreements and debates are perfectly acceptable, but immature 6th grade name-calling and juvenile, baseless attacks will not be further tolerated.
Jody Ewing, Iowa Cold Cases Founder
Case Summary compiled by Jody Ewing
When Keith Schuller reported his wife Lynn Schuller missing in August 1972, police suspected murder from the very beginning.
- Linn County in Iowa
Cedar Rapids in Linn County
More than four decades later, they still believe Schuller is responsible for her death, but don’t ever expect to find her body. Why? The suspicions surrounding her disappearance sounded so much like that of local folklore that even police were reluctant to acknowledge Keith Schuller could have committed such an abhorrent act.
The tale began in a Minneapolis suburb, where Lynn Tickner had been born and raised. Barely a teen, she met Keith Schuller — five years her senior — while the two families were vacationing in northern Minnesota. A long-distance relationship culminated in Lynn and Keith’s marriage in 1967.
The two made their home in Cedar Rapids, and Lynn gave birth the couple’s first and only child in 1969. By all outward appearances, they seemed like a happy couple until 1971, when Keith abruptly announced he wanted a divorce. Lynn, however, wasn’t ready to break up their new family and refused to grant the divorce.
“She always indicated to me that she was hopeful they would resolve it because of the child,” Lynn’s mother, Eloise Tickner, told the Cedar Rapids Gazette in a March 19, 1992 interview with Gazette reporter Jeff Burnham.
Keith continued to press for a divorce, and in 1972, Lynn wrote a letter to her mother stating that Keith had threatened to kill her.
Courtesy the Cedar Rapids Gazette
- On March 19, 1992, Gazette writer Jeff Burnham chronicled the cases of three Iowa women who disappeared under mysterious circumstances. All three women are presumed dead. Download article in PDF, Part I | Download Part II
Keith owned a 6-foot-long alligator, Pogo, and two pet snakes. He’d also served as a medic in the Army for three years.
“You never believe anything like that is going to happen in your own family,” Eloise Tickner told the Gazette, “So I threw the letter away.”
A few months later, while vacationing at the same lake where their daughter and Keith had met, the Tickners received a call from their son-in-law. Lynn had disappeared, he told them, and he didn’t know where she was.
The Perfect Crime?
Harry and Eloise Tickner immediately headed south for Cedar Rapids, where Keith Schuller told them he’d last seen Lynn while she was sleeping. He said that around 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 6, 1972 [sic- that date was a Sunday] that he and their 3-year-old son had left the home and returned about five hours later to discover both Lynn and her bicycle were gone.
- Courtesy Cedar Rapids Gazette, March 19, 1992
- These maps, published by the Gazette, show where Lynn Schuller went missing in Aug. 1972, where Jane Wakefield disappeared in Sept. 1975 and where Denise Fraley vanished in Sept. 1982. All three women were in volatile marriages with divorce proceedings pending. Detectives are certain all three were murdered, and though they’ve long had a prime suspect in each case, have never been able to find enough evidence to convince a prosecutor to charge any of the suspects with murder.
Schuller said he’d decided then to take his son swimming at Bever Park. Before they’d gone, he said, he’d left a note for Lynn.
The “swim” was short-lived, and Schuller and his young son returned home about an hour later. This time, however, he said Lynn’s bicycle was there but that she was missing.
The home showed no signs of forced entry and nothing was disturbed. Lynn’s purse and all her belongings were still there.
Later that same day, Keith Schuller had contacted his wife’s parents — along with several others — to report his wife was missing. Those he’d called arrived at the couple’s home and helped conduct searches in and around the surrounding area.
Keith Schuller Arrested for Refusing to Help Officers in Search
The following afternoon — approx. 24 hours after Keith Schuller said he first realized something was wrong — he called the Linn County Sheriff’s Office to report Lynn missing. Dozens of volunteers helped conduct a more extensive search, while detectives got a search warrant and seized several items from the Schuller home. State investigators were also called in to help.
Keith Schuller was asked to assist in the investigation — particularly to help search the nearby woods for his wife’s body — but he refused to do so and was arrested for refusing to assist an officer. Schuller said he’d refused because he’d already checked out the woods himself. The charge was later dismissed for lack of evidence.
Infrared aerial photos were taken of the home’s surrounding areas to determine if the ground had recently been dug up, but they produced no positive results.
Lynn’s parents offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to Lynn’s body or her whereabouts, but no one came forward. Everyone seemed to hold the same opinion — that Keith Schuller had killed his wife, chopped up her body, and then fed the pieces to Pogo and the snakes.
Multiple Divorce Papers Filed
Keith Schuller continued with efforts to obtain a divorce — this time on the grounds that his wife had deserted him. When Lynn’s parents hired an attorney to represent their daughter, Schuller dropped the case. He would file again and again — a total of seven times in Linn County District Court — but each time when it became apparent he’d have to testify about circumstances surrounding his wife’s disappearance, he would drop the case.
Without his in-laws’ knowledge, Keith Schuller finally went to Dubuque County District Court to file the papers; the divorce was granted in July 1976.
Less than two years later on March 20, 1978, a Dubuque District Court judge granted Schuller’s request to have Lynn Schuller declared legally dead. The decree listed their son as the sole heir of Lynn’s life insurance benefits, with Keith the conservator.
Keith would later marry a woman he’d met in Cedar Rapids before his wife’s unexplained disappearance, but that relationship also ended in a divorce.
Schuller and Pogo head to Idaho where Schuller teaches middle school students, obsesses about death
Schuller eventually left Iowa — taking the 6-foot-long alligator with him — and moved to Fruitland, Idaho, where he taught middle school students for 25 years. A 1992 article in the Gazette said “Pogo” had become a favorite of Schuller’s students, and that Schuller had just recently been featured on a local television news program.
One of Schuller’s former students vividly remembers his science teacher from the mid-90s.
On Friday, August 2, 2013, the student responded to an “Ask Reddit” post titled “What is the scariest unsolved mystery you have ever heard?” The student responded, “My 6th grade science teacher!”
Courtesy photo Independent-Enterprise
- In January 2008, Keith Schuller received the Fruitland (ID) Chamber of Commerce Lifetime Achievement award.
According to the former student, Schuller was seemingly obsessed with death.
After leaving his teaching position, Schuller went on to become the Payette County coroner. Payette County is part of the Idaho and Ontario, Oregon, Micropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 22,623 as of the 2010 census; the county seat and largest city is Payette, ID.
“Although he was our science teacher, all I remember him talking about was deadly diseases (the hantavirus was a favorite of his), deadly animals (he had a pet gila monster), and deadly gasses (he talked about carbon monoxide poisoning a lot),” the student said.
Schuller had lived right next door to the school, and would sometimes let the students come over and feed Pogo the pet alligator, they said.
The Aug. 2 Reddit post linked to Lynn Schuller’s page here on Iowa Cold Cases, and by 10:15 that night, nearly 12,000 people had clicked the link to read about her still unsolved disappearance/murder.
One Reddit commenter said the case sounded like a story from a “Goosebumps” book.
The Cedar Rapids Police Department currently has two volunteer investigators who work exclusively on unsolved homicides. These investigators work closely with other investigators from both the Cedar Rapids Police Department, the Linn County Sheriff’s Office, and other law enforcement agencies.
The current investigators assigned to the Cedar Rapids Cold Case Unit are J.D. Smith, a retired Agent for the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, and Jeff Mellgren, a retired Captain from the Cedar Rapids Police Department.
Anyone with information concerning Lynn Schuller’s unsolved disappearance and/or suspected homicide is asked to contact one of the following individuals or agencies:
You may now also report this information online or by sending a text message to “CRIMES” (274637) with the keyword “5227.” (See http://www.tipsoft.com/index.aspx for more information about TipSoft.)
Sources and References:
- Linn County Sheriff’s Office
- Linn County Crime Stoppers
- Cedar Rapids Police Department
- Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation
- “What is the scariest unsolved mystery you have ever heard?” Ask Reddit, August 2, 2013
- Payette County, Idaho – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- “Schuller receives Chamber’s Lifetime Achievement Award,” The Independent-Enterprise/Argus Observer, Ontario, Oregon, January 17, 2008
- “Cold Cases: Technology, tips help clear old homicides, but time takes toll on investigations,” by Christoph Trappe, Cedar Rapids Gazette, September 21, 2003 | Download article in PDF format
- “Unsolved murder cases: DNA technology did not exist 20 years ago,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, January 31, 2002 | Download article in PDF format
- “Proving murder without body: It’s not impossible,” by Jeff Burnham, Cedar Rapids Gazette, Thursday, March 19, 1992
- “Murdered, Missing, Unsolved: Police suspect 3 killed but lack bodies,” by Jeff Burnham, Cedar Rapids Gazette, March 19, 1992 | Download article in PDF, Part I | Download Part II
- “Missing persons pose different kind of puzzle,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, September 18, 1983 | Download the article in PDF format
Copyright © 2014 Iowa Cold Cases, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.