Woloson convicted in 1981 of slaying of SIUC student
Sunday, March 19, 2006
MURPHYSBORO - Few things remain
in the grassy area where an SIUC student was raped
and murdered nearly 25 years ago. Until Friday.
After a man was convicted of the
1981 murder of Susan Schumake late last week, yellow
tulips and a smiley face balloon could be spotted at
the area where she was killed across from the
Physical Plant. The case was finally closed.
After the jury deliberated for
about an hour and a half, the verdict Schumake's
family and friends had waited for more than two
decades was delivered. A Michigan man, Daniel
Woloson, was found guilty of murdering the 21-year-old
radio television student from Chicago Heights.
Schumake's brother John clutched
a red rosary as high school and college friends of
Schumake wept, holding one another's hand.
"Our little friend can finally
rest in peace," said Mary Giobbi, a high school
friend of Schumake who traveled from Oregon to hear
The courtroom was filled with
retired police officers who worked on the case and
friends and family of Schumake. After the guilty
verdict was read, a few sighs could be heard, but
the courtroom was nearly silent.
Then the sound of chains echoed
in the courtroom as deputies shackled Woloson and
took him back to jail. He will remain in the
Murphysboro jail until the judge sentences him on
Woloson, 46, was arrested and
charged with Schumake's murder on Sept. 23, 2004,
after the woman friends referred to as a "gentle
spirit" was brutally raped and murdered on Aug. 17,
Advances in DNA technology helped
create a DNA profile of the person who raped and
killed Schumake. The DNA profile showed that there
was one out 290 million people that it would match.
It matched Woloson.
Schumake's body was found between
the railroad tracks and Highway 51, along a pathway
known then as the Ho Chi Minh trail. While the trail
still remains, it is no longer used. After Schumake
was killed, the pedestrian overpass near the
Physical Plant was erected and named in her memory.
A fence prevents access to the trail from the Brush
Cass VanDerMeer and Juli Claussen
were students at the time of Schumake's murder and
attended Woloson's trial. While plans for the
overpass were discussed before Schumake's murder,
they worked to get the bridge erected in Schumake's
"Now we know justice can be
done," VanDerMeer said. "I am glad we were here for
the whole thing."
Claussen said a sense of closure
was gained after Woloson was found guilty.
John Schumake said he and Susan
were close friends and that his younger sister's
murder affected his family tremendously. He said his
father died shortly after Susan's death from what he
said was a "broken heart".
"He didn't just hurt my sister,
but he hurt Carbondale and southern Illinois. It was
like an open sore," he said.
Jackson County State's Attorney
Mike Wepsiec, who prosecuted Woloson, said finally
hearing the verdict was almost surreal.
He said after the trial was
delayed so many times, he was unsure of when it
would actually happen. Woloson awaited trial for
nearly 18 months after his arrest. His attorney,
Public Defender Patricia Gross, made several motions
to continue based on DNA contamination.
While the prosecution used DNA
evidence to link Woloson to Schumake's murder, the
defense claimed the evidence was contaminated and
never linked Woloson to the crime.
But the jury thought otherwise.
After four days of testimony last week, the jury
deliberated for less than two hours. The 12 jurors
heard testimony from 19 witnesses. The majority of
the witnesses were retired police officers who
worked on the case and DNA experts.
Woloson was 22 years old when he
raped and murdered Schumake. Woloson was working at
the Quadrangle Apartment, performing maintenance
labor. He could not be charged with Schumake's rape
because the statute of limitation ran out years ago.
While DNA linked Woloson to the
murder, John Schumake said the determination of
several police officers played an integral role in
solving the 25-year-old mystery.
Lowell McGee, a retired SIUC
police detective, said he had a feeling it was
Woloson all along. He had interviewed Woloson days
after the murder and set up another meeting, but
Woloson never showed.
In 1981, he made the trip to the
Joliet Corrections department to visit Woloson.
Woloson was serving time for a parole violation on a
prior burglary conviction.
Sgt. Paul Echols of the
Carbondale Police Department started working at the
department one week before Schumake was killed.
He was the last witness the
prosecution called to testify. Echols kept in
contact with the Schumake family over the years and
discussed advancing DNA technology with state police.
When technology advanced, a DNA
profile was made of the unknown male DNA found in
Schumake's vagina after she was raped.
After Echols had a profile, he
went back to the other suspects. Police first
believed convicted serial killer John Paul Phillips
was guilty of the murder. However, after exhuming
his body when he died in 1993 and testing his femur
for DNA, he was ruled out.
Besides Woloson, there were two
other suspects the police continued to look at. DNA
ruled both of them out as well. When Woloson was
asked to provide DNA, he refused and denied any
connection to Schumake.
Echols talked to Michigan police,
conducted surveillance and finally got a break when
cigarette butts from a car Woloson recently sold
The DNA from the cigarette butts
matched the unknown male profile linked to the
murder. He obtained a search warrant and went to
Michigan where he arrested Woloson for the murder.
While Schumake's friends and
family thanked Echols for his determination, he was
modest and said he was only a part of the
"I was part of a much, much
bigger team effort," Echols said. "In my mind, he's
been guilty for a long time."
During closing statements,
Wepsiec told the jury to use their common sense and
convict Woloson. He told them to imagine a scenario
at a football field where the stadium could seat 290
million people. He said after everyone whose DNA did
not match the DNA found at the murder scene would
sit down, only one person would remain standing.
"And that's Daniel Woloson," he
bellowed to the jurors.
Woloson remained quiet and
emotionless through the entire trial. Gross
explained to the jury that the prosecution's theory
was simply a theory and not a reality.
She told the jurors to only pay
attention to the realities of the case, which
include the contamination of the DNA. The
prosecution admitted that one of the DNA swabs was
contaminated, but Wepsiec and DNA experts explained
that the DNA slide used to create the profile was
"There is no evidence at all that
connects Mr. Woloson to the crime scene," Gross said.
"If you have any doubts about the contamination then
you can find that the state has not proven to you
beyond a reasonable doubt."
But the 12 jurors didn't have any
John Schumake said he plans to
return to Carbondale - a place he once had horrible
memories of - for Woloson's sentencing in April.
After Woloson was arrested, John
Schumake created a Web site that he used to provide
trial information and updates for family and friends.
He wrote about the flowers, marking the spot where
his sister died.
"I believe my father, mother and
sister can stop pacing the clouds in heaven,
concerned that a violent and dangerous predator is
on the streets," he wrote. "They can rest now."
Woloson guilty of 1981 murder
Andrea Hahn - The Southern
Saturday, March 18, 2006
JACKSON COUNTY - An ordeal that began nearly 25
years ago ended on Friday with the guilty verdict of
Daniel Woloson, who had been charged in the 1981
murder of Susan Schumake.
Schumake, a Chicago Heights native studying radio
and television at Southern Illinois University
Carbondale, was raped and murdered on Aug. 17, 1981,
as she used a common shortcut across campus known
then as the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
Woloson, a 46-year-old Michigan man, was arrested in
September 2004, after improved DNA technology
contributed to making him a prime suspect.
"The DNA in this case doesn't lie," Jackson County
State's Attorney Michael Wepsiec said during his
closing argument. "The defendant is the person in
this great whodunit. Daniel Woloson is the person
who killed Susan Schumake."
makes me feel sorry for people where the verdict
doesn't come out the way maybe it should," John
Schumake, Susan's brother, said after the verdict
courtroom was filled to capacity with friends and
family of Susan Schumake on Friday. John Schumake
held a rosary while the verdict was read, crossing
himself quietly before the jury came in for the
Judge Donald Lowery warned the assembly that he
wouldn't tolerate "outbursts of any kind" before the
clerk read the verdict. There were no outbursts, but
there were tears and hugs. One friend of the family
noticed that John Schumake was shaking with emotion
after a stressful week.
don't think I'll stop shaking for a long time," he
thanked Sgt. Paul Echols, a Carbondale police
officer who played a crucial role in the
investigation that led to Woloson's arrest, retired
police officer Lowell McGee and Wepsiec.
"Police officers like Lowell and Paul don't come
along often enough," he said. "I thank you, and my
father (now deceased) thanks you. He can't be here,
but I feel it in my heart."
McGee he said, "You were a good police officer. If
you hadn't been, this day would not have come."
Closing arguments centered on the DNA evidence that
was a critical part of the case against Woloson.
Wepsiec used a flow chart to explain how the
biological evidence used to create a DNA profile of
Susan's killer remained untainted, though other
biological evidence in the case became contaminated.
"The statistics given to you (showing that Woloson's
DNA matches the DNA profile created from the
evidence) are reliable only if the testing
procedures are reliable," argued Woloson's attorney,
Public Defender Patricia Gross. "The reality is that
contamination is an issue - it is a huge issue.
Despite all the safeguards (at the state police
forensic crime labs) contamination happens."
talk about the reality in this case," Wepsiec said.
"There was absolutely no evidence presented in this
courtroom that proved the slide (used to create the
DNA profile compared to Woloson's DNA) was
contaminated. There was no DNA (expert) witness
called to show that these procedures were invalid...
(Woloson) says he didn't know Susan Schumake, didn't
see her, didn't have sex with her, didn't kill her.
Then how did his DNA end up in her vagina? That's a
great piece of reality right there."
an interview after the verdict was read, Wepsiec
said he has been with this case for nearly two years.
He said he can't allow himself to become emotionally
"You've got to be objective," he said. "You have to
be able to respond to last minute motions and
story of how Woloson was brought to justice, however,
is a dramatic one.
When Susan Schumake was killed, the obvious suspect
seemed to be John Paul Phillips, a man later
convicted of murder and suspected of killing several
young women in the area. Though Phillips was never
charged with Susan Schumake's murder, friends,
family and many law enforcement officers were
certain he was Susan's killer as well.
all police officers were convinced. One was Lt.
McGee. McGee had questioned Woloson in 1981 after
finding his duffel bag in the general vicinity of
the murder. There wasn't hard evidence to support an
arrest at the time, but McGee said Woloson's manner,
lies about his alibi and flight from the area made
him suspicious of the then 22-year-old drifter.
the day (Det. Bob Hopkins and I) picked him up, we
just had that feeling," he said. "When he ran, we
2001, Echols, then a crime scene technician in
Carbondale, used DNA technology to exclude Phillips
as a suspect.
Echols had applied the latest in forensic technology,
including latent fingerprint recovery, to evidence
in the Susan Schumake case as well as other open
murder cases that had gone cold. He sent biological
evidence to the state police forensic crime lab and
a DNA profile of the killer was created.
Echols used a femur taken from Phillips' exhumed
body to have a DNA profile created of the favored
suspect. DNA proved Phillips was not the man who
killed Susan Schumake.
Echols collected blood standards from two other
suspects. They were excluded.
2004, Echols used DNA collected from cigarette butts
in a car previously owned by Woloson to create a
profile. It matched the killer's. It was enough to
get him a court order demanding a blood standard
from Woloson. That and Woloson's admission that he
had Susan Schumake's backpack within days of her
murder - an admission that also placed him within
yards of the murder scene - contributed to the
Woloson was arrested in Michigan on Sept. 22, 2004.
Mary Giobbi, a close friend of Susan Schumake, said
the case has been a terrible nightmare for Susan's
friends and family. They were told Phillips was the
killer, she said, and they thought the case was
when they exhumed Phillips and found he wasn't it,
it all started over again," she said. "I think the
hardest thing was watching her dad become a broken
man because of what happened to Susan."
were so young when this happened," Luanne Blue,
another close friend, said. "She was cheated from so
John Schumake said the closure of the case would
bring closure to Carbondale as well.
affected my whole family," he said. "He didn't hurt
just my little sister. But it hurt Carbondale as
well. Until this was closed, it was like an open
Woloson was stoic throughout the trial, showing no
visible emotion at any point during the testimony,
nor when the verdict was read.
Man gets 40 years for SIU
Thursday, May 18, 2006
CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A paroled burglar who for more
than two decades managed to avoid arrest in the
killing of a Southern Illinois University student
taking a shortcut across campus was sentenced
Wednesday to 40 years in prison for her murder.
Daniel Woloson, 46, was given the maximum allowable
under sentencing guidelines in place in 1981 when he
strangled Susan Schumake, 21, of Chicago Heights.
Jurors deliberated less than three hours in March
before convicting Woloson of first-degree murder. No
one had been charged until Woloson was arrested in
2004 while living in Michigan, after DNA technology
made him the prime suspect.
Woloson was a convicted burglar out on parole at
the time of the slaying, worked at a Carbondale
apartment complex and was not an SIU student.
At the time of
Schumake's murder, police focused their
attention on John Paul Phillips, a man later
convicted of murder and suspected of killing
several young women in the area. Though Phillips
never was charged with her murder, friends,
family and many law enforcement officers were
certain he was Schumake's killer as well.
When DNA tests in
2001 failed to link Phillips to the crime,
investigators, notably Carbondale police Sgt.
Paul Echols, turned their attention to another
stack of potential suspects that included
Wepsiec heralded Echols for doggedly pursuing
Schumake's killer over the years.
"But for the
diligence and determination of Sgt. Paul Echols,
this case would never have seen the light of day,"
the prosecutor said. "He deserves a tremendous
amount of credit for bringing Mr. Woloson to
A message left
Wednesday with Patricia Gross, Woloson's public
defender, was not immediately returned.
Illinois Department of Corrections records indicate
Woloson was on parole for a 1979 burglary conviction
in Sangamon County at the time of Schumake's murder.
A parole violation was the last time Woloson was in
state custody. He completed his parole in April 1983
and had not been arrested again in Illinois.
Susan Schumake, 21, the victim.