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Cold Case: Mary Schlais

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

By Caroline Lowe, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s been more than 33 years since a young Minneapolis artist left her apartment to hitchhike to an art show in Chicago.

The body of 25-year-old Mary Schlais was found in a snowy ditch three hours later, 90 miles east of the Twin Cities in Dunn County, Wis.

Schlais had been stabbed more than a dozen times. One of the key clues is a black and white photo of a man found in Schlais’ apartment.

The man in the photo has never been identified and police have appealed for help from the public to help solve the brutal murder that happened February 15, 1974.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Detective Craig Koser at the Dunn County Sheriff Department at 715-231-2911.

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Unsolved Murder: Could A Photo Be A Key Clue?

It’s been more than 33 years since a young Minneapolis woman was found stabbed to death in a ditch in Dunn County, Wis. Mary Schlais left her Kenwood apartment to hitchhike to an art show in Chicago. Three hours later, a witness called 911 to report seeing a man throw her body out of a car and take off.

An autopsy showed Schlais had more than a dozen stab wounds and defensive cuts to hands, indicating she had put up a big struggle with her killer. Key evidence was missing including her coat and a purse.

For the past 10 years, Dunn County Detective Craig Koser has been working on the cold case. He keeps a photo of Schlais on his desk as a reminder to keep digging to find answers to who brutally murdered the University of Minnesota honors graduate. She hoped to be a professional artist.

One of the biggest mysteries is an unidentified photo of a man found in Schlais’ apartment. The photo was possibly taken near the band shell at Lake Harriet, according to her family.

The man in the photo looks a lot like a police sketch of the suspect, provided by the eyewitness who saw Mary’s body being dumped in the snow several miles off Interstate 94.

“A lot of similarities in the features,” observed Koser.

Schlais’ brother, Don, thinks the man may have just been someone who agreed to pose for Mary as subject for an art project.

“Could be a clue or it could be a dead end. I have no idea,” said Don Schlais.

“That person has never been identified. We have always wanted to talk to him,” said detective Koser.

Koser isn’t sure if the photo is a key clue or just a coincidence.

“Whether it would help us resolve the case or not, don’t know. But it would just be one of those loose ends it would be nice to tie up and who knows, it might lead us somewhere,” said Koser

Koser took WCCO-TV reporter Caroline Lowe to the isolated area where Schlais’ body was found. It happened the day after Valentine’s Day 1974.

Possible clues at the scene included a blue and orange stocking camp. Koser said the witness believes the killer drove a compact car, possibly a Vega that was gold or orange colored. He’s not sure if the cap belonged to Mary’s attacker or it was just left by someone else in the area.

Koser suspects the killer was not a stranger.

“You think there is a pretty good chance she knew her killer?” asked Lowe

“That’s my hunch, yea. And what happened to cause that amount of violence I do not know. But I think she probably had some idea who this person was,” said Koser.

Koser keeps in touch with Schlais’ brother.

“I really miss her a lot,” said Don Schlais.

Don Schlais is grateful the veteran detective hasn’t forgotten his sister’s case, even if it has long faded from the headlines.

“I guess I would like to face the person who did this to my sister,” said Don Schlais.

Koser hopes someone will come forward with information so he can finally provide answers and justice.

“To think that somebody is still out there doing this and without being held accountable for what they done, that is something that doesn’t set well with me,” he said.

Koser’s number at the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department is 715-231-2911.

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