One year since stabbing death at Devil’s Lake, police still look for suspect

Published: Oct. 14, 2021 at 7:41 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 14, 2021 at 10:31 PM CDT
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BARABOO, Wis. (WMTV) - Exactly one year since a hiker was stabbed to death at Devil’s Lake State Park, authorities said they have not made any arrests.

The Sauk Co. Sheriff’s Office walked media through the trail where 24-year-old John Schmutzer met his killer. The scene at the park’s south side has been the center of a year-long investigation, with a person of interest still unidentified.

Detective Lieutenant Christopher Zunker said Schmutzer was walking alone through the park, as learned through video evidence and witness testimonies.

“Unfortunately, John ran into someone who, for whatever reason, took his life in the most brutal and violent attack I have seen in more than thirty years of law enforcement,” Zunker said.

Authorities described the person of interest as a man roughly six feet tall, who wore a dark top and dark pants with rips in the knees. They call him “the runner.”

Citing more than 15 witnesses, Zunker said the runner was “seemingly frantic, running in what has been described as an uncontrolled fashion, falling on several occasions.”

Besides looking for the runner, investigators said they have collected more than thirty items of evidence and interviewed hundreds of people around the nation. Now, they are waiting on DNA results for six potential people of interest.

“It’s just as important to rule out innocent people as it is to locate the suspect, and if we talked to somebody and we want to simply rule them out. We will ask for their DNA,” Zunker said.

A year since Schmutzer’s death, Sauk County officials said tips from the community have slowed down but remain essential.

“Now is the time,” Zunker said. “It is beyond time to bring your information and evidence, if you have any, to us for the sake of John and for our communities as a whole.”

Anyone with information can call Sauk Co. Crime Stoppers at (888) TIP-SAUK.

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