PAYNESVILLE, Minn. (WCCO) — A blanket of fresh white snow can’t soften the sadness that residents of Paynesville are feeling.
“I don’t think Willie would hurt a fly, he was just a kind guy,” says Gary Herzberg.
He is talking about close friends and fellow church members Wilbert and Gloria Scheel. The elderly couple was well-known around the area and much loved.
“If something came up he’d be there to help out. And the church people are taking it pretty hard,” Herzberg said.
The Scheel’s were reported missing from their Paynesville home late Wednesday. The following day their car was located about 20 miles west of town, stuck in the mud along a rural Kandiyohi County road. Inside, under a piece of carpeting, were their bodies.
Just a few hours later, authorities arrested 33-year-old grandson Gregory Allen Scheel, who was located just half a mile from the vehicle. He was arrested and booked into the Kandiyohi County jail on suspicion of murder.
“It’s something I never would have thought would happen to the Scheel’s,” Herzberg adds.
On Monday, Stearns County charged Gregory Scheel with his grandparent’s murders. According to the criminal complaint, Scheel choked his grandfather with a plastic bag after tying his arms and legs. He is accused of strangling Gloria Scheel with an electrical cord. One lens from her eyeglasses was discovered in the garage floor drain.
There is also evidence of blood found on the garage floor, and the appearance of an attempt to clean it up. The couple’s Toyota Prius smelled of gasoline inside, and parts of the interior were charred and sooty.
“Just to have children or grandkids do something like that, has to take a person with mental problems to do that,” Paynesville resident Sig Pheifer said.
Willie loved driving his old Cadillac in area parades and was often seen playing ping-pong against younger competitors at the local community center.
Both Willie and Gloria were active in their local Grace United Methodist Church.
“It’s pretty tough to go through,” said Herzberg.
An Easter week this couple would be celebrating at their place of worship is now a church community preparing for a funeral. Their sudden and horrifying deaths have left everyone in this small town stunned and deeply saddened.
“It’s really sad someone could do that to their own grandma and grandpa. It’s hard to believe it,” Herzberg said.
Gregory Scheel has a lengthy criminal record and was actually living with his grandparents. He’s in the Stearns County Jail where his bail was set at $3 million. His next court date is scheduled for April 9. Both counts of second-degree murder would carry a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison upon conviction.
WCCO featured Wilbert Scheel in a story last year. The great-grandfather spoke to us about his love for ping pong. He’s a seven-time cancer survivor who played the game four nights a week to stay in shape.
The elderly couple even delivered Meals On Wheels for nearly 20 years.
Neighbors say the Scheels knew their grandson had problems, but were always willing to let him stay with them and help him out.