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Investigators Search For Missing Woman, Clues To Four Murders

July 6, 1987

ATHENS, Wis. (AP) _ Authorities searched woods and fields around an isolated farm house for a 70-year-old woman, hoping she could give them some clues to the deaths of four of her relatives.

The bodies of Helen Kunz’s brother, two sisters and son were found at the house shortly before 5 a.m. Sunday by a second son who told authorities he had just returned home from work.

The victims appeared to have been shot, said Marathon County Sheriff Leroy Schillinger. Homicide was presumed, but authorities had no motive, no weapon and no suspect, he said. Autopsies were planned.

″We’re just trying to find Helen right now,″ Schillinger said. ″If we find Helen, we may have some answers.″

No trace of her was found Sunday by authorities who searched sheds, woods and ditches on the family’s 108 acres. Asked if she was considered a suspect, the sheriff said she would be if she is alive. The son who found the bodies was questioned once as a possible suspect and probably will be questioned again but was not arrested, Schillinger said.

″If there was a struggle, nothing seems out of place,″ Schillinger said. ″I wouldn’t say there was a struggle.″

Ms. Kunz, who neighbors said sometimes walked more than a quarter-mile to the mailbox, had no known medical problems.

Neighbors said the family kept to itself in a community where residents gather frequently for card parties, weddings and anniversary celebrations.

The Kunzes ″lived like we did in the 1930s,″ the sheriff said. ″There was no indoor plumbing. They cooked with wood.″

He identified the victims as farm owner Clarence Kunz, 76, who was found in bed, his sisters Marie Kunz, 72, and Irene Kunz, 81, and the son of Helen Kunz, Randy Kunz, 30.

Marie Kunz was found on steps in an enclosed porch, he said. Randy Kunz was on the kitchen floor, and Irene Kunz was in the livingroom.

The bodies were discovered by Randy’s brother, Kenneth J. Kunz, 55, who lives in a camper on the farm and said he last saw his family alive on Saturday night.

Clarence Kunz once grew grain and owned a few livestock, but quit farming after he began to have heart trouble, said Arvin Apfelbeck, a neighbor for about 25 years.

Helen Kunz kept the household running, Apfelbeck said. ″She wouldn’t harm a fly,″ he said.

James Blazel said he lived near the farm for more than 20 years but knew little about the family.

″They’re nice people and all,″ Blazel said. ″But they’re quiet and they’re different. They didn’t associate with anybody. They don’t dress like normal people; they wear old-timey clothing.″

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