Cold Case: The Murder of Ken Juedes
More than five years after the murder of 58-year-old Ken Juedes, no arrests have ever been made. And the one person of interest that detectives have identified tells us they're focusing on the wrong person. She is Ken's widow, Cindy Schulz Juedes, who maintains her innocence. She and other members of Ken's family speak to us about the final hours of his life.
"I'm not giving up, I tell everybody, I'm not giving up," says Margaret Juedes.
It's November 3, Margaret Juedes' 93rd birthday. Normally, on this day she would be expecting a visit from her oldest son, Ken.
"He would always bring me the biggest bouquet or hanging basket," recalls Juedes.
Those gifts stopped coming in 2006, when the father of four was murdered. Juedes says that was "the worse year of my life."
NewsChannel 7 reporter Bao Vang asks lead investigator Detective Sean McCarthy of the Marathon County Sheriff's Department, "Where was Ken's body found? Det. Mccarthy replies "On his bed, in his bedroom."
On the warm morning of Tuesday, August 30, Det. McCarthy says dispatch received not one, but two 911 calls from Cindy Juedes, Ken's wife, from the Town of Hull near Colby.
Cindy told authorities she didn't know what happened to Ken because she didn't sleep in her home that night.
"It was only natural that when I came down with a sinus infection in August of 2006, the duckling was the only place to go to rest," explains Schulz Juedes of why she had not slept in the home.
She said around 8 o'clock Monday night, she left their home, walked around to the back and fell asleep inside the 'duckling' - a small camper just outside the home. Around 8:30 the following morning, she says she woke up, and found Ken dead from two gun shot wounds to the chest. Cindy remembers that morning, "I'll never forget it, it was horrible."
Cindy said she tried to dial 911 from a landline inside the home, but was so in shock, that she couldn't physically move her fingers. Instead, she ran to a neighbor's.
"What Cindy did was after running to the first house, she left there after calling 911, went home and jumped into her minivan, drove up the road to this other house, which is about a half-mile away and had them call as well," says Det. McCarthy.
"You can hear her kind of wailing. Or making some noises along that effect. And just reporting that there is blood all over and all over her husband."
Shortly after, the Marathon County Medical Examiner arrived. In his professional opinion, Ken had been dead for hours.
"I'm really cautious estimating time of death because there are so many factors, environmental factors, factors with the body, but I can tell you probably between 12 and 18 hours roughly,"said John Larson.
That means whoever fatally shot the father of four did so Monday evening. A thought so disturbing to Ken's mother.
"He was here that day," said Margaret Juedes. "He came and mowed the lawn and trimmed the hedge and all that. So he came back up to say goodbye at 4:30 p.m. and went home. So i said, 'I suppose you're going to go home and make supper?' because he told me Cindy didn't feel good in the morning. He said 'No, I'm going to go home and work on my deck.' So, he gave us a hug and then said, you guys are the best parents a guy could have."
Cindy says she was at home to greet Ken when he returned. But went to bed in the camper early in anticipation of the possible arrival of a foster child early the next morning. Cindy says she was sleeping soundly, and never heard the gun shots.
"She was a person of interest from the onset of the investigation," said Det. McCarthy. "And why? Clearly she has opportunity. She was there that night, she told us that. She reported it the next morning, I mean she was the one who found him."
"I know that Marathon County has deemed me a person of interest, I fully understand that, I was the one who found his body. I know the difference between person of interest and suspect. And they would have been remiss in their duties if they had not."
Cindy provided us the results of a lie detector test she agreed to take in late 2006 which show she was being honest when she said she didn't fire the shot that killed her husband, Ken.
She says any rumors that she would have killed him for money are off-base.
"Ken didn't have any money," says Cindy. "Everything that we had was mortgaged. Our incomes together would have surpassed any amount of money that would have been out there to claim due to his death."
But investigators say she did benefit, receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars, thanks to multiple life insurance pay-outs and the sale of his property.
Meanwhile, Cindy has her suspicions on where the motive might lie. She says she's provided information about who she thinks is responsible for the crime to the Department of Justice. But no one else has ever been named a person of interest in the case.
Clues investigators have received since the death have been surrounded in mystery. Just six months after Ken's murder, a letter showed up with cryptic details they say only the killer could know.
"We did receive an anonymous letter which we believe to be authored by the killer, it was received with a St.Paul, Minnesota postmark," explains Det. McCarthy. "That person out there that sent this, certainly had information. And I certainly like to think that if they had information to share, they would come forward, or come forward in some form, one way or another and produce or provide the information that we're seeking."
The murder weapon, a shotgun, has never been recovered, but the detective believes it may hold a lot of answers. Investigators say they noticed a shotgun belonging to Cindy was missing after the murder. But she says it was taken from her home a year earlier. And because they haven't ever recovered the weapon, they haven't been able to determine if it was the gun used in the crime.
Det. Mccarthy says "You're just hoping for that one piece of evidence, or information or tidbit, that weighs the scales a certain way, or tips it, that's what we're looking for."
Another Marathon County investigator, Lieutenant Greg Bean, says their frustration doesn't compare to that of the family's. "That's the most frustrating, is that there is a family out there who needs some closure."
The unsolved murder is taking its toll on everyone after five years, especially his elderly mother, who doesn't want another birthday to pass without learning who killed her son.
Bao asks, "What do you want to be done with this case?" Margaret says "Justice to be served. By all means. I want to know what happened."
In early 2007, Cindy Schulz Juedes offered up $25,000 of her own money as a reward for anyone who has information about Ken's murder, and can lead to an arrest and conviction. The Juedes family also has a $20,000 dollar reward fund of their own. The Marathon County Sheriff's Department number is (715) 370-7812.