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Search continues for suspects in killing of Wauwatosa man at Devils Lake

John Schmutzer
Posted at 8:19 PM, May 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-06 12:50:56-04

Sauk County detectives say they have investigated hundreds of tips, interviews and pieces of physical evidence and executed a number of search warrants - but have yet to identify suspects in the killing of Wauwatosa native John Schmutzer at Devils Lake last October.

But the Sauk County Sheriff's Office now has an idea, from what witnesses told them, of a man of interest on Oct. 14, described as running “frantically” and “out of control” north from the parking lot at the group camp in front of traffic. The office said in a new statement Wednesday the man presumably ran onto or near Grottos Trail, then north on East Bluff trail to the north shore area of Devils Lake.

Twenty-four-year-old Schmutzer was found dead around 11:30 a.m. on Grottos Trail on the south side of the east bluff at Devils Lake State Park.

Witnesses told detectives that the person of interest was about six feet tall, slender to average build, with darker-colored pants with ripped out knees, and a dark-colored top, possibly a hoodie. The clothing was described as “not standard running apparel," according to the office.

The sheriff's office adds the person was reported to have fallen down while running north several times.

"Based on the timeline of events and locations where this person was reported to be seen, we have identified him as a person of interest in this case, however, we need the public's assistance in providing more information if they have any," the office said in their statement.

The Sauk County Sheriff's Office has released several updates since the Oct. 14 killing, including calling on residents for any information they might have on suspected killers. But six months later, the office admitted in their latest update that "we are still in search of a suspect in this case."

"We still believe that someone knows or believes they know who the person responsible for this homicide is and encourage them to call us with that information," their statement read.

The office said during a Nov. 11 press briefing that the suspect may be acting unusual, nervous and displaying emotions and habits of someone dealing with the trauma of killing another person. The office reiterated that in their statement Wednesday:

"The person responsible for this crime may still be a danger to himself or others, may have been exhibiting signs of instability in the days or weeks prior to the incident or may have underlying mental health or drug or alcohol abuse challenges.

Friends or family may be aware he carries a knife and may have seen changes in behavior that they believe worrisome. The individual may have begun suffering and displaying additional stress or anxiety as a result of John’s death and may have become increasingly angry and abusive. He may have followed the news of this case closely, changed his appearance, vehicle or left the area entirely without explanation."

If you were at or in the vicinity of Devils Lake State Park on Oct. 14, 2020 at any time, you are asked to call Sauk County Crime Stoppers at 1-888-847-7285. You can also email tips to tipsubmit.com or by text by texting “tipsauk” to 274637.

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