Loading
Search
NEWS STORIES

Newswatch 12 Exclusive: Inside the Susan Poupart cold case investigationSubmitted: 05/21/2014
Story By Lauren Stephenson

Newswatch 12 Exclusive: Inside the Susan Poupart cold case investigation
VILAS COUNTY - Susan Poupart, a mother with two young children, disappeared 24 years ago Wednesday. She was found murdered six months later. No one has ever been charged for her murder. In a Newswatch 12 exclusive, you'll learn new details about the case, see newly-released photos from the crime scene, and for the first time ever, visit the spot where Poupart's remains were found (click play video). Investigators believe someone knows how she ended up deep in a Northwoods forest.

"I have a picture of Suzy with her two children...As I've moved from office to office, I just bring it with me. It's just to remind me that, you know, that's an unsolved case," said Vilas County Sheriff Joe Fath.

The cold case weighs heavily on him, just as it has since 1990. He was one of the first people to investigate 29-year-old Susan Poupart's disappearance and murder. Now as Sheriff, he hopes new forensics and new interviews will lead to charges and convictions for the Lac du Flambeau woman's murder.

"She was attending an after-bar party on Makwa [Trail]...And she left the party at approximately 4 a.m...Many people saw her get in the car with Joe Cobb and Robert Elm," Fath explained.

One eye-witness told police two men forced Poupart into a car. That was May 20, 1990, the last time anybody saw Suzy. Both Joe Cobb and Robert Elm are considered suspects, as well as Fritz Schuman. His name came up in interviews after Poupart's disappearance. All three still live in the area. Cobb and Elm told investigators they were driving Poupart home, but they ended up dropping her off at the old Lac du Flambeau Elementary school, where the casino is now.

"The original officers had conducted a number of interviews with people that were involved that over that initial time period, didn't really seem to make sense," said Lieutenant Carl Gauger.

On Thanksgiving Day 1990, two hunters were walking in the Chequamegon National Forest in Price County. They came across an area where they found Suzy Poupart's purse with her tribal ID and a jacket underneath a log. When the hunters pulled the jacket out, they found a human jaw.

"There were indications that the remains had been scattered by animals, and we didn't see that same indication in the clothing," Gauger explained.

Investigators believe Poupart had been sexually assaulted and left naked. They also think her remains were wrapped in plastic since they found plastic and duct tape at the scene.

"The remains had been covered by logs and brush...it appeared there was animal activity that dispersed the remains and the vast majority of the remains were not recovered," said Gauger.

Investigators think one of the suspects used to hunt in the area where the remains were found. But at the time Poupart's remains and belongings were found, DNA technology didn't exist. That's why the Vilas County Sheriff's Office is re-submitting evidence for DNA analysis.

"We're examining evidence typically for body fluids...whether that's blood evidence, whether it's semen, saliva. It may be hairs," said Dan Campbell, Forensic Scientist Supervisor of DNA at the Wisconsin State Crime Lab in Madison.

Campbell says they have been able to get DNA from evidence more than 50 years old. But certain factors make recovering DNA from evidence very difficult.

"Humidity, sunlight, just the UV light associated with sunlight can break it down so the natural elements out in our environment over time, will have a degradation effect on DNA, and at some point, that DNA may not be viable for us to get a DNA profile," Campbell explained.

Even if the lab can't find DNA on the items left at the scene, the Sheriff says that won't stop investigators from moving forward with the case.

"Eventually, we will convince a prosecutor and a judge to move forward with charging this particular case and moving it forward for the courts to address...Suzy's remains were found in the Chequamegon National Forest, which is federal land. There are federal statutes that apply to this type of crime so that's a possibility that we move forward in state court and/or ask the U.S. Attorney to consider moving forward in federal court," said Fath.

Above all else, they want people to come forward with any information.

"Over the years, we've had a number of individuals come forward with information that they actually believe we already had...frequently, we don't have that information...Anybody, with any information pertaining to the Suzy Poupart case needs to come forward and talk to law enforcement...for the sake of Suzy Poupart's family," said Gauger.

"There are people in the Lac du Flambeau community that know what happened to Suzy...This is going to involve not only our department, but the Lac du Flambeau community to solve. And I'm confident we can do that, if the people that have the information come forward," Fath said.

Investigators are conducting new interviews. A new special agent from the Division of Criminal Investigation has been assigned to the case. She is working out of the Vilas County Sheriff's Office. Sheriff Fath believes even if DNA isn't found on the evidence, they could move forward with a circumstantial case. He points to the recent conviction of Mark Bucki for murdering his wife Anita in Lincoln County.

If you have any information related to the disappearance and murder of Susan Poupart, call the Wisconsin Department of Justice and ask for Special Agent Tami Augsburger (608)266-1671. You can also call the Vilas County Sheriff's Office (800) 472-7290 and ask for Lieutenant Carl Gauger or Sheriff Joe Fath.
There is a $20,000 reward.

Text Size: + Increase | Decrease -
| Print Story | Email Story
Sponsored in part by HodagSports.com





 IN OTHER NEWS

Play Video

CONOVER - June 22 makes it the 14th day of rainfall for us this month, and it's not been very convenient.

People all over northcentral Wisconsin have had to deal with storm damage or flooding in some way.

Pioneer Lake in Conover has had a particularly tough time with flooding not only because of the rain, but also because of a dam upstream.

"We've got 20 piers here, and they're floating away, they're underwater," said Maple View Resort and Campground Owner Tony Osiecki. "I've never seen it like this in fifty years."

Osiecki blames the deluge of rain we've gotten in the past few weeks for the flooding in his resort. But he and many others on the lake also blame a dam upstream.

+ Read More

RHINELANDER - Nicolet College's Motorcycle Basic Rider Course teaches folks to safely hit the road on their bike.

The class is in full swing for the season.

Nicolet College Rider Coach Mike Murray says even experienced riders can use a "safety brush-up" this time of year.

Riders should always wear their helmet, long pants and shirts, gloves, and boots.

It's also important to keep your eyes moving for critters that come out of the woods,especially deer.

"If you know you're going to hit it: let off your brakes, hit it with your handle bars straight ahead looking straight ahead so that your bike stays straight up," says rider coach Mike Murray.

+ Read More

Play Video

RHINELANDER - After nearly 40 years as a pharmacist, Tom Welke has been robbed, threatened at gunpoint, and had his pharmacy burgled.

"It just kind of goes along with the job, in a way," Welke said in Rhinelander's Apothecary Pharmacy on Thursday afternoon.

One of the main reasons lately for those crimes tends to be people trying to get their hands illegally on pseudoephedrine pills, which they can use to make meth.

+ Read More

GREEN BAY, WI - Firefighters had to rescue a man after his minivan became wedged in a drawbridge in downtown Green Bay.

Officials say the van got stuck between one of the opening spans and the fixed roadway on the Walnut Street Bridge early Thursday.

+ Read More

Play Video

RHINELANDER - Hodag Park received a sizable donation Thursday morning. New sand was dropped off to help the Rhinelander Parks Department grow the beach back to its original shape.

There were thousands of pounds of sand dropped off and spread out. There was a high need for this because of all the rain we've had this season.

"It was getting in pretty poor shape and washing out more and more, but this year especially, it just seems like we've lost a lot of sand. So now we're going to shape it up nicely and hopefully it'll last the year," said Rhinelander Parks Director, Jeremy Biolo.

All of that sand was donated and delivered by a company in Rhinelander.

"Musson Brothers, Inc. donated all the sand and they said we could help ourselves to as much as we want, which is unbelievable because this beach really needed some work," said Biolo. "Every little bit like that helps our community out and it improves the community. It's awesome that the Musson Brothers stepped up and would do that for us."

+ Read More

Play Video

MERRILL - One hundred years ago, Finland gained its independence from Russia. As part of Finland's birthday, a sauna will travel the United States.

On Thursday, the traveling sauna stopped in Merrill. Since January, the sauna has been traveling around the country.

+ Read More

Play Video

RHINELANDER - Bill Makris taught P.E. at Rhinelander High School for 30 years. But he's since shifted his time to teaching summer camps.

"These are kids that want to be here," said Makris.

The camps aren't your typical workshops or outdoor activities.

"Strength training, speed development, agility," said Makris.

He helps younger kids concentrate on attainable athletic goals.

"I do like running track and cross country so I want to increase my speed ability," said Rhinelander 8th grader, Sage Flory.

+ Read More
+ More General News
Search: 





Click Here