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Posse Tracks Down Man Sought in Wife’s Slaying

Times Staff Writer

An Anaheim man who allegedly killed his wife and threatened to “punish” 54 other people was arrested Friday after a posse of Montana deputies chased him down in the rugged, snow-capped mountains of Idaho.

David L. Schoenecker, 48, was arrested without incident by Mineral County, Mont., deputies who had tracked him on horseback through the wooded, mountainous terrain of western Montana and eastern Idaho, authorities said.

Schoenecker was booked at the Mineral County Jail in Superior, Mont., and bail was set at $500,000. At an arraignment hearing, he refused to waive extradition to Anaheim, where he is wanted in the murder of his 40-year-old wife, Gail Schoenecker.

Her body was discovered by police Thursday after Schoenecker allegedly sent a five-page letter to a columnist for the Register of Orange County claiming that he had killed his wife and telling where her body could be found.

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Anaheim police searched the couple’s north Anaheim home and found a woman’s body on a bed in the master bedroom. Police said the body was badly decomposed, and formal identification had not been made, but they believed that it was Schoenecker’s wife.

An autopsy revealed that the woman had died of a single gunshot wound to the head from a large-caliber weapon. At the time of Schoenecker’s arrest, Montana authorities said, he was carrying a .357-caliber revolver.

In the letter to the newspaper, Schoenecker made reference to a list of people he had left behind who would be “punished.” Police said they found a list of 54 names in the Schoenecker house, all of them from Wisconsin. Schoenecker and his wife lived for a time in Milwaukee.

“Not everyone on the list will receive total punishment--but they will be punished,” said an excerpt of the letter, which was obtained by The Times. “The images in my mind shows me exactly how and when and where the punishment will be delivered. It has to be done.”

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The letter gave no clues as to what precipitated the killing, and police remained puzzled over why it happened.

“There was no hatred--I loved her--but the action was necessary because I have a purpose, and one that cannot have an interruption or interference,” the letter said.

Lt. Marc Hedgpeth, an Anaheim police spokesman, said detectives were to fly to Montana Friday night with an arrest warrant and seek to have Schoenecker returned to Orange County to face charges.


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