2 charged in death of missing woman found buried in barn

Two people, including an uncle, have been charged with murder in Jessi Wilfong's death.
Published: Jul. 3, 2022 at 7:59 PM EDT
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CAPE GIRARDEAU COUNTY, Mo. (KFVS/Gray News) - Two people have been charged with murder in the death of a woman found buried in a barn in Missouri.

On Friday, July 1, the Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney filed charges on Lawrence Schanda and Teresa Baumgartner for first-degree murder, armed criminal action and tampering with physical evidence in a felony investigation in the death of Schanda’s niece, 20-year-old Jessi Wilfong.

From left: Lawrence Schanda and Teresa Baumgartner were charged with first-degree murder,...
From left: Lawrence Schanda and Teresa Baumgartner were charged with first-degree murder, armed criminal action and tampering with physical evidence in a felony investigation in the death of Schanda's niece Jessi Wilfong.(Cape Girardeau County Jail)

Their bonds were set at $5 million cash only, KFVS reports.

48-year-old Schanda arrived in Jackson, Missouri, on Friday afternoon from Reynolds County, where he was being held on unrelated charges. 59-year-old Baumgartner remains at the Cape Girardeau County Jail.

According to the Cape Girardeau County Sheriff’s Office, Wilfong’s body was found buried in a barn on property near Schanda and Baumgartner’s home.

Deputies said an autopsy on June 20 indicated Wilfong had been stabbed multiple times, and her manner of death was ruled a homicide.

According to court documents, Baumgartner is in a relationship with Wilfong’s uncle, Lawrence Schanda, and traveled with him to pick up Wilfong from Fredericktown and bring her back to their home in Millersville.

Wilfong was last seen at that home in the early morning hours of May 20.

She was reported missing May 25 by her mother.

According to the sheriff’s office, Schanda was interviewed on June 8 and admitted to having an argument with Wilfong shortly before she disappeared.

Officers say a witness told them on June 13 that they had a conversation with Baumgartner who told them that on the night Wilfong disappeared, Schanda badly beat Wilfong after an argument.

They said Baumgartner did not report that information to law enforcement despite multiple contacts with her. Baumgartner also did not report Wilfong as a missing person or acknowledge that she was missing until after law enforcement made contact with Baumgartner.

While serving a search warrant at Schanda and Baumgartner’s home in Millersville on June 15, investigators found carpet and carpet padding had been removed from the living room and hallway.

Investigators say another witness told them on June 17 that Baumgartner told them Wilfong had been murdered by Schanda inside the home and that Wilfong would be found on some property that Baumgartner and Schanda had considered buying.

The property was located about two miles from their home.

When they contacted the property owner, investigators said the owner told them Baumgartner and Schanda had been on the property on May 23 and spent an extended amount of time in and around the barn area on May 24.

The owner told investigators that on May 24 Schanda was sweating profusely, not wearing a shirt and had mud on his boots. The owner said Schanda gave him an envelope with $20,000 in cash and said it was a down payment to buy the property.

Schanda allegedly told the owner he and Baumgartner were cleaning out the barn area. Investigators say the owner did not approach the barn area.

On June 18, deputies went to the barn and found a “clearly disturbed area of ground inside the barn.” They also found shovels, a sleeveless men’s shirt and an auger.

While excavating the area, investigators found the remains of Jessi Wilfong. They said multiple knives, a pair of men’s boots, a carpet remnant and other items were buried with her.

Deputies say they were able to track the auger, a piece of equipment used to dig into the ground, back to an area business and say it was rented on May 24 by Baumgartner. They said a man matching Schanda’s description was with her when she rented it.

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