Charles Gearhart

Linn County in Iowa
Linn County in Iowa
 
Cedar Rapids in Linn CountyCedar Rapids in Linn County

Charles Rufus Gearhart

Homicide

Charles “Charlie” Rufus Gearhart
89 YOA
422 First Street SW
Cedar Rapids, IA
Linn County
May 13, 1970

 

Charles Rufus Gearhart, an 89-year-old Rock Island Railroad retiree, was stabbed to death in his Cedar Rapids apartment on Wednesday, May 13, 1970, the victim of an apparent robbery.

Gearhart, the landlord of an apartment building located at 422 First Street SW, was discovered the following day by tenants Charles Frondle and Willie Harvey, who’d come to Gearhart’s apartment to complain they had no water or heat; the apartment building’s basement had flooded, extinguishing the furnace’s pilot light.

According to a Cedar Rapids Gazette article dated May 15, 1970, Frondle and Harvey said they’d gone to Gearhart’s apartment at approximately 6:35 p.m. Gearhart was found between the kitchen and bedroom lying in a hallway.

Cedar Rapids Police told the Gazette the suspect had broken the apartment’s rear door in order to gain entrance. A search of Gearhart’s apartment failed to turn up the murder weapon.

Tenants told police the elderly Gearhart often flashed large sums of cash, though police were unable to locate any money in Gearhart’s apartment or in his clothing.

About Charles Gearhart

Charles Gearhart was born in Sand Springs, Iowa, on August 22, 1880, the son of Tunis and Susan (Kaster) Gearhart.

Charles Gearhart's headstoneCourtesy photo Leo J. Offerman
Charles Gearhart is buried at the Oakwood Cemetery in Monticello, Iowa.

Memorial services were held in Cedar Rapids at 12 p.m. on Monday, May 18, 1970 at the Turner Chapel East. He was buried in the Oakwood Cemetery in Monticello, Iowa.

Charles Gearhart was survived by his wife, Bonnie, one daughter, Pauline Gearhart Barnard, two grandchildren, and two great-children.

Preceding him in death were three brothers, John, Turner, and James, and two sisters, Lily and Ella.

Information Needed

If you have any information about Charles Gearhart’s unsolved murder please contact Cedar Rapids Police Department Investigator Matt Denlinger at (319) 286-5442 or email M.Denlinger@cedar-rapids.org.

Sources:

 

Copyright © 2020 Iowa Cold Cases, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

Lynn Schuller

Lynn Schuller

Lynn Schuller (Courtesy the Gazette)

Lynn Louise (Tickner) Schuller

Homicide (presumed murdered but body never found – legally declared dead)

Lynn Schuller news clip
A short excerpt from Gazette writer Jeff Burnham’s March 19, 1992 story. More page downloads available below.
Lynn Louise Schuller
25 YOA
DOB: Dec. 5, 1946
3100 30th St. Dr. SE
Cedar Rapids, IA
Linn County
Went Missing: August 6, 1972

 

 

 

 

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
Linn County in Iowa
 
Cedar Rapids in Linn CountyCedar 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 — six years her senior — while the two families were vacationing in northern Minnesota. A long-distance relationship culminated in Lynn and Keith’s marriage on Sept. 18, 1965.

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.

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.”

crg-3-19-92-fraley-schuller-wakefieldCourtesy 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 the two-part article in PDF

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.

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!”

keith-schuller-argus-observerCourtesy 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.

About Lynn Schuller

Lynn Louise (Tickner) Schuller was born Dec. 5, 1946 in Hennepin County, Minnesota, to Harry D. Tickner and Florence Eloise (Cook) Tickner. She was raised in a Minneapolis suburb.

Barely a teen, the 13-year-old Lynn met 19-year-old Keith Raymond Schuller while the two families were vacationing in northern Minnesota, and began a relationship that culminated in their marriage on September 18, 1965 when Lynn was 18 and Keith, 24.

In 1969, Lynn gave birth to the couple’s son.

Keith Schuller reported his wife missing on August 6, 1972. (Media reports listed her age as 26, though Lynn Schuller was actually 25 at the time she went missing.)

Keith Schuller then filed for divorce a total of seven times in Linn County District Court without success. Without his in-laws’ knowledge, Schuller finally went to Dubuque County District Court to file the papers, and 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 the couple’s young son as the sole heir of Lynn’s life insurance benefits, with Keith the conservator.

Information Needed

Anyone with information about 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:

 

Copyright © 2020 Iowa Cold Cases, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Paula Oberbroeckling

Paula Jean Oberbroeckling

Paula Jean Oberbroeckling (Courtesy photo Susan Taylor Chehak)

Paula Jean Oberbroeckling

Homicide

 

Paula Jean Oberbroeckling
18 YOA
116 10th St. N.W.
Cedar Rapids, IA
Linn County
July 11, 1970

 

 

 

 

Recent Updates

what-happened-to-paula-cover-2In February 2012, noted author Susan Taylor Chehak published an Amazon ebook, “What Happened to Paula: The Anatomy of a True Crime,”in an effort to crowdsource an independent investigation by posting there the entire police file, autopsy, FBI reports and other documents, as well as news articles, photographs, and interviews with people who were related to or knew Paula.

The ebook presented the website material in an accessible and easily navigational format and invited readers to join the collaborative investigation. Kindle readers were notified when Chehak made updates available for download, with all proceeds from book sales going toward funding the ongoing investigation.

On Oct. 27, 2016, Susan Chehak posted the following message on her blog:

I’m sorry, but the book is no longer available. If you would like me to send you a PDF copy for your own personal use, please email susantaylorchehak at gmail dot com

– Susan Chehak

Defrosting Cold Cases, a website established by Alice de Sturler, also featured Oberbroeckling’s unsolved murder as the March 2014 Case of the Month.


Paula Jean Oberbroeckling, 18, disappeared after leaving her 116 10th St. NW Cedar Rapids residence in the early morning hours on Saturday, July 11, 1970.

Oberbroeckling — a recent Washington High School graduate who taught a class for developmentally disabled children at Younkers and shared the 10th street residence with her friend, Debbie Kellogg — had gone out on a date Friday night with boyfriend Lonnie Bell. The two returned together to the 10th St. residence, where they argued.

Linn County in Iowa
Linn County in Iowa
 
Cedar Rapids in Linn CountyCedar Rapids in Linn County

Kellogg said that after Bell left, Oberbroeckling said she needed to go out again and asked to borrow Kellogg’s vehicle, saying she’d be right back.

She never returned.

The following day, Kellogg’s car was found near the Eagle supermarket on 14th Street SE, two miles east of where Kellogg and Oberbroeckling lived.

Oberbroeckling’s grandmother, Vera Oberbroeckling, door-knocked in the neighborhood where Kellogg’s car was found, while police conducted extensive searches and involved the media in efforts to locate the teen.

Cedar Rapids police officer C. Smith spoke with Oberbroeckling’s mother, Carol Oberbroeckling, at about 5 p.m. on Wednesday, July 15, 1970, in reference to the missing person report Mrs. Oberbroeckling had filed.

Mrs. Oberbroeckling told Officer Smith that Paula had been somewhat upset because she thought she was about 1-1/2 months pregnant and felt Bell was trying to ditch her.

Mrs. Oberbroeckling also stated that her daughter previously had a colored boyfriend by the name of Robert Williams, but that they’d broken up some time ago. She said a friend told her she’d seen Paula in “the loop” area shortly after 1 a.m. Saturday, and that Paula was having car trouble at the time. Paula was alone at the time, though a man was assisting her in getting the car going, Mrs. Oberbroeckling told Smith.

Lonnie Bell, who was present during the interview with Mrs. Oberbroeckling, told police Paula had been writing to a colored subject by the name of John Strayhorn, who lived at the Hawthorne Hills apartments. Officer Smith visited the Hawthorne Hills apartments that same day and was told by the manager that no one named John Strayhorn rented an apartment there. The manager said it was possible Strayhorn lived with someone else there.

Police followed up on hundreds of leads, and four months after Oberbroeckling’s disappearance, finally got a break in the case; it was not the break they’d hoped to receive.

Body Found, Foul Play Suspected

Oberbroeckling’s remains — though not immediately identified due to advanced stages of decomposition — were found on Sunday, November 29, 1970.

According to a Gazette article dated November 30, 1970, George Junttila of 724 19th St. SE and his two sons, Dale, 14, and David, 11, found the skeletal remains while walking along the railroad tracks on Otis Road across from the sewage treatment plant.

Police said the body was found draped around a steel pin in the ground, which in the past probably had been used for a power pole guy wire. Had the body not been draped around the pin, it could have washed down to the road and been discovered sooner, police said.

The teen’s remains were found almost intact, her ankles tied and her wrists found tied behind her back with two separate types of flexible material — one a plastic clothesline and another kind of cord.

Her pelvic bones remained intact with no injury, and officials found no visual evidence to indicate a traumatic injury nor any fetal remains.

Some personal items found around the body, such as clothing, and earth around the body, were sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for examination, said Cedar Rapids Police Chief Frank Matias.

Dr. Earl F. Rose conducted the autopsy at University of Iowa Hospitals in Iowa City, and cited “Death due to (1) soft tissue injury, (2) poisoning, (3) asphyxiation, or (4) a combination of these, cannot be excluded from the examination of the remains of the body.”

Rose also stated that if the deceased was not dead when placed in this position, death would have resulted from: respiratory embarrassment, exposure, or a combination of respiratory embarrassment developing as exposure continued and she tired.

Despite a number of theories about Oberbroeckling’s death, her case remains unsolved.

Susan Taylor Chehak, who went to high school with Paula and obtained a court order from a local judge to gather the material for “What Happened to Paula,” continues her pursuit to find truth and justice for her friend.

About Paula Oberbroeckling
Paula Oberbroeckling gravestoneCourtesy photo Gail Wenhardt, findagrave.com
Paula Oberbroeckling is buried at Mount Calvary Cemetery in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Paula Jean Oberbroeckling was born in Cedar Rapids on February 25, 1952 to James Joseph and Carol (Burks) Oberbroeckling.

She graduated from Washington High School in 1970.

Survivors included her mother, Carol Oberbroeckling, 2025 G Avenue NE; her father, James J. Oberbroeckling, Grand Junction, Colo.; a sister, Lynn Marie Greve, Cedar Rapids; three brothers, Todd, Timothy and Christopher, all at home, and her grandmothers, Vera Oberbroeckling and Mrs. Frank Zachar, both of Cedar Rapids.

Services were held at 11 a.m. Monday, December 7, 1970, at St. Matthew’s Church, with the Rev. Louis V. McDonough officiating. Burial was at Mount Calvary cemetery. There were no visitation services. Stewart Funeral Home handled arrangements.

Information Needed

If you have any information about Paula Oberbroeckling’s unsolved murder, please contact Cedar Rapids Police Department Investigator Matt Denlinger at 319-286-5442, email M.Denlinger@cedar-rapids.org, or call the Linn County Crime Stoppers Anonymous Tip Line at 1-800-CR-CRIME.

Sources:
  • Cedar Rapids Police Department
  • Linn County Crime Stoppers
  • What Happened to Paula” website by author Susan Taylor Chehak
  • Documentation provided by Susan Taylor Chehak
  • DISAPPEARANCE/MURDERS OF FIVE CEDAR RAPIDS TEENS STILL UNSOLVED,” by Bob James, KHAK.com, February 20, 2019
  • Case of the Month: Paula Oberbroeckling,” by Alice de Sturler, Defrosting Cold Cases, March 1, 2014
  • “OBITUARIES: Carol Jean Burks Oberbroeckling,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, Tuesday, May 24, 2011
  • “In Remembrance: Paula Jean Oberbroeckling,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, Sunday, July 11, 2010
  • “OBITUARIES: Christopher James Oberbroeckling,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, Sunday, February 11, 2007
  • Find a Grave Memorial
  • “CERTIFICATE OF DEATH,” STATE OF IOWA, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, Deceased: Paula J. Oberbroeckling, Certification by Percy G. Harris, M.D., Medical Examiner, dated December 10, 1970
  • “Identify Body as C.R. Girl,” The Des Moines Register, December 7, 1970
  • “Memorial Services: Paula A. [sic] Oberbroeckling,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, Sunday, December 6, 1970
  • “Report Nothing Found in Area of Body’s Discovery,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, Sunday, December 6, 1970
  • “Miss Oberbroeckling Funeral Is Monday,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, December 5, 1970
  • “Identify Body as girl from Cedar Rapids,” The Ames Daily Tribune, December 2, 1970
  • “IDENTIFY BODY AS C.R. GIRL,” by William Simbro, The Des Moines Register, December 2, 1970
  • “Body That of Girl Missing Four Months,” by Gary Peterson, The Cedar Rapids Gazette, Tuesday, December 1, 1970
  • “Body Found: ‘Foul Play’ Police Say,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, November 30, 1970
  • Autopsy Report for Paula Oberbrockling (sic), performed by Earl F. Rose, M.D., 133 Medical Laboratories, Iowa City, Iowa, November 30, 1970
  • “Investigative Report,” by The Cedar Rapids Police Department, November 30, 1970
  • “Investigative Report,” by The Cedar Rapids Police Department, November 29, 1970
  • “Investigative Report,” by The Cedar Rapids Police Department, August 11, 1970
  • “Investigative Report,” by The Cedar Rapids Police Department, July 29, 1970
  • “Investigative Report,” by The Cedar Rapids Police Department, July 28, 1970
  • “Investigative Report,” by The Cedar Rapids Police Department, July 23, 1970
  • “Investigative Report,” by The Cedar Rapids Police Department, July 22, 1970
  • “Investigative Report,” by The Cedar Rapids Police Department, July 21, 1970
  • “Investigative Report,” by The Cedar Rapids Police Department, July 18, 1970
  • “Investigative Report,” by The Cedar Rapids Police Department, July 17, 1970
  • “Investigative Report,” by The Cedar Rapids Police Department, July 16, 1970
  • “Investigative Report,” by The Cedar Rapids Police Department, July 15, 1970
  • “By The Way,” Cedar Rapids news clip about Paula Oberbroeckling modeling assignment, by Elinor Ahern, The Cedar Rapids Gazette, December 14, 1967
  • “Father of Injured Girl Gets Judgment,” COURTHOUSE NEWS, The Cedar Rapids Gazette, Saturday, September 27, 1958
  • “OLD CHRISTENING GOWN,” photo by Carl Franks, The Cedar Rapids Gazette, Sunday, October 24, 1954

 

Copyright © 2020 Iowa Cold Cases, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.