The subject of serial killer, Gerard Schaefer, is one I certainly never indented to write about, but with Tyler Hadley’s murder trial in the paper every day I am reminded of another terrible murder story that occurred “in Stuart” along the Indian River Lagoon, North Hutchinson Island.
When I was nine years old, growing up in Stuart, a Sheriff in our county of 28,000 people was arrested for allegedly killing and torturing two girls on Hutchinson Island. Over time, it was learned he had killed over thirty women in towns across America. This smiling killer is one of the most atrocious serial killers of all time. He worked and lived right here; as mentioned, his name is Gerard Schaefer.
As with Tyler Hadley, it didn’t make any sense. Schaefer came from a “nice family,” in Wisconsin, was raised Catholic, graduated from Florida Atlantic University, in Broward County worked as a teacher and in law enforcement, he was married, his mother also apparently lived with the young couple. As time went on things didn’t go so well in Broward, so he decided to apply for a Sheriff’s position further north in Martin County.
What was even more bizarre for me to grasp in my youth, was the fact that this serial killer’s public defender, Elton Schwarz, also working in Martin County, ended up marrying Gerard Schaefer’s wife, twenty four years Schwartz’ junior, while Schaefer was in prison. After divorcing Schaefer and marring Schwartz, the couple was happily married for thirty years. (The Early Lawyers of Martin County 1925-1965, Thomas Thurlow Jr, 2011.) Schaefer, on the other hand, was murdered by a fellow inmate while in prison in 2005.
The Schafer trail went on for years, long past my high school days, and definitely tainted my teenage mind.
I don’t know if it made me any more careful, in fact it may have made me more defiant, as I remember jogging along North River Road’s sidewalk at night in Sewall’s Point and being reprimanded by Chief Savini, even brought home; but, I know for sure that it certainly affected the way I view authority and “the world.”
“Things are not always what you think they are; don’t trust what you see.”
Today most people don’t even remember serial killer Gerard Schaefer, but I think as uncomfortable as it is, it is important that we do. Presently as Tyler Hadley is on trial in neighboring Port St Lucie, we are faced to confront demons even here along the beautiful Treasure Coast.
And most important, by remembering, there is a better chance that history will not be allowed to repeat itself.
Link to 2010 story by Stuart New’s Tyler Treadway: (https://www.tcpalm.com/news/2010/nov/28/former-martin-county-deputys-killing-spree-in-of/?print=1) Subscriber link: (https://www.tcpalm.com/news/2010/nov/28/former-martin-county-deputys-killing-spree-in-of/)