24 Oct 2010

Authorities: Missing Nebraska couple asked about abuse

Yahoo! News - Associated Press April 2, 2009

By CARSON WALKER | Associated Press Writer

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Members of a missing Nebraska family whose car was found in the Black Hills of South Dakota were interviewed about allegations of abuse on the day they were last seen nearly two weeks ago, authorities said Thursday.

The black Ford Taurus was found Tuesday, and authorities were searching for Matthew and Rowena Schade and their children, Devon, 11, and Sean, 8, in rugged terrain near the Pactola Reservoir and the village of Silver City.

This undated photo provided by the Knox County, Nebraska, Sheriff's Office shows the Schades, a Creighton, Neb., family last seen March 20, 2009. Pictured clockwise from the top are Matt Schade, Rowena Schade, 8-year-old Sean and 11-year-old Devon. (AP Photo/Knox County Sheriff's Office)

They were last seen March 20 at their home 400 miles away in Creighton, Neb. All four were interviewed that day by a Knox County deputy sheriff about allegations of abuse, according to statements from Nebraska and South Dakota law enforcement agencies.

The deputy "made an offer of help and counseling. No arrests were made and no injuries were observed," Knox County Sheriff Jim Janecek said in a release. He did not comment further.

Matthew Schade, 26, is on probation in Nebraska for burglary, and an arrest warrant was issued after he failed to notify a probation officer of his whereabouts, the statement said. Rowena Schade, 29, was also on probation but authorities did say why.

Investigators said the Schades, who spent their honeymoon in the Black Hills, had talked about relocating. It also appeared they left the house in a hurry with more than $1,000 worth of "camping survival type gear" they had recently purchased.

"We believe their intention is not to be found so we have to structure our search teams differently to make sure we have law enforcement on them. It's pretty rugged terrain in there," Maj. Brian Mueller of the Pennington County Sheriff's office told The Associated Press.

For six years in a row, Matthew Schade attended a survival camp in the search area through his church and "expressed he would like to live like a hermit in the mountains," Mueller said in news release.

A ground and air search resumed Thursday and focused on the numerous abandoned mines, cabins and other buildings in the isolated Pactola Reservoir area, as well as meadows and creek beds that would serve well as a camp, Mueller said.

About 2 feet of new snow covered the area since the car was abandoned, Mueller said.

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Update on Monday, April 6, 2009 at 03:53PM by Perry Bulwer

Neb. family that had been missing now in custody

A couple who disappeared with their children, leading to a search of the South Dakota wilderness, turned themselves in to authorities near their Nebraska home on Monday, a sheriff said.

Matthew and Rowena Schade turned themselves in to the Knox County sheriff's officials, Sheriff Jim Janecek said in a news release. Matthew Schade was arrested on a warrant for a probation violation in neighboring Antelope County, and his wife was being held by order of the Nebraska Department of Probation, he said.

State health officials planned to speak to the children, ages 8 and 11, before determining where to place them, the release said.

Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Jeanne Atkinson said she could not discuss the children's conditions, citing privacy laws.

Calls seeking comment from Janecek and prosecutors from Knox and Antelope counties were not immediately returned Monday.

Rowena Schade's mother, Sandra Epstein, hung up on a reporter who called her home seeking comment. Later, a woman who answered Epstein's phone and identified herself only as Epstein's mother said the children were fine.

"I can practically guarantee that," the woman said.

The family from Creighton, 128 miles northwest of Omaha, disappeared March 20 after being interviewed about allegations of abuse.

Their car was found on a remote road in South Dakota's Black Hills on March 31, leading to a search of the area, where authorities believe the family had spent several days. Matthew Schade called his father and said the family was fine and wanted to be left alone.

That search ended after authorities in Nebraska found a stolen truck in Antelope County they believe the family used to return to the state. No one has been charged with the theft.

Epstein told authorities she last spoke to her daughter on Friday, when she said her daughter told her she and Matthew Schade fled Nebraska fearing social services workers would take the kids away from them, according to a Knox County sheriff's department news release.

Epstein said her daughter told her they returned to Nebraska to retrieve their red Jeep. Her daughter said they had "another plan," and that if things didn't work out, they would go "where no one would ever find them."

Investigators said the Schades spent their honeymoon in the Black Hills and had talked about relocating there. They said it appeared the family left their house in a hurry with more than $1,000 worth of recently purchased "camping survival-type gear."

Matthew Schade attended a survival camp in the search area through his church and had expressed a desire to live in solitude in the mountains, Maj. Brian Mueller of the Pennington County (S.D.) Sheriff's Office said last week.

Matthew and Rowena Schade were convicted of burglarizing Mitch's Food Center in Plainview, Neb., in 2004, where Matthew previously had worked, owner Mitch Wragge told the Omaha World-Herald.

Wragge said Matthew did not get away with any money during the burglary. Wragge told the newspaper that Rowena drove the getaway car.


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