Man probes link in deaths of city woman, his niece

by Donald Woutat, Minneapolis Star Staff Writer

The Minneapolis Star
Tuesday, February 19, 1974

For Matthew Murphy, the news that a woman hitchhiker from Minneapolis had been murdered precipitated a Sunday drive to the scene of the killing in western Wisconsin.

The purpose:  to learn whether there might be a link between the death Friday and the murder 18 months ago of his niece, Joll Truelson, 16, in Minneapolis.

Murphy found that there are some similarities, including descriptions of the cars driven by the killers in each case.

"It's just an outside chance," said Murphy, a teacher at Sibley High School in West St. Paul.  "The color of the car is what caught my attention."

A man driving a gold or orange compact car was seen pushing the body of Mary K. Schlais, 25, 1921 Irving Av. S., from the vehicle onto a township road about 13 miles east of Menomonie, Wis., Friday afternoon.

In July 1972, Joll Truelson's body was found in Minnehaha Creek after she had hitched a ride with a man driving a small, late-model gold car near Lake Calhoun.

Neither victim was undressed or had been sexually attacked, but both were brutally killed.  Miss Schlais had several stab wounds and a broken nose, and Miss Truelson's skull had been caved in by blows to the back of her head.

In addition, there is reason to think Miss Schlais was picked up someone in the Minneapolis area.  She was to have left for Chicago about 10:30 a.m. Friday, and her body was found about three hours later, too short a time for there to have been much delay in her trip.

Descriptions of the suspects--one by a friend of Joli's who saw her get into the car, the other by a man who drove by when Miss Schlais' body was pushed out of the car--are inconclusive in terms of matching the two.

These are thin threads, agree Murphy, Minneapolis police homicide Lt. John Searles and Paul Diedrich, undersheriff in Dunn County, Wis.

"It's a long shot," Searles said.  "But (the Truelson case) is the first thing we thought of when we heard of the murder in Wisconsin.  We haven't  ruled out the possibility of a connection."

The Schlais case at least holds out the possibility that the killer, if arrested, can be identified by the man who drove by, Searles said.  The witness was unable to give deputies a license number of the car, they said.

For Murphy and Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Truelson, 4851 E. Lake Harriet Blvd., Joli's parents, the Schlais case is not the first time that hopes have been raised.

Searles says police have followed up on "at least 100 cases so far" of hitchhiker-molesting and similar incidents.  Meanwhile, Miss Truelson's family has conducted its own active investigation.

A $5,000 reward still is available for information on the case, and Murphy says he has questioned countless young people in the Lake Calhoun area.  He says he saturated south Minneapolis neighborhoods with pamphlets describing the case and asking for help.

"Nothing really turned up," Murphy said, "except a couple of crank calls.

"It's a family kind of thing," he said of the fruitless search.  "There's...

Designed by Terry Fisk
Revised: September 28, 2004

Designed by Terry Fisk
Copyright Unexplained Research. All rights reserved.
Revised: September 28, 2004