- Dateline The Trouble at Dill Creek Farm Recap and Commentary
- Aired November 11, 2022, on NBC with Lester Holt and Andrea Canning
Investigators embark on a 15 year hunt for the killer of a Wisconsin pharmacist.NBC
What is your emergency?
The episode opens with its usual frantic 911 call. This time it’s Cindy Juedes calling from a neighbor’s house on August 29, 2006. Cindy told her neighbor that she had come into the house and found her husband Ken Juedes dead and covered in blood. The neighbor relayed that info to the 911 dispatch.
But then Cindy went to another neighbor’s house and asked them also to call 911. This perplexed me–did she not believe that the first neighbor had called?
By the time first responders arrived at the home, Ken was dead. When police arrived at the scene, they found Juedes’s body in his bedroom. He had two shotgun wounds, both to the chest, and was covered in blood.
But then Cindy went to another neighbor’s house and asked them also to call 911. This perplexed me–did she not believe that the first neighbor had called?
But before they reached Ken who was lying in his bed without any clothes on, they walked past a statue that startled them for good reason. When I tell you that I laughed out loud at this image. Can you imagine walking into a murder scene and seeing this in the corner?
Once first responders made it past Lurch, they found Ken Juedes who had been shot twice in the chest with a shotgun.
There was also a threatening note with a knife through it that said “b*tch” on Cindy’s side of the bed. The whole thing was just so weird and creepy. So was Cindy the killer’s intended target? And why had Cindy not been in bed with Ken the night of the murder?
Investigators were immediately struck by the number of guns in the Juedes’ house. This led them to believe that Ken Juedes was not only a victim of murder but also a gun enthusiast. Had he been shot with his own gun?
On the night of Ken Juedes’ murder, the security cameras at his home were turned off. This has led many to believe that whoever killed him knew about the cameras and deliberately disabled them so as not to be caught on tape. The fact that the killer was aware of the security system raises some troubling questions about whether or not this was a premeditated murder. Who had turned the cameras off?
Ken was a pharmacist and a farmer. He had bought the 105-acre Dill Creek Farm in Marathon County, Wisconsin, to be close to his parents. Good son energy. And police had to deliver the news of Ken’s death to his mother Margaret in person.
Ken’s murder sent shockwaves through his family. His siblings Laurie Juedes and Don Juedes rushed back to Wisconsin to be with their parents and offer whatever support they could.
Who was Ken Juedes?
According to his siblings, Ken was their mother’s favorite child. He was a talented athlete and student. But he also managed to have a social life. His sister Laurie calls it a “party life.” Ken was wild, y’all.
Ken graduated from pharmacy school and became the first college graduate in his family– quite an accomplishment for the “family party animal.” His loved ones were extremely proud of him.
And Ken visited his parents at least once a week. His dad was in a nursing home at the time of Ken’s death.
Ken met his first wife Betty while he was in college. They got married, bought and fixed up the farm, and had four children together. The American dream really.
But Ken and Betty eventually drifted apart and the couple divorced in 1998.
Ken’s next wife was a woman named Cindy Schulz, who his family took an immediate liking to. They commented on her friendliness, and others said that Ken and Cindy had good chemistry – especially Pam, Cindy’s sister.
Ken called Cindy beautiful so often that it was basically his nickname for her. And barf, but also sweet.
Police immediately knew they needed to interview Cindy. And she didn’t even know that Ken was dead until that interview, which I find hard to believe. It seemed like a performance to me, but I’ll be the first to say that behavior while mourning a loved one isn’t evidence, so I’ll just put it aside for now.
Now, back to the question of why Cindy hadn’t been in the bed that night. She claims that she had been having migraines for days and hadn’t been able to get any sleep for days. She complained that when Ken was on call, the phone was ringing off the hook all night and kept her up.
So that night, Ken gave her meds for her migraine and something to help her sleep and suggested that she sleep in the camper on the farm to have a peaceful night. Investigators bring this up later, but I immediately wondered how hot that camper must have been in August. It’s Wisconsin, but August is still August.
When Cindy woke up, Ken’s car was still in the driveway, which meant that he hadn’t gone to work, which was unusual for him.
Who did the police first look at? Cindy and Ken fostered at-risk teenagers. Some of them had violent histories. Had one of them hurt Ken? We’re only like fifteen minutes into the episode, so probably not.
On the night of Ken’s murder, none of the foster kids were at the home. But they had some boys who were living with them. Convenient, right?
Cindy was terrified that she would be next. Her husband had been murdered, and she was convinced that the killer was still out there, looking for her.
After Ken’s murder, Cindy made some changes at Dill Creek Farm. She installed a new security system for obvious reasons, but she also took down all of the photos of Ken’s children with his first wife Betty. Weird.
Then Cindy told police that Ken’s children had a nickname for her: “the bitch.” The same name written on that note. Had one of the kids written the note?
Cindy immediately said that the youngest of Ken’s children, Alex, 16, had been stealing guns and ammunition from the farm. Even Cindy’s shotgun had gone missing. And that shotgun was the same caliber as the weapon that killed Ken.
There was also tension with Ken’s son Noah over a disagreement about a car. Cindy and Ken had given a car to Noah when he went to college. But Noah had been trying to get the car in only his name, and Cindy didn’t like that.
Police of course then interviewed Betty and her children with Ken. They learned that Ken and Betty had been fighting over child support.
Cindy had told Alex that he was no longer welcome at their home before Ken’s death, but he and Noah both had solid alibis and were eliminated as suspects.
If the foster kids and Ken’s children hadn’t been involved, who was left?
Now we learn that Ken was a part-owner of Monster Hall a racetrack in Marathon County, which was loosely based on the TV show The Munsters. But the track was quickly turning into a money pit.
I think this is the explanation for the scary statue at Ken and Cindy’s house.
Ken had convinced his co-worker (another pharmacist) Ed to invest with him. It’s possible that Ed was upset with Ken for talking him into a lousy investment. Upset enough to murder Ken.
We learn that Ken had a thing for strippers and that he was at home with his girlfriend who was a stripper on the night of Ken’s death and he was cleared.
Afterward, the police examined Randall Landwehr, another one of Ken’s business partners. Randall owned the campground that was situated next to Monster Hall. According to Ken, Randall had lied to him regarding the value of the land and because of this, Ken had filed a lawsuit against Randall for fraud. Sounds like a motive to me.
Not only had Ken filed a civil suit against Randall, but he also was helping police with a criminal investigation against him.
Though the police of course wanted to question Randall, he immediately asked for an attorney– something that didn’t seem suspicious to me. If you take away anything from The Killer Queen, it should be that you should always ask for an attorney when questioned by the police.
But anyway Randall denied involvement or having threatened Ken. He had been playing video games. Police weren’t convinced Randall was involved.
Holes in the story
Ken’s family was becoming increasingly frustrated with Cindy’s behavior. She wouldn’t return the family’s phone calls when they called to ask about Ken’s case.
And then Ken’s sister Laurie tells us a story about the time that Cindy told Laurie that she and Ken had gotten married, but Laurie knew that was a lie. I’m getting the feeling that Cindy just lied a lot. Could be a pattern to keep an eye on.
In addition to not returning calls, Cindy also had Ken’s remains cremated against his family’s wishes. His family was devoutly Catholic and were upset that he didn’t get a proper burial. It’s a bad look, Cind.
Other bad looks include the fact that she obviously did not try to perform CPR on Ken. Her white bathrobe was spotless.
And back to that camper that she supposedly slept in. Police agree with me that it would be too hot to sleep comfortably like Cindy claims. And how had she not heard those shotgun blasts?
Oh, and the police saw a pile of life insurance paperwork in the home. Totally not suspicious.
Then Cindy found a will. What a miracle. And, what do you know, Cindy got everything.
Ken’s family and the police were both skeptical of Cindy, given that Ken had only been married to her for three years when he suddenly cut his children out of his will. This didn’t make sense.
Laurie starts investigating
Would Cindy kill Ken for money? According to Cindy’s sister, Cindy had actually been supporting Ken financially, not the other way around. Not only that, but it was Ken’s idea for Cindy to sleep in the camper.
And Pam tells us that it gets cold at night in Wisconsin even in August. So I decided to fact-check this and turns out Pam is mostly right. The average low in August in Wisconsin is 55 degrees Fahrenheit. That seems like a temp I could sleep outside in.
And Cindy agreed to a voice lie detector. I have no idea how that is different from a regular polygraph, but Cindy passed it.
Ken’s family offered a $25,000 reward for any information on Ken’s murder.
Then Pam, Cindy’s sister, received an anonymous letter that basically said that Cindy was the real target, not Ken. And a pubic hair was included in the envelope in a plastic baggy. Okay. Weird.
Police have no idea who the letter was from and they didn’t get any new leads from that clue.
Meanwhile, Ken’s sister Laurie decided to investigate herself after a year went by with no arrests. She approached the case with her background in computer engineering and started gathering data.
Laurie first looked at that will. Turns out that Ed, Ken’s co-worker and business partner, had been a witness to the will. So, Laurie contacted Ed who said that he had not witnessed it and that he and Ken had both worked all day on the date of the will.
And a handwriting expert told Laurie that the signatures could have been forged, but they couldn’t say for sure without having the original document.
Then Laurie confronted Randall, the business partner who Ken said had defrauded him. Randall denied any involvement in or knowledge of Ken’s murder. But Randall told Laurie that he believed that Cindy was after the racetrack. As if Cindy wanted to take all of Ken’s assets.
Laurie began to bug police with leads and questions. She discovered that the home had been given back to Laurie only 36 hours after Ken’s body was found. She didn’t think that was enough time to gather evidence, and I have to agree with her.
But the police were still doing their own investigation despite Laurie feeling that they weren’t doing enough.
The bartender’s story
So far, Dateline seems to be telling me that Cindy is the killer. I haven’t seen any real evidence, but that’s the vibe I’m picking up.
But then Andrea Canning tells us that the summer after Ken’s murder, police received a call from a bartender at the bar at Monster Hall. He had been arrested for a DUI and was telling the police about who he claimed really killed Ken Juedes.
Was it Randall? The bartender said it was actually three other men. Jerry Gentry, Gary Upton, and Butch Patrick. Now, you might recognize the name Butch Patrick. Butch played Eddie Munster on The Munsters. Yeah, Eddie Munster may have been involved in the murder. Lolol.
Butch would do appearances at Monster Hall.
This bartender stated that Ken had occasionally sold drugs, and the three men killed him because a drug deal between them went sour. But the bartender’s story morphed as he later told bar-goers that he had been the getaway driver.
Police obviously investigated this tip, but they found no evidence that Ken had ever dealt drugs.
Several years after the murder, Gary Upton’s wife went to the police and said that Randall had hired Gary to kill Ken. She even gave them a shotgun that belonged to Gary, which she claimed was the murder weapon.
A fresh look
Police interviewed Gary Upton who said that his wife was a liar who had been paid to make those claims. And the shotgun didn’t match the gauge of the gun that had been used to shoot Ken.
But eventually, the case was cooling off. So police decided to bring in a new investigator to take a look at the case with fresh eyes.
Detective Dennis Blaser quickly ruled out Ken’s children and the foster children as suspects. And Randall’s sister confirmed his alibi of playing video games with his nephew. And Blaser interviewed Randall who again denied any involvement.
And that bartender recanted his accusations. Apparently, he was just an alcoholic who was trying to get out of trouble.
Remember Eddie Munster? Blaser surprised Butch Patrick for an interview. He also denied involvement, but his manager said that Butch had been in Wisconsin around the time of Ken’s murder.
And then Blaser asked the manager if Butch was involved in the murder and the manager said no comment. Okay, that’s suspicious. Did Eddie Munster kill Ken Juedes?
Blaser didn’t really think so. He didn’t believe Gary Upton’s wife and was more interested in Ken’s wife Cindy. It’s always the wife, isn’t it? Well, it usually is on Dateline.
Det. Blaser thought that Cindy was acting during those 911 calls. And he also believed that her account of not seeing Ken immediately upon entering the house made no sense. If she had gone to the bathroom as she said, the most direct route there was through the bedroom where Ken’s body was lying.
And don’t forget about the cameras being turned off and the foster kids not being home. The killer had to have known that information to avoid capture. Not looking good for Cindy.
Years came and went, and no arrests were made. Cindy sold the farm and published a novel.
Cindy continued to point her finger at Ken’s children and ex-wife, but her excuses were no longer being believed.
Blaser eventually sat down for an interview with Cindy. The interview went on for seven hours and Cindy never asked for an attorney or asked to end the interview.
After the testy interview, police arrested Cindy. I have to say that I’m a bit lost at this point. I don’t think the evidence against Cindy is very compelling. She may be guilty, but I don’t think this case would persuade me if I were a juror.
But Ken’s family was happy that Cindy was arrested. They always thought she was Ken’s killer.
The state’s case was almost entirely circumstantial though.
The trial took place 15 years after Ken was murdered. And what was Cindy’s motive? Greed, according to prosecutors. Cindy had taken out five life insurance policies totaling around $1 million.
What about that vulgar note? Prosecutors said that the handwriting actually matched Ken’s. They speculated that maybe Ken had written the note and that’s what initiated the fight between Ken and Cindy.
And all of the men the bartender accused were called including Butch Patrick. They all denied involvement and were granted immunity.
Cindy was convicted of first-degree murder. But Ken’s sister Laurie isn’t convinced that Cindy acted alone, but the rest of the family is happy to see Cindy behind bars.
I came away from this episode not really sure if justice was served. I can see why you might think that Cindy was Ken’s murderer, but I didn’t see any real evidence of that.
What do you think? Did Cindy Juedes kill her husband Ken? Let me know in the comments below!