Wisconsin is known for many things - its famous former residents like Oprah Winfrey and Mark Ruffalo, its dairy production, and its output of Pabst Blue Ribbon, Old Milwaukee, or Schlitz, just to name a few.
While the American Dairyland state is often synonymous with cheese, many people might not know that Wisconsin also has a dark history of unsolved crimes. From bones in chimneys to “Cadillac Daddies,” mystery awaits those who dive into these haunting crimes.
A Mystery Man May Have Information On Deidre Harm's Murder
On the night of June 10, 2006, Deidre Harm left her young daughter with a babysitter and went out to enjoy a night with friends. That night was one of Harm’s first times away from her daughter since becoming a mother.
Harm and her friends traveled to downtown Wisconsin Rapids to visit notable bars such as The Body Shop and The Finish Line. As the night grew late, Harm left with a man no one in her close circle seemed to know. The next day, after failing to return to her apartment and collect her daughter from the babysitter, Harm was reported missing.
Police were baffled at Harm's disappearance, as there were no indications of foul play or criminal activity. The police would release a sketch of the person Harm was last seen with, but to no avail.
Five months passed before two local hunters in the town of Seneca found Harm’s skeletal remains. The autopsy ruled her death as undetermined. With only slight trauma to the bones, the coroner could not determine if Harm was a victim of foul play. Even with an inconclusive autopsy, police continued to search for answers. Then, in 2009, they got the potential break they needed: The Wisconsin Rapids Police Chief, Kurt Heuer, received a tip from an unnamed man to check out 36-year-old Christopher Revak.
Revak was in jail at the time because of his connections to two different missing person cases from Missouri. Each disappearance shared similarities to Harm’s case, and Revak was known to have visited downtown Wisconsin Rapids the night of Harm’s disappearance.
Unfortunately, investigators would never get the chance to confront Revak, as he ended his own life in the Douglas County Jail before he could be interviewed. This unfavorable outcome placed investigators back at square one, but even after Revak’s death, investigators still hope they can solve Harm’s case.
- Photo: Jackson County Sheriff's Office / Wisconsin Clearinghouse for Missing & Exploited Children & Adults / Fair Use
An Earring May Hold The Key To Finding Dennis McConn's Killer
On August 15, 1978, a local logging crew notified the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office that they had discovered a human skull. Authorities extracted the skull - as well as vertebrae, parts of a jaw bone, and an earring - from a remote area of the Township of Knapp.
Without DNA technology, however, investigators were unable to connect a name to the remains. Therefore, investigators regarded the death as a presumed homicide, and the case was deemed unsolved. The remains sat unidentified in the Wisconsin County Sheriff's evidence room for 43 years until one day, authorities decided to take another look.
In early 2019, the DNA Doe Project was contacted for assistance on the case. The DNA Doe Project is a non-profit organization specializing in genetic genealogy used to identify John and Jane Does - this would be the third Wisconsin case they helped solve. After DNA extraction, sequencing, and bioinformatics were completed in September 2020, the team began their research efforts.
The DNA was uploaded to Family Tree DNA in late November, and within three days, a match was found. They discovered that the remains belonged to 29-year-old Dennis McConn, who was last seen leaving his home in Kenosha, WI, in January 1977.
Ever since McConn's identity was discovered, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office has asked the public to share any leads they may have, including who might have been the owner of the earring found near McConn's remains. Investigators are unsure if the earring belonged to McConn himself, or if it belonged to an unknown assailant.
Investigators claim the earring, a silver-colored Medi-Stud brand earring, was used by ear-piercing salons and might offer them the information they need. However, since announcing McConn’s name to the public, authorities have received no substantial tips, and the case is still unsolved.
Who Killed Dexter Stefonek On Bad Route Road?
On a frigid day in November 1985, state highway worker Clyde Mitchell was making his usual rest stop visits. Mitchell was typically tasked with keeping an eye on the Bad Route rest stop in Montana. On his way to check in with the rest stop's janitor, Mitchell noticed a suspicious Chevy truck with Arizona license plates in the parking lot. He also noted that the truck was filled with clothing.
Assuming someone must live in the truck, Mitchell asked janitor Fred Siegle if he had noticed the Chevy. Siegle claimed he had noticed a pickup earlier, but no other cars. Not thinking much of the situation, Mitchell left the rest stop to complete his regular routes.
Minutes after Mitchell’s departure, Siegle saw a brown Plymouth Horizon pull into the rest stop. According to Siegle, the driver got out carrying two large plastic containers. The man was reportedly around six feet tall, between 35 and 40 years old, and gave no indication that he was doing anything suspicious. Siegle left the rest stop after completing his duties, and within 30 minutes, the Horizon was ablaze and the Chevy truck had disappeared.
Mitchell returned to the rest stop after seeing the plume of smoke and notified the police. Once investigators arrived, they were unsure of the crime scene they were walking into; they theorized the fire might have been a purposeful act of anger and the arsonist may have caught a ride with a trucker once the car began to burn. Ultimately, authorities determined that at the time of Mitchell's truck investigation, the culprit had left the rest stop in the Plymouth Horizon, only to return to retrieve their truck and light the Horizon on fire.
Not until a body was discovered 110 days later did investigators realize the original arson was not an act of defiance. The body was that of the Plymouth Horizon's owner, Dexter Stefonek, a Wisconsin native on his way home from visiting his son in Oregon. The last time he was seen was in Park City, MT, where he filled up his car at a gas station.
Stefonek had shared that he would only pull over at rest stops just long enough to nap, as he was eager to get home. Stefonek’s body was found by a local couple who were dumping their trash at a nearby private landfill. The couple found Stetonek's wallet with cash inside, which helped investigators rule out robbery as a possible motive.
Investigators began working with local Arizona police to locate the owner of the Chevy truck. They struggled to find any solid leads until authorities found a clue in the men’s room at the Bad Route rest area one week later: a small line of graffiti written in pencil and beginning with the words “Hot Jock.”
Police have not released the entire message, but they believe it may be linked to Stefonek’s murder. Coroner Lance Silha’s theory was that someone wanted investigators to see it, as the graffiti referred to "shot" and "Wisconsin," and included a date indicating November. Since discovering the graffiti, investigators have not received any other leads as to why Stefonek was targeted, and the case has remained unsolved.
Chad Maurer Was Found Dead In A Garage 150 Miles From His Home
On May 19, 1990, Wisconsin native Chad Maurer's body was found by a maintenance worker in an unlocked garage in Chicago’s south side; he was 19 years old. When investigators arrived, they found the ignition of Maurer’s yellow Mustang engaged, causing the battery to die and the gas to empty from the car.
According to Maurer's parents, he had left for work earlier that day and was not displaying any sort of erratic behavior. However, Maurer's parents soon found out that he never made it to work, and panic set in. Two days later, they received a call from Chicago Police that Maurer’s body was found 150 miles from his Madison home. The police claimed his death was the result of carbon monoxide poisoning, and although an autopsy confirmed this and investigators deemed his death a suicide, Maurer's parents didn't believe it. His family rallied for answers, as they firmly believed their son's death was the result of foul play. The family's push led investigators to reevaluate the case, and Madison-area officials joined in to help search for answers.
With the involvement of Madison officials, new evidence began to arise. A jean jacket not belonging to Maurer (at least according to his parents) that Chicago investigators found in Maurer's car was lost by the Chicago police department. Investigators also discovered that the carbon monoxide levels within his body were at 74%, indicating that Maurer was already unconscious when the car started running.
Eventually, investigators ruled Maurer's death as “undetermined,” but there were still no answers as to why he was in Chicago. Theories began circulating regarding his disappearance, as well as rumors stating that he was running drugs or was forced to drive to Chicago against his will, but neither theory has been confirmed.
Even now, Maurer's family and investigators have no leads as to what exactly happened to him that fateful day, and the case remains unsolved.
The Search For Jack, 'Cadillac Daddy,' And The Killer Of Lillian Graef
On an October evening in 1927, Lillian Graef gathered her things to meet a man named Jack for a date. Jack was a mysterious name to the Graef family, as no one besides Lillian and her older sister Mildred had actually seen his face. Later that evening, Graef's family realized something was amiss when she never returned from her date.
In the late 1920s, it was somewhat common for women to run away and elope, and although Graef’s family was concerned, the police had no suspicion of foul play. It was not until two weeks later when Graef still had not contacted her family that their suspicions began to rise.
On November 5, 1927, Graef's body was found partially submerged beneath the Bluemound Bridge in Waukesha County. She had been beaten and choked to death, with the scarf used to strangle her still around her neck. Wounds were found on her hands, indicating she attempted to stop the attack, but investigators determined she was dead before she hit the water. After discovering Graef, the police were intent on finding Jack - not to arrest him, but to locate his body. On the same night of Graef’s date with Jack, another man had called the family home. The family was unaware of the call's nature, but police had a suspicion that Graef and Jack were both victims of this mysterious caller.
In their search for the caller, police looked into a 40- to 50-year-old man who drove a Cadillac and would frequently visit Graef at work on Tuesdays and Thursdays. When Graef was reported missing, the man she sometimes referred to as “Cadillac Daddy” never appeared at her work again. His disappearance from the shop raised further suspicion, and the manhunt for “Cadillac Daddy” began.
Police interviewed thousands of men in the area who owned the same model of Cadillac, and they recruited Graef's sister, Mildred, to view suspects. Unfortunately, throughout hundreds of hours of interviews, neither Jack nor “Cadillac Daddy” ever appeared. Investigators attempted to follow tips until as late as 1938, but they never found a solid lead, and the case remains unsolved.
Who Took Out The One-Armed Aspiring Mafioso Max Adonnis?
On March 18, 1989, Max Adonnis was gunned down outside Giovanni's, an Italian restaurant on 1683 N. Van Buren Street. Adonnis, also known as Maximillion Ludwig Gajewski Jr., was a host at Giovanni's, as well as a popular criminal among the Milwaukee police.
Making it clear he wanted to be a mobster, Adonnis often found himself serving short stints in jail due to petty crimes and would eventually serve two years in prison for battery. Adonnis was Polish, but the Italian mob that laid claim to the city acknowledged Adonnis’s efforts as a way to prove his desire to be a mobster. While Adonnis continued for years to solidify a place in the Italian mob, he could never find a permanent role in the group.
In 1985, after Adonnis got out of prison, an unidentified assailant stabbed him in the chest with an ice pick near Giovanni’s. He survived the assault, but the Italian mob continued to view him as an outsider. Four years later, Adonnis met his untimely fate, and the two shooters who gunned him down remained unidentified.
After the attack that ended Adonnis’s life, rumors began to swirl about Adonnis’s possible involvement with Chicago drug gangs, primarily when two bodies were found buried underneath a house on that city’s South Side in 1991. Some theorized the two men were killed as payback for Adonnis’s death, but investigators never received any substantial tips. The identities of Adonnis’s assailants remain unknown, and no new evidence has come to light, leaving the case unsolved.