This is a Wisconsin story. Some of my favorite stories are found within my home state. This case is unusual. A bit of mystery, a dash of murder, and a whole helping of family love. Here is the case of the Kunz family. Shoutout to Rosann J. for this lead.
The family included: Irene Kunz – 81, Clarence Kunz – 76, Marie Kunz – 72, Helen Kunz – 70, Randy Kunz, 30. Randy is the son of Helen. She has another son, Kenneth who lived outside the house. Kenneth was 55 at the time of the murders.
July 4, 1987, fireworks had ended over the town of Athens, WI. Families and residents were at home, sleeping. But all was not calm at a derelict farmhouse outside of town. Someone was creeping and murdered the residents who resided inside the house.
The Kunz family’s farmhouse was not fit to live in. There was no running water, the only heat was from a single wood-burning stove that was also used for cooking. The home was unkempt as all the members who resided inside were hoarders and trash was littered everywhere. Despite the lack of organization and the disregard for the home in general, the family did have a television and VCR. After the murders, the home was searched and an enormous library of adult videotapes and magazines were found in the home. The family watched these videos together.
This fact added to the belief that the family practiced romantic as well as familial love with each other. Prior to their deaths, Helen slept in the same bed as her son, Randy. Clarence, Marie, and Irene all slept in the living room. Helen’s oldest son, Kenny, lived in a trailer on the property, by himself.
- In 1933, fifteen year old Helen became pregnant. The neighbor boy, Frank Gumz was convicted of raping her, however rumors circulated that Clarence was the real father. Kenny believed this himself, that Uncle Daddy Clarence was his sire.
After the bodies were discovered by Kenny on July 5, police were unable to find Helen or her body. They didn’t want to believe that Helen, a 70 year old woman, had murdered her entire family. Helen’s body was found nine months later, near a creek in Medford WI, approximately 15 miles away.
The family was reclusive, only interacting with each other, and the police were unable to find any relatives, friends, or even acquaintances. The decrepit state of their home wasn’t totally unexplainable, as no one in the family had a job. Yet, stashed throughout the home was over $20,000, some of which was in plain sight.
Helen had purchases some ammunition before the murders, stating it was for her son who was going to kill some blackbirds on the property. The ammunition matched the caliber of bullet used to murder the family. This fact left the possibility that Helen killed her family and then took her own life.
Sadly violence and mental illness was common in the Kunz family. The parents of Helen, Irene, Clarence and Marie; Anna and Ignatz Kunz, had experienced violence in 1905. They were living with Ignatz’s mother, Mary, in Manitowoc, WI, and one night Mary’s son, Wenzel, had bludgeoned Mary to death. Mary’s other son, had already spent a good portion of his life in the mental institution, Wenzel joined him after the murder of his mother.
So who murdered the family? A small time criminal named Chris Jacobs III, was initially suspected as he had previous contact with the family when purchasing a vehicle. He was pretty much the only person outside the family that interacted with them, so he was a prime suspect. His trial for the murders was brief, and ultimately he was acquitted due to lack of evidence.
In 1993, an ex-girlfriend, Stacy Weis, came forward and claimed to have heard Chris confess to the crime. Because of the “Double Jeopardy” provision, Chris could not be tried again for the murders of the Kunz family. However they could charge Chris with the abduction and imprisonment of Helen. This time around Chris received a 31 year sentence.
Kenny Kunz, the only family member who didn’t die, and the person who discovered the bodies the day after, was never considered a suspect. Why? Was he innocent? Or was it because he had a low IQ and nobody suspected that simply Kenny, who had a job, could ever kill his entire family? Maybe the fact that Uncle Daddy Clarence and Helen were siblings was too much for Kenny and he decided to end their lives and those of his aunts and brother as well.
What do you think? Was Chris Jacobs the murderer? Was he even guilty of the abduction of Helen? Could Kenny have committed these acts on his family? Or was it Helen? Let me know what you think.
Be strong, be beautiful, be you