Man spotted running ‘frantically’ and ‘out of control’ identified as person of interest in unsolved Devil’s Lake homicide case

BARABOO, Wis. –Detectives have identified a person of interest in connection to a homicide at Devil’s Lake State Park last fall, but they are still needing more information from the public to solve this case.

It’s been more than six months since John Schmutzer, 24, of Wauwatosa, was found dead along the Grottos Trail, which is on the south side of the park near the east bluff. Detectives said Schmutzer was hiking alone when he was attacked by a stranger.  Since October, investigators have received hundreds of tips, conducted hundreds of interviews, executed search warrants and examined physical evidence.

John Schmutzer Picture

According to a release by the Sauk County Sheriff’s Office, witnesses remember seeing a man who fell down several times while running “frantically” and “out of control” in the park. Witnesses said he was not in “standard running apparel” and wore darker colored pants and a dark colored top, possibly a hooded sweatshirt. They also described him as being around 6-feet tall with a slender to average build.

Witnesses also remember seeing the man run north from the parking lot at the group camp area in front of traffic and likely headed to the north shore area of Devil’s Lake, the release said.

Detectives are calling this man a person of interest in the case based on the timeline of events and locations where he was spotted. They are once again stressing how important community tips will be in solving this case.

They believe the person may be a danger to himself and others and are asking the public to call with any information that could help solve this crime. Officials with the Sauk County Sheriff’s Office had previously called this the department’s “highest priority” case.

Anyone with information about this case can submit a tip anonymously to Sauk County Crime Stoppers at 1-888-847-7285.

Devil's Lake Homicide Presser

Schmutzer was a 2014 graduate of UW-Madison. He was working in the financial field in the Milwaukee area at the time of his death. Friends and family remember him as an intelligent and thoughtful person who had a “zest for life.”

Devil’s Lake State Park is the most popular state park in Wisconsin seeing about 3 million visitors per year.