The Waterford Police Department is trying to “warm up” a cold murder case from 10 years ago, the only unsolved murder facing the department.
“That is considered a cold case,” Waterford Police Detective Sgt. Joe DePasquale said. “We are trying to warm it up again.”
In October of 2002, utility workers found the body of 31-year-old Christopher Schmeller on a sloped embankment off of Parkway South, at the same property where the body of Renee Pellegrino was found in 1997, according to DePasquale and news reports at the time. Schmeller had been reported missing eight days before, and his body had sat at the property that formerly held the Waterford Airport for some time, DePasquale said.
“They never put a time on it,” he said. “But obviously from the decomposition, (the body) had been there a while.”
According to The Day’s archive, Schmeller died of blunt force trauma to the head. The 31-year-old was a fisherman from Westerly with an extensive criminal record, according to The Day.
Last week, the Waterford Police Department put a post on its Facebook page asking the public to contact the Waterford Police Department's detective division at 860-442-0645 with any information regarding the case. DePasquale said over time, loyalties break and people could come forward with information that they didn’t come forward with before.
DePasquale said there were no new leads from the case, but the post was an effort to generate new ones. He said the body was exposed to the elements for some time, so collecting DNA evidence from the scene proved difficult.
Friends last saw Schmeller on Sept. 26, 2002, where he went to a court appearance in Westerly, RI, and they reported him missing on September 30, according to The Day. Friends said Schmeller was nervous at the courthouse that day, because a man Schmeller feared showed up to see him, The Day reported.
Friends believed the murder stemmed from a drug or gun vendetta, according to The Day. Schmeller had a long criminal history that began in 1989, including arrests for reckless driving, assault, carrying a pistol without a license, violating a no-contact order and more.
Schmeller was a fisherman who never really had a home, but instead lived at friends' houses, according to The Day, which reported that his friends put up pictures of him throughout Westerly in the days before his body was found in Waterford.
Schmeller was the third body found at the former Waterford Airport property in a five year period, as along with Pellegrino the body of 43-year-old Philip Scaplen was found there in April of 2002. The property remains undeveloped.
DePasquale said the case is the only remaining unsolved murder case facing the Waterford Police Department, after Dickie Anderson was convicted of killing Pellgrino earlier this year. Anderson was later sentenced to 60 years in prison.