Devil’s Lake homicide likely a stranger attack, authorities say

SAUK COUNTY (WKOW) -- Sauk County authorities are asking the public for tips to help solve a homicide last month at Devil's Lake State Park.

Sheriffs' officials say John Craig Schmutzer, 24, from Wauwatosa, was found dead Oct. 14 on the grottos trail on the south side of the park and was stabbed to death.

Authorities now believe the attacker was a stranger to Schmutzer.

In a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Sauk County Sheriff Chip Meister said there have been no arrests in the case.

"We're confident that there is someone out there who knows, or suspect they know, who this person is -- and we await their call," Meister said.

Lt. Chris Zunker of the Sauk County Sheriff's Office described what they believe could be the behavior of the suspect, and asked people who think they may know who it is to call authorities.

Zunker said authorities are concerned that the person who stabbed Schmutzer could be a danger to himself or others.

Zunker said that friends and family of the suspect would know he carries a knife, and likely would have noticed a change in behavior.

The suspect may have become increasingly angry and abusive. He may have increased his use of alcohol, taken interest in news of the stabbing, changed his appearance, or left without notice, Zunker said.

Zunker said the suspect also could have injured himself in the attack. In a news release shortly after the homicide took place, Sauk County Sheriff's officials said a confrontation took place between the two men.

Zunker says until this apparent stranger killer is located, there's risk. "There is a suspect in a homicide that is at large right now," Zunker says. "So there's a risk to the community, to any community they're in."

Zunker says the lack of an attendant at the park entrance's kiosk, or a surveillance camera, has not compromised the investigation. "Video doesn't exist on every street corner," he says.

Authorities say Schmutzer's movements in the days before his killing included being at Wildcat Mountain State Park in Vernon County, but Zunker declines to say whether that's relevant to finding his killer.

Zunker asks Devil's Lake Park goers to contact authorities if they had unusual encounters even in the days before the homicide.

Sources tell 27 News several, court-approved searches have taken place in connection with this investigation, including one the week of Halloween. But they say all information connected to those searches has been sealed by a judge.

More at WKOW 27 News

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