NAME: Marianne Schuett, aged 10 years, last seen in Kilbride, Ontario, on April 27, 1967. DESCRIPTION: Height, four feet, six inches; weight, 75 pounds. Last seen wearing red cotton car coat, red plaid skirt, white blouse, blue sweater, blue socks and blue denim running shoes with red laces. She is believed to have been abducted by person or persons unknown. Rewards totaling $5,500 will be paid for information leading to a solution of the case
Every mother has the thought somewhere in the back of her mind when she sends her small children off to school: Watch out for strangers! But this nagging fear, one of the universal burdens of parenthood, wasn’t troubling Mrs. Milton Schuett one Thursday morning last year. For one thing, It was a glorious day In the hamlet of Kilbride, Ontario — one of those crisp days in early spring that remind you that winter Is really finished after all. For another, her 10-year-old daughter Marianne was especially anxious to get to her gradefour class at Kilbride Public School. She usually walked home for lunch, but today she planned to eat at school with two classmates. And so, with a bag of egg sandwiches In one hand and an arithmetic textbook In the other, Marianne began her last day.
The quarter-mile walk to school was uneventful, and Marianne’s final hours In Kilbride seemed like any other day. She spent the morning studying math, spelling and reading. Just before the noon bell rang, she led her 32 classmates in saying grace — it was her < assigned duty that week. Her class spent part of the afternoon watching Governor General Vanler’s funeral on TV, and the rest drawing pictures for social studies. Marianne’s contribution was a drawing of a Mennonite settlement near Kitchener. At 4 p.m., the final bell rang.
Left behind In her desk were the artifacts of a 10-year-old schoolgirl’s happy life. There was a crumpled note from a classmate warning, “You’ll get caught talking.” There was a wellchewed wad of gum. And there was a red notebook containing several essays Marianne had written as classroom projects. “One day I decided to take a trip to Mars,” one essay began. “Then,
I was already to go but, It took 5,723 miles to get there. When I got there I saw a monster and by the time I said HELP he eat me up. Then I could not go home.” Marianne never did get home.
Marianne Schuett has been missing for more than eight months, and her parents refuse to believe she’s dead. This is the story of her disappearance, of the massive search that followed, of the slender clues pointing to her abductor—and of her parents, who still wait for the telephone to ring
Ten minutes after she left the school, two homeward-bound workers from the nearby American Motors plant were driving west on Kilbride Road, near Marianne’s house. Slowing down at the Panton Street intersection near the school, they noticed a small, wellpolished, dark-blue station wagon parked on the shoulder of Kilbride Road. There was a middle-aged man at the
wheel, and he was talking out his window to a small girl in a red car coat.
The two men, Leonard Bodz and Ron Eden, watched the scene curiously as they slowly drove past. Bodz, a married man with children, remembers watching the strange man talking to the little girl. ‘‘There’s an easy way to get picked up,” he remarked.
As their car passed, Bodz continued to watch through the rear-view mirror. When he was several yards past, he
saw the girl walk around behind the stranger’s car — it was later identified as a Renault station wagon—and open the door on the passenger side. ‘‘The crazy little nut got into the car,” Bodz remarked. He watched as the car started up. It drove east on Kilbride Road, past Marianne's house and out of sight. It was the last time Marianne Schuett was seen alive. Bodz and Eden forgot about what they’d seen — until they heard the radio news that night.
An hour after Marianne failed to return home from school, Mrs. Schuett phoned the police. By that evening, the news was on the radio. What eventually became the largest missingperson search in Canadian history had begun.
Police began by questioning neighbors, and conducting a house-to-house search of the area that continued all Thursday night. By Friday morning, radio stations were broadcasting appeals for help from the public.
By Saturday, an estimated 18,000 civilian volunteers had poured into the area. Newspapers, radio and TV stations broadcast appeals for more searchers. Helicopters scanned the area from above while the searchers, including tracking dogs, slogged through the rain-swept fields and woodlands below. Police set up a command post in Kilbride Public School, and deployed more than 200 local and provincial policemen to direct the volunteers. They came from as far as 200 miles away — men who’d canceled weekend hunting trips to join the search, entire families who treated the tragedy as an outing, Boy Scouts — even, at one point, a detachment of army troops. Deep into the night, rain or shine, the volunteer searchers prowled through a 100-mile-square area. Finally the crowds grew so large that police broadcast an appeal for the public to stay home.
It was a vast effort, but a vain one. The only tangible clue was the discovery, the day after the girl’s disappearance, of one of Marianne’s running shoes, with its lace missing, on a roadside 12 miles northeast of Kilbride.
Late last year, long after the cranks and the citizen volunteers had departed, eight policemen were still working full-time on the case. Heading the inquiry is Ontario Provincial Police Inspector William Lidstone (at right), who’s been on the case since it started — and won’t quit until it’s finished. Lidstone and his team have logged more than 15,000 miles and checked out more than 600 suspects across Canada and even in the U.S. They’ve questioned scores of people who resemble the composite drawing, and checked out hundreds of recent sex crimes in the hope of finding suspects who haven’t yet acquired criminal records. They’ve also been keeping a close eye on people who move out of the area suddenly, and they’re still receiving 10 or 12 new leads each week.
Lidstone says the running shoe is the strongest physical evidence uncovered to date. “But even with that,” he says, “we don’t know whether it’s the end of the trail, or the middle of it, or what. So far, we’ve eliminated a lot of suspects, and we’re further ahead by quite a bit than we were at the start.”
Every mass manhunt attracts its share of cranks, hysterical citizens, fortune-tellers and just plain nuts. The search for Marianne Schuett was no exception. The day after her disappearance, a woman phoned police to report that she’d dreamed the girl’s body was at the bottom of a nearby artificial lake. Police dragged the lake, but no body was found. One man phoned to report a suspicious license number. When police found that such a number didn’t exist, the man explained that he’d got it from his Oui ja board. Another man rang in from a Toronto phone booth and confessed to the abduction. The call was traced, police arrested him and, after careful interrogation, laid a public-mischief charge. At the urging of a newspaper reporter, Mr. and Mrs. Schuett got in touch with Gerard Croiset, a Dutch clairvoyant with an impressive record of finding missing children. They mailed him roadmaps of the area, and Croiset sent them back with several areas circled. But when searchers combed the spots Croiset had marked on the map, they found no trace of the missing girl.
This portrait was drawn by a police' artist who interviewed Bodz and Eden, the only two witnesses to the abduction. Bodz describes the man as being in his late 40s or early 50s. He was clean-shaven and fair-complexioned. Bodz is certain he recalls the man wearing glasses with light rims, and is sure he was wearing a light-colored canvas hat with a dark band.
Since the two witnesses saw the man’s face only from a distance, and then only fleetingly, police regard the sketch as one of their less promising leads. But it is the only description available of the man who kidnapped Marianne Schuett — a man who may still be at large, and who could strike again.
At home, the Schuetts are still waiting. They’re keeping Marianne’s bedroom just as it was when she disappeared last April. And every day, auto-assembly worker Milton Schuett, 35, phones the police for news. So far the answer has always been the same.“Nothing today, sir, but we’re still hopeful.” Mrs. Schuett has required medical treatment for a bad case of nerves. Her husband, still fearful of Marianne’s abductor, won’t let their six-year-old son Stephen walk to school unaccompanied.
Late last year, when this story was being prepared, the Schuetts asked
Maclean’s to print an appeal to Marianne’s abductor, wherever he is: “We beg you with all our heart to phone or write us a few words to tell us where she is. We promise on everything we hold dear we will not show the police your letter or tell them of your call. If Marianne is alive, let her go, and tell us where we can find her. If she is dead, let us know where we can find her. We will never identify you no matter what has happened. It is too terrible not knowing. Please phone us or write to us. Her brothers can’t go on not knowing where she is and our hearts are breaking. We have to know. Please be merciful and let our prayers be answered.”
The story you want is part of the Maclean’s Archives. To access it, log in here or sign up for your free 30-day trial.
Experience anything and everything Maclean's has ever published — over 3,500 issues and 150,000 articles, images and advertisements — since 1905. Browse on your own, or explore our curated collections and timely recommendations.WATCH THIS VIDEO for highlights of everything the Maclean's Archives has to offer.