Post by Graveyardbride on Feb 16, 2018 2:02:05 GMT -5
Did the ‘I-5 Killer’ Murder a Minnesota Woman in 1974?
New DNA testing could link the unsolved murder of a Minnesota woman to a notorious serial killer. Mary Schlais (above) planned to hitchhike from Minneapolis to an art show in Chicago in 1974, but never made it. Now, 44 years later, new clues that Schlais took to the grave could reveal who killed her.
It’s the face still frozen in Mary Dodge’s mind all these years later. “It was really frightening,” she said. “I looked at him and I said, ‘You look terrible.’ He looked white.” A Culligan man delivered news of the horrifying discovery not far from her home in Spring Brook Township. It was around 1 p.m. on a Friday when a man who lived in the area made a grocery store run. It was that man who discovered the body of Mary Schlais alongside a rural road. “The body was put over the snow bank,” Dodge recalled.
Schlais was working toward her master’s degree at the University of Minnesota. She spoke several languages and had many interests. “Her life was pretty much about her love of horses and art,” her brother Don said via a video call from Arizona. He recounted how that love of art drew his sister out of her Uptown apartment in Minneapolis that morning planning to hitchhike to an art show in Chicago. Mary made a sign that read “Madison” and headed out to I-94 in hopes of flagging down someone going her way. “It was common and Mary was said to do so often,” Sgt. Scott McRoberts of the Dunn County Sheriff’s Office said.
But Mary didn’t make it to Chicago: a few hours after she was last seen alive, her body was discovered in a snowbank in Dunn County, Wisconsin, approximately 90 miles from Minneapolis – she had been stabbed at least 15 times. The individual who reported the crime said he passed a compact car on the side of the road and saw a man in his rearview mirror throw a body into the ditch. He assisted police in creating a sketch of the suspect.
For decades, the investigation went nowhere. Then in 2009, Mary’s body was exhumed for DNA testing. “There’s different types of DNA that can be tested for and all I’m going to say is we got two profiles,” Sgt. McRoberts announced. Now, for the first time, investigators are ready to identify the suspects those tests didn’t rule out and one of them is an infamous serial killer.
Randall Woodfield. A standout college football player from Portland, Oregon, the Green Bay Packers drafted Randall “Randy” Woodfield in the early 1970s. But before he played a single game, the 6'1" wide receiver was cut from the team following his arrest for indecent exposure. Later he attained notoriety as the I-5 Killer. “He committed crimes from Washington down to Oregon to California along I-5,” McRoberts explained. As many as 44 murders have been linked to Woodfield, all within a few miles of an interstate exit.
Woodfield, born December 26, 1950, is currently serving a 90-year sentence in Oregon for the murder of Shari Hull, 20, and the sexual assault and attempted murder of Lisa Garcia, also 20, on the evening of Saturday, January 18, 1981. The scene in the TransAmerica office building, where both women worked for a cleaning company, in the central Oregon town of Keizer was gruesome. Hull’s nude corpse lay splayed on the floor in a pool of congealed blood, brain matter seeping from her battered skull, mixing with the gore that matted her hair. Woodfield, who was armed with a .32 caliber handgun, ordered both women into a back room and instructed them to lie down on the floor. He then proceeded to rape them, after which he shot them both in the back of the head. Hull moaned as she died, but, unfortunately, for Woodfield, Garcia lay motionless, feigning death, and when the assailant left, she was able to call police. In June 1986, she testified at Woodfield’s trial for Hull’s murder. He was also charged and convicted of the attempted murder of Garcia and two counts of sodomy.
The first murder usually attributed to Woodfield is that of Cherie Ayers, an X-ray technician and former classmate of Woodfield’s whom he raped and murdered on October 9, 1980, in her downtown Portland apartment. However, investigators now believe it’s possible his killing spree began sooner and farther east than first thought. They have determined Woodfield was traveling between Portland and Green Bay at the time Mary Schlais was killed. He fits the description the witness gave, as does Mary – all his victims were white, petite and in their 20s. But a great deal more has to happen before anything is proven. “I just think it’s terribly tragic that this poor family can’t have closure,” Dodge added. Woodfield hasn’t yet been interviewed concerning the killing of Mary Shalais and has never admitted to any of the murders or other crimes of which he has been accused.
One thing law enforcement officers still don’t know is the kind of car Woodfield was driving in February 1974. The witness first reported it was a compact car – possibly a Chevy Vega – orange or gold in color. Now, investigators admit there’s a possibility the car was in fact light green.
If you have any information regarding this crime, contact the Dunn County Sheriff’s office at (715) 231-2917, or go to DunnCountyCrimeStoppersWeb.com to anonymously report a tip.
Sources: Liz Collin, WCCO, February 15, 2018; L. Jon Wertheim, Sports Illustrated, Nov. 26, 2016; Caroline Lowe, WCCO, April 18, 2011; and The New York Times, June 27, 1981.