2 face charges after 20-year-old woman’s body found in Cape Girardeau County barn

CAPE GIRARDEAU COUNTY, Mo. (KBSI) – Two people now face charges after the remains of a young woman were found in a barn in Cape Girardeau County in June.

On July 1, the Cape Girardeau County prosecutor filed charges on Lawrence Schanda and Teresa Baumgartner for murder in the first degree, armed criminal action, and tampering with physical evidence in a felony investigation.

On May 19, 20-year-old Jessi Wilfong contacted Teresa Baumgartner, requesting transportation from Fredricktown to Cape Girardeau County.

Baumgartner is the romantic partner of Wilfong’s uncle, Lawrence Phillip Schanda. Baumgartner and Schanda lived together at 9253 State Highway 72 in Millersville in Cape Girardeau County.

According to the Cape Girardeau County Sheriff’s Office, Baumgartner and Schanda traveled to Fredricktown in Baumgartner’s personal vehicle, picked Wilfong up, and drove her back to the Baumgartner/Schanda home in Millersville that same day.

Baumgartner told law enforcement that she, Schanda, and Wilfong had spent the night of May 19 sitting around a bonfire at her home, drinking and talking. According to Baumgartner, at some point, Wilfong requested to be taken back to Fredricktown, but Baumgartner and Schanda refused. Baumgartner stated that Wilfong must have left her home after Baumgartner went to sleep, sometime during the early morning hours of May 20 between 4-6:30 a.m. Baumgartner never reported Wilfong as missing.

Deputies discovered a surveillance camera system installed at home near the Baumgartner/Schanda home. The surveillance system has multiple cameras, with one camera pointed toward the front of the Baumgartner/Schanda home. In viewing some limited footage for May 19-20, officers could see Wilfong enter a truck with Schanda during the overnight hours while it was parked at the home. The vehicle leaves with Schanda driving, and returns at approximately 1:09 a.m. on May 20. Schanda is still operating the vehicle, and Wilfong is seen exiting the vehicle upon its return. Wilfong is not observed alive again.

On Wednesday, June 8, Schanda was interviewed by deputies and admitted to having a verbal altercation with Wilfong shortly before she disappeared, according to the Cape Girardeau County Sheriff’s Office.

The argument was about Schanda’s belief that Wilfong was providing law enforcement with information implicating Schanda in illegal drug activity.

On June 13, officers spoke with a confidential witness who reported he/she had a conversation with Baumgartner on or about June 2. During the conversation, Baumgartner told the witness that Wilfong was missing and that the last place Wilfong had been seen was at the Baumgartner/Schanda home.

Baumgartner also told the confidential witness that on the night Wilfong disappeared, Schanda badly beat Wilfong following an argument. Baumgartner did not report this information to law enforcement despite multiple contacts with her, according to the sheriff’s office. Baumgartner also did not report Wilfong as a missing person or acknowledge Wilfong was missing until after law enforcement made contact with her.

On June 15, a search warrant was executed at the Schanda/Baumgartner home. Law enforcement saw that carpet and carpet padding from the living room and hallway had been removed from the home.

On June 17, a second confidential witness met with Baumgartner in an effort to learn what had happened to Wilfong and where Wilfong might be found. Baumgartner told the second confidential witness that Wilfong had been murdered by Schanda inside the Baumgartner/Schanda home and that Wilfong would be found on some property that Baumgartner/Schanda had considered buying.

The second confidential witness told law enforcement this information that led deputies to property located in Cape Girardeau County, approximately two miles from the Baumgartner/Schanda home.

When contacted by law enforcement, the owner of the nearby property reported Baumgartner and Schanda had both been present on his property on May 23 and had spent an extended amount of time in and around the barn area on May 24. The owner described arriving home on May 24, and seeing Baumgartner’s truck backed up to the barn. The owner described seeing Schanda sweating profusely that day, not wearing a shirt, and having mud on his boots. Schanda approached the property owner and handed him an envelope containing $20,000 in cash, according to the Cape Girardeau County Sheriff’s Office. Schanda told the owner the money was a down payment on the purchase of the prope1ty. When questioned as to what Schanda and Baumgartner were doing on the property that day, Schanda told the owner that he and Teresa were cleaning out the barn area. The owner did not approach the barn area.

On June 18, deputies traveled to the barn location. After arriving, deputies were able to see a clearly disturbed area of ground inside the barn. Shovels, a sleeveless men’s shirt, and an auger (a piece of equipment used to dig into the ground) were also found. Excavation of the disturbed area revealed the remains of Jessi Wilfong. Buried with Wilfong’s body were multiple knives, a pair of men’s boots, a carpet remnant, and other items.

Deputies tracked the auger rental back to a local business and learned the auger was rented on May 24 by Baumgartner. She was accompanied by a man matching the description of Schanda when she rented the auger. The couple was traveling inside a vehicle with license plates checking to Baumgartner, according to the sheriff’s office.

Following the recovery of Wilfong’s body, a second search was conducted of the Baumgartner/Schanda home. Knives, carpeting, and other items matching or consistent with items found with Wilfong’s body were seized from the home.

On June 20, an autopsy was performed on Jessi Wilfong’s body. The autopsy findings indicated Jessi Wilfong had been stabbed many times, according to the Cape Girardeau County Sheriff’s Office. Her manner of death was ruled a homicide.

On July 1, the Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney filed charges on Lawrence Schanda and Teresa Baumgartner for murder in the first degree, Armed Criminal Action, and Tampering with Physical Evidence in a Felony Investigation. The Honorable Frank E. Miller issued warrants for the arrest of Schanda and Baumgartner for the charges and set bond at $5 million, cash only.

Previous stories:

1 arrested after remains of missing woman found in barn in Cape Girardeau County

Cape Girardeau County Sheriff’s Office looking for missing woman

Categories: News