Skeletal remains
Skeletal remains were found in a bank chimney. Image: METROgirl/Flickr/CC BY-ND

Skeletal remains were found in May in the chimney of a bank in Abbeville, La. The remains have recently been identified as those of a man missing for 27 years.

Remains found by workers

The remains were found in May by construction workers renovating the Bank of Abbeville. The Louisiana State University Forensic Anthropology and Computer Enhancement Services Laboratory tested the remains and has finally concluded that they belong to Joseph W. Schexnider, who would have been 49 now had he lived. The death most likely was from dehydration and starvation, authorities say.

Never made it to court

According to the Abbeville Police Department, Schexnider disappeared in January 1984 at age 22. He never showed up for a court appointment on charges of possessing a stolen vehicle, and he was reported missing.

Mother said he had fled

It was assumed he had run off, as he had done in the past. When Vermilion Parish County sheriff’s deputies arrived at his home to take him into custody, they were told by his mother that he had fled to avoid prosecution.

Why remains a mystery

Why Schexnider was in the chimney remains a mystery. If he was skipping town, it is logical to assume that he intended to rob the bank for some traveling money. Abbeville Police Detective David Hardy said that Schexnider wore gloves but did not have any burglary tools or bag to carry loot out with. In any case, the chimney did not open into the bank, so he could not have gained access through it.

“There was no wide-open fireplace at the bottom,” Hardy as said. “It wasn’t like a wood-burning fireplace – there was no opening, no large space at the bottom. It wasn’t a traditional fireplace – maybe more like something that would burn coal.”

No indication of foul play

Hardy also made it clear there was no indication that Schexnider had been murdered elsewhere and dumped in the chimney. “There’s no signs of foul play in this investigation, so as of now it’s going to be a closed case,” he said.

Family waits for the remains

Schexnider’s relatives are planning a funeral when the remains are returned from the lab. Hardy says Schexnider’s mother is upset to know she lost a son, but is relieved to finally know what happened to him.


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