How Erik Schrieffer Died and Joseph Wehmanen Caught? (Case Summary)
- Year of Incident: January 2009
- Victim: Erik Wayne Schrieffer (Eric Schrieffer)
- Culprit: Joseph Arden Wehmanen (or Joe Wehmanen)
- Eye Witnesses: Charlie Johnson and Herbert Zingle
- Forensic Files Case: Season 7, Episode 11: A Clutch of Witnesses
In the frigid month of January 2009, a missing person report was filed for 27-year-old Erik Schrieffer. He hadn’t returned home or gone to work in the last four days.
Eric was last seen at a biker gang party. Two eyewitnesses Charlie Johnson and Herbert Zingle came forward and reported a fistfight with a rival gang member, Joseph Wehmanen (32 years).
The fistfight continued outside the club, and Wehmanen easily overpowered Schrieffer into a duo fight. Joe Wehmanen didn’t stop there. He seek-in his car and ran twice over Schrieffer.
Witnessing the incidents, Charlie and Herbert got scared and went indoors. After a while, they came outside but they found nothing. Both Wehmanen and Schrieffer were gone.
Problem with Witnesses: Both were under the influence of alcohol and to verify their, police did a thorough search. Due to heavy snowfall from previous days, investigators have to remove the ice layer-by-layer to uncover blood.
Police found a pool of blood that was set beneath inches of ice layers. With the volume of lost blood from the body, the medical examiner stated that Erik Schrieffer wouldn’t survive more than 4 hours without proper medical help.
Police searched a nearby hospital, and no such person was admitted. Eric was now considered dead.
Investigators got a search warrant against Joe Wehmanen. They start searching his truck which was “too clean to true.” No blood or biological evidence was found in or beneath the truck. Meanwhile, two witnesses—Johnson and Zingle—went missing.
Investigators had nearly NO evidence against Wehmanen.
Police search every place linked to Wehmanen, but sadly they found nothing.
Lastly, investigators tear down the Wehmanen truck bolt-by-bolt and they found some blood spatter and hair samples. The DNA profile was matched with Erik Schrieffer.
Joseph Wehmanen Punishment and Conviction
When the DNA evidences was presented to Wehmanen, he agreed to confess. Prosecutors also proposed a plea agreement for unintentional 2nd-degree murder in exchange for the location of Eric’s body.
On June 26, 2009, he confessed and stated that he disposed of the Erik’s body below the ice of the St. Louis River in Duluth, Wisconsin side.
Without the witnesses, there was no proof of intentional murder, so the court granted Wehmanen’s plead agreement and sentenced him to 12 and half years of jail time. He was also eligible for parole after eight years.
Where is Joseph Wehmanen Now?
According to the reports, Wehmanen is a free man now and also become the president of a motorcycle club in Duluth. He is now a changed man and devoted himself to the motorcycling club. His club also donated $3000 to Minnesota Veteran’s Home in Silver Bay.
List of Evidence Against Joseph Wehmanen
|Evidence||Evidence Found at|
|Blood spatters||Under snow at the alleged spot of crime|
|Hair strand||On the front spring of the truck|
|Blood residues||In the crevices of the cargo area of the truck|
|Concrete block (Weapon of murder)||Found in the house of the accused|
|Body of the victim||St. Louis river, Wisconsin side|
Blood Spatter Analysis in Erik Schrieffer and Joseph Wehmanen Case
As the incident was reported 4 days after Eric’s disappearance and heavy snowfall, police had to do a substantial effort to obtain the actual blood-stained surface.
1. Analysing the Blood Spatters
After carefully scrubbing the snow layers, they finally found blood spatters at the same spot that witnesses reported. This might be the spot where Joe Wehmanen ran his truck over Eric Schrieffer.
2. Analysing the Blood Trail
From the initial spatter, there was an 80-yard-long blood trail. It stretched from the initial finding of blood to the end of the parking.
The trail shows that the body was dragged by the truck. This might be intentional or unintentional. However, Wehmanen in his confession admitted that he didn’t know that Erik’s body was bogged down in his truck.
3. Blood trail ends Abruptly
At the end of the parking, the blood trail abruptly ended. This means the body was removed from the path. Asummed Wehmanen was driving a truck, he might load the body in it.
4. Volume of Blood Loss
As per the research, a loss of 40 percent of blood is fatal (around 2,000 L or 0.53 gallons). In the case, the medical examiner, Dr. Donald Kundel, commented that the person was alive and loses enough blood (as an 80-yard-long blood trail) to be fatal. Without immediate medical attention, he would be dead in 4 hours.
Police Hypothesises: Eric suffered serious injuries after his altercations with Raymon but was still alive when being tied to his truck and dragged to the parking spot. And because the body of the crime was not recovered, Erik Schrieffer was declared dead.
Read More: Shirley Duguay & Douglas Beamish [Purr-fect Match] Forensic Files Case
How do Investigators Collect Blood from Snow?
The main aim of investigators with blood was to make a DNA profile. As DNA is extracted from white blood cells, they need a filter to trap WBCs. For this, they used a coffee filter.
Why Coffee Filter was Used for Blood Collection?
In general, coffee filters have 20 microns wide that can allow particles less than 10 to 15 micrometers (microns). As the size of WBC is roughly 15 microns, they can easily be trapped in a coffee filter.
However, some RBCs (size is around 6-8 microns) were also trapped by the coffee filters. This is because as more WBCs trapped by the coffee filter, the woven size decreases which leads to obstruction of RBCs too.
Procedure followed in the Case: The filter allowed plasma and melted snow to pass through while trapping RBCs and WBCs.
Read More: Confirmatory Test For Blood: 7+ Important Forensic Medicine Tests
How it was proven that Blood belonged to Erik Schrieffer?
For a comparison of a DNA profile, investigators need Eric’s biological sample. Without a body, they had no option but to verify that the blood belongs to Eric.
While reviewing Schrieffer’s medical history, they discovered that he had hand surgery when he accidentally shot himself. The hospital preserved his tissues, and that is what investigators looking for— a biological sample of Eric.
Using DNA typing, it was proven that blood from the parking area belonged to Erik Schrieffer.
How Truck became the Prime Evidence Against Joseph Wehmanen?
When Wehmanen was arrested, his truck was so clean to have any biological evidence linking him to Schrieffer’s murder.
But investigators wondered, “How the hell the truck was so clean?“
They searched the truck several times but found nothing. Six months after the incident, investigators decided to give it one more try.
This time, a different Approach.
They disassemble the truck piece by piece. This tedious finally turned out to be successful. Investigators Lt. John Hall found:
- a single strand of hair on the front spring of the truck.
- bloodstains trapped beneath the covering (crevices) of the cargo area.
Both the biological evidence were then introduced in front of Joseph. He admitted the crime, which was later proven by DNA typing (from both biological samples).
What Joseph Wehmanen had to Say About Killing Erik Schrieffer?
When the forensic evidence was recovered from the truck, Wehmanen knew that it was over for him. So, he confessed to attacking Mr. Schrieffer in a fit of rage.
“I didn’t kill him intentionally.”~Joseph Wehmanen
According to Wehmanen, he accidentally ran over Schrieffer and did not aware he was stuck to his truck until he drove 80 yards into the parking lot. He gave information about Eric’s body in exchange for reduced prison time.
Finally, Eric Schrieffer’s Body Recovered.
The body was found floating in the St. Louis River, Wisconsin.
Other Evidence From Corpus Delicti
During the autopsy, the medical examiner revealed that the death may have been caused by blunt force trauma to the head consistent with a concrete block found in Waymamen’s house.
However, Joe Wehmanen admitted in his confession that he only hit Eric after he was dead and in frustration for hiding the body.
His claims could not be proven false because of the lack of eyewitnesses, who were the only proof of intentional or unintentional killing.
What happened to Eric Schrieffer’s Case Witnesses and Their Credibility?
Charlie Johnson and Herbert Zingle were the two witnesses who first reported a clear picture of what might be happened to Eric. Because of them, the police ran after Joe Wehmanen.
However, their credibility was in question because they were under the influence of alcohol when they witnessed the incident. They admitted:
We’re heavily drunk and don’t remember all the details~Witnesses Admitted
Both Witnesses Vanished: As the case proceeded, Johnson and Zingle were gone. Investigators even talked to their family and friends but no one knows where they had gone. To date, there is no evidence of both of them.
Some reports have blamed rival gang members for their disappearance. They might be threatened by gang members.
Problems Investigators Faced in Eric Schrieffer’s Case
- The case was reported four days later, which is unusual for a missing person case because most are reported within the first 24 hours.
- In those four days, there were inches of snowfall that buried any surfaced evidence.
- Witnesses were influenced by alcohol at the time of the incident and cannot recall the details.
- The body was not discovered sooner, making it harder for investigators to establish a link between Schrieffer’s disappearance and Waymanen.
- Witnesses went missing and have never been found till today.
- Waymanen’s past record was clean and police don’t have any factful evidence against him. He was also uncooperative.
- No physical evidence to tie Joseph Waymanen to the murder of Erik Schrieffer.
- Initially, investigators found no evidence in the truck but finally got evidence after disassembling it.
- Even after Waymanen gave the location of Schrieffers’s body, it wasn’t recovered by investigating team. The body drifted away from river currents.
- There was no evidence that could prove Waymanen intentionally murdered Schrieffer.
- Forensic Files: Season 7, Episode 11: A Clutch of Witnesses: Watch on YouTube
- The DC Sniper’s Trail Case Study: Forensic Files, Evidence and Culprits Lee Boyd Malvo
- Startribune Newspaper Archive [Link]
- Thunderbird Motorcycle Club Gives Donation to Minnesota Veterans Home [Link]
FR Author Group at ForensicReader is a team of Forensic experts and scholars having B.Sc, M.Sc, or Doctorate( Ph.D.) degrees in Forensic Science. We published on topics on fingerprints, questioned documents, forensic medicine, toxicology, physical evidence, and related case studies. Know More.