The uncle of a missing 20-year-old woman whose body was found buried inside a barn has been charged with her murder.
On May 25, Jessi Wilfong’s mother reported her missing. The next month, on June 15, investigators issued a search warrant at a home and collected evidence that pointed to foul play. Three days later, on June 18, investigators found a “recently dug portion of ground” inside a barn and located Wilfong’s remains.
An autopsy report ruled her death a homicide.
According to a news release from the Cape Girardeau County Sheriff’s Office, Wilfong was last seen at the home of her uncle, 48-year-old Lawrence Schanda, and his girlfriend, 59-year-old Teresa Baumgartner, in Millersville, Missouri. Upon further investigation, the Sheriff’s Office determined Schanda and Baumgartner allegedly worked together to kill Wilfong and conceal her body.
During an interview on June 8, Schanda told authorities that he and Wilfong had gotten into an argument before her disappearance, KFVS-TV reports. A witness had reportedly told authorities that on June 13 they had a conversation with Baumgartner, who said that on the night Wilfong went missing, Schanda beat Wilfong following an argument.
Baumgartner did not report the beating to law enforcement, nor did she report Wilfong missing, according to KFVS.
Another witness reportedly told authorities Baumgartner told them on June 17 that Schanda killed Wilfong inside the home and that her body was on a property that Baumgartner and Schanda had wanted to purchase approximately 2 miles away.
According to KFVS, the property owner told investigators that on May 24, a sweaty and shirtless Schanda gave him an envelope with $20,000 cash and said it was for the down payment to purchase the property.
Schanda reportedly told the property owner that he and his girlfriend were cleaning out the barn area.
Along with Wilfong’s remains, KFVS reports investigators found multiple knives, a pair of men’s boots, a carpet remnant and other items buried with her.
According to KFVS, authorities tracked an auger that was used to bury Wilfong’s remains to a business Baumgartner rented it from on May 24.
On July 1, the Sheriff’s Office said Schanda and Baumgartner were charged with first-degree murder, armed criminal action, and tampering with physical evidence in a felony investigation. Schanda and Baumgartner remain held in the Cape Girardeau County Jail on $5 million bond.