One year after Devil’s Lake murder, authorities still looking for answers

BARABOO, Wis. — It has been one year since 24-year-old John Schmutzer was stabbed to death in an apparent random attack at Devil’s Lake State Park, and authorities are still working to figure out who killed him.

Officials from the Sauk County Sheriff’s Office are set to hold a press conference Thursday afternoon marking the one-year anniversary of the murder and provide an update on their investigation.

Hundreds of tips and thousands of man hours have yet to yield an arrest in the case. Speaking to News 3 Now in May, lead investigator Lt. Christopher Zunker of the Sauk County Sheriff’s Department felt they were closer than ever to finding a suspect.

“The more information we can get from the public, the better this investigation goes,” Lt. Zunker said at the time. “I still am convinced that there is someone or some people that know or strongly suspect who is responsible for this homicide. Those people need to call us.”

RELATED: ‘It’s one phone call away’: Sauk Co. investigators hopeful they’re closer than ever to solving Devil’s Lake homicide

Zunker says more than a dozen witnesses have all reported seeing the same man, who they have since dubbed “The Runner,” in the area at the time of the murder.

The man was wearing dark clothes, possibly a hoodie or a hat, with a mask and ripped black pants and was last seen approaching the north shore of Devil’s Lake on the East Bluff Trail — where Schmutzer was later found. Witnesses also reported the man running frantically and falling down multiple times.

Investigators believe Schmutzer, a UW-Madison graduate and Wauwatosa native, was attacked randomly and was blindsided as he hiked alone.

“There’s no way to believe that this is a premeditated or targeted towards John,” Lt. Zunker said in May.

News 3 Now will carry Thursday’s press conference live on, Channel3000+ streaming apps and on Facebook Live. The press conference is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Sauk County Crimestoppers at 1 (888) Tip-Sauk (1-888-847-7285) or text “tipsauk” and your message to 274637 (CRIMES).