ABBEVILLE — Skeletal remains found in a sealed-off chimney during renovations earlier this year at an Abbeville bank have been identified as a Vermilion Parish man who had been missing since 1984, police said Tuesday.
The skeleton, identified through DNA by a forensic lab at LSU, are those of Joseph W. Schexnider, who was last seen by his family just before he failed to make a court appearance on a charge of possession of a stolen vehicle, police said.
As for why he climbed into the bank’s chimney more than 20 years ago, police say there are no clear answers.
“All we can do is speculate,” Abbeville police spokesman Lt. David Hardy said.
Schexnider’s remains were discovered in May by a contracting crew remodeling the second floor of the Bank of Abbeville and Trust at Concord and Jefferson streets.
Hardy said at the time that the fireplace had not been operational for about 40 or 50 years and the chimney opening on the roof was capped in the late 1980s.
Schexnider’s mother, who asked police not to publicly identify her, told investigators her son was 26 when last seen by family members in January 1984.
He disappeared shortly before his scheduled court appearance; Vermilion Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies had gone to his family’s house in an unsuccessful effort to locate him, according to a news release from the Abbeville Police Department.
The mother told police that she thought her son had fled to avoid being arrested and he had a history of leaving the area for long stretches, at one point joining the circus, according to the news release.
The DNA identification was made by the LSU Forensic Anthropology and Computer Enhancement Services Lab.