On January 3rd of this year, at 12:30am, the body of 46-year-old homeless man Daniel Aldape was found on a street corner in a deserted area of Las Vegas. He had reportedly been trying to shield himself from the 44-degree weather. Aldape’s autopsy showed that he was bludgeoned to death with a blunt object, but lack of witnesses and an unknown motive left police with no leads or suspects.
However, a month later, on February 6th, police found the body of David Dunn, a 60-year-old homeless man, bludgeoned to death between an estimated time frame from 1am to 9am. Friends remembered Dunn as a positive member of the community, while police quickly realized that there was a possible pattern emerging in the wake of the murders of Aldape and Dunn.
Officers first connected these two murders as they had the same M.O. (method), which was that both victims were bludgeoned to death, using what was assessed to be a hammer, in the middle of the night. Both were homeless and sleeping on the streets, but neither had been robbed.
While the particularity brutal nature of these crimes was unusual, the sad fact that homeless people suffer at the hands of the non-homeless is all too common. Research from institutions such as the National Coalition for the Homeless have found that between 1999-2005 the number of violent acts against the homeless have increased 30%. These crimes have included theft, assault, and murder and it appeared that Aldape and Dunn were just two more victims lost in a disturbing phenomenon.
However, the Las Vegas Police Department devised an idea to discover the identity of the murderer in a brilliant scheme to catch him/her in the act. On February 21st, not even a month after the second murder, police placed a mannequin wrapped in blankets at the very spot that Aldape was killed. Officers were careful to cover the face of the mannequin and then set up video cameras in the area to try and catch the murderer.
Remarkably, at 3 a.m. on February 22nd, police saw a man wearing a dark hoodie and carrying a Little Caesars plastic bag approach the corner where the mannequin sat. The man then methodically looked around to make sure that there were no vehicles or pedestrians as witnesses, pulled his hood above his head, and took out a hammer that had been concealed in the plastic bag.
He then clenched the hammer in both of his hands and swung it down on what he thought was a person’s head twice before realizing that it wasn’t a real person. The footage, which is available on YouTube shows the man walking away, but since police were monitoring the area he was quickly apprehended.
After being arrested, police discovered that 30-year-old Shane Schindler had been the one to attack the mannequin and was also likely responsible for Aldape and Dunn’s murders. He was given bail set at $50,000 and was only charged with concealing a weapon (the hammer) as prosecutors sorted out additional charges.
Then, while in custody, Schindler told his interviewing detectives that he didn’t recall hitting the mannequin with a hammer, but he admitted to kicking it. Soon after, he changed his narrative to the fact that he did hit the mannequin with the hammer, but knew it was a mannequin when he struck it (which was highly unlikely).
Nevertheless, this case took an interesting turn when prosecutors charged Schneider with one count of attempted murder because of his actions on the decoy. His defense attorney appealed the decision, citing that it was impossible to kill an inanimate object, therefore the charge was unsubstantiated.
However, the appeals court of Nevada agreed with the prosecutor, noting that the attempt made by Schindler, who expected the decoy to be a person, was reason enough to charge him with attempted murder. A trial was originally set for this month (August, 2017), but Schnidler ending up pleading guilty to attempted murder with a sentence from 8 to 20 years in a state penitentiary on June 28th of this year.
While this does ensure that Schindler is off the streets for the foreseeable future, the unfortunate side effect of the plea deal is that he will avoid being charged with the murder of Aldape and Dunn, as well as another similar assault that occurred in November of 2016, and was later also attributed to Schindler. He will be sentenced on August 25, 2017.
Yet, while it appears justice has been served in a roundabout way there are many questions that are still left unanswered. So far, the motives for these attacks/murders as well as any background information about Schnidler is nowhere to be found, thus any theories on his motives are rooted from pure speculation.
However, in the criminal justice system, when a defendant accepts a plea bargain, they must announce their guilty plea and admit their crimes to the judge in open court, so maybe we will have more information after the sentencing before too long.
Stay tuned to Wicked Horror for more on this case as it develops