When the bodies of 93-year-old Wilbert Scheel and his wife, 80-year-old Gloria were found dead in their car on a northern Kandiyohi County road, their grandson Gregory became the main person of interest for the police who were investigating the incident.
The cops already knew that their suspect in this gruesome double homicide had a checkered past and a pretty serious criminal record behind him. But they had no idea he was capable of carrying out murders that brutal.
When the couple was found dead near to their home in Paynesville, where they lived with their grandson Gregory Scheel, the police were faced with a brutal sight. Wilbert was found with his hands and feet tied with electrical cord and a plastic bag over his head. His wife Gloria was found with an electric cord around her neck; both died from strangulation or asphyxiation.
Arrested On Foot
When the couple’s grandson was arrested on foot about a mile from the property, police soon realized that he was a felon. Back in December, Scheel had been apprehended by Chippewa County sheriff’s deputies with stolen goods. But as he was being booked, Scheel escaped from custody but was found in a stranger’s garage the next day with some sort of homemade weapon which could be used to stab or electrocute someone.
After evidence at the couple’s property linked Scheel to the crime he was arrested by officers and indicted. He was indicted on two counts of premeditated first-degree murder – punishable by life in prison; two counts of first-degree murder while committing domestic abuse, and two counts of second-degree intentional murder at the Stearns County District Court.
As well as the murder charges he faced, Scheel was also to appear before a Chippewa County Court, charged with two felony counts of first-degree burglary. He was also to be charged with a felony count of third-degree burglary, a misdemeanor charge of theft and a gross misdemeanor charge of escaping from custody. Even though the double homicide charge was more serious than previous charges, now that police had the suspect in custody they threw the book at him.
Having been in and out of the court system for 15 years, it was about time that this man faced some justice for the numerous crimes he had been involved with. Back in 2003, Scheel was sentenced for drug possession. Then, a year later, he received another felony violation for driving drunk. But Scheel was in trouble with law enforcement almost on a constant basis between 2003 and 2018.
In 2007, Scheel was sentenced for a second-degree burglary charge, but at the time an arson charge against him was dismissed. Then, in 2010 and 2011, Scheel was sentenced for felony domestic assault in McLeod County and Sibley County. Throughout the next few years, Scheel was in trouble with law enforcement constantly for driving drunk and other numerous traffic violations.
Having been charged with a bunch of previous crimes, when it came to the murder charges, Scheel deferred making a plea, and a motion was made to release a transcript of the grand jury proceedings to the defense. The suspect’s bail was set at $75,000 with conditions or $100,000 without. The irony was that it was Scheel’s dead grandfather who co-signed the bond that bailed his grandson from jail originally.
The alarm was raised when the elderly couple failed to show up for a family dinner. At 10:30 p.m., the police attended their home to find them dead in their car outside. When they caught up with Scheel, he was on a trip to Sauk Rapids with some friends. But CCTV footage from the home showed that one visible occupant left the house soon after the couple was murdered.
When police attended the property they saw what could have been blood in the garage. It was also clear to the attending officers that the garage floor had been scrubbed clean recently. When they found an eyeglass lens with blood on it in the drain that belonged to Gloria, they were sure that some foul play had gone on at this property and intended to get to the bottom of it.
Gary Herzberg, a friend of the deceased couple who knew them from the local church, said he was devastated to hear about the way his friends had been killed. “I don’t think Willie would hurt a fly, he was just a kind guy,” said Herzberg according to a CBS report. The couple was well-known and much-loved within their community.
Despite his old age, according to Herzberg, Wilbert was always ready and waiting to help someone in need – whether a family member or a perfect stranger. “If something came up he’d be there to help out. And the church people are taking it pretty hard,” Herzberg explained. “It’s something I never would have thought would happen to the Scheels,” Herzberg added.
It was clear to just about everyone that Scheel had serious mental issues. As one neighbor, Sig Pheifer, who knew the family said to reporters: “Just to have children or grandkids do something like that, has to take a person with mental problems to do that,” he said. To make things even more tragic, Wilbert was amazingly active for a 93-year-old.
According to Pheifer, Wilbert loved driving his old Cadillac in area parades and was always happy to offer a stranger a lift around town. He was often seen playing ping-pong with younger members of the community over at the local community center. He was also an active and valued member of the local Grace United Methodist Church.
Hard to Believe
Herzberg said that both Wilbert and Gloria knew that their grandson had issues, but they simply wanted to help him out in his time of need as he was estranged from his parents. “It’s pretty tough to go through,” said Herzberg. “It’s really sad someone could do that to their own grandma and grandpa. It’s hard to believe it,” he said.
A local publication, WCCO, even featured Wilbert Scheel last year in their newspaper. As a proud great-grandfather, Wilbert spoke about his love for ping-pong as well as for his community. As a seven-time cancer survivor, Wilbert chose to play ping-pong at least four nights each week to stay in shape. He even delivered meals on wheels to other elderly and disabled couples for 20 years.
As well as being an integral part of the local community, the elderly couple were also successful business owners. They once owned and ran the former Black Saucer Motel and Cafe, and were also very active volunteers whenever the community needed them. The fact they were murdered in this way by their grandson was indeed tragic.
When it came time for the court case against the suspect, Gregory Scheel appeared before a jury of his peers at the Stearns County District Court. He was charged with two counts of first-degree murder, which he pleaded guilty to, and was sentenced to 60 years in prison without the possibility of parole until he reaches the age of 94.
It was clear to just about everyone that Scheel was indeed a troubled man suffering from some serious mental health issues. In court he showed remorse for his actions, saying: “Nothing I can say will ever bring back the two most loving, funniest, caring grandparents in the world.” But Scheel’s first cousin Stephanie Depinto had some choice words for the accused man outside court.
Despite the terrible loss of her grandparents, Depinto feels that justice has been served regarding the sentence handed down to Gregory Scheel. As Depinto said to him following the court case and verdict, “Now, finally, you’ll have to live with the consequences of your actions.” But Scheel admitted that his grandparents had always been good to him and given him numerous chances when he messed up.
Even though Scheel admitted that his grandparents had always treated him with “unconditional love” according to a Kare11 report, he still killed them. He sobbed throughout most of the hearing and was highly emotional. When asked if he wanted to make a statement in court, Scheel said: “I love you grandpa and grandma. I’ll never forget you. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.”