Wilson County’s David Riemens lived in a tree house and didn’t own a cellphone. He basically lived off the grid.
And that appears to be one of the reasons his 9-year-old murder is still unsolved.
David lived in a tree house on the farm of his dear friends Donny and Laura Nuessle.
When they wanted a root cellar, David dreamed up a Hobbit house, right down to the circle door.
Some people would describe him as “different.” He had absolutely no cell phone and no computer. He’s an old hippie if you will.
“He was just a 60-year-old man off the grid, he never wanted to leave a trace, he was very concerned about using too many resources, he had that Native American tread lightly on the land about everything,” his close friend Laura Nuessle said.
But not when it came to people. David was deeply connected to his friends; relationships were so important to him.
“So he’s always been my brother, he’s always been there for me, anytime I had any kind of struggle with anything he was always there, physically or emotionally, to help,” Nuessle said. “He was just the best kind of friend you could ever have.”
So what happened to David?
Just before his disappearance, David was buying bricks from an old man, making multiple trips, and on that property there was a foundation being built. David thought it would make a great stone building, so he sketched out plans and tried for weeks to meet with the contractor or the owner of the proposed building.
Finally, he scheduled a meeting the day before he was heading on a trip to visit his brother in Michigan.
“He had his notebook that I knew he had his figures in. He said it was important not to forget your paperwork, and so he looked like he was excited and he had a chance to talk to whoever was in charge of his project so he jumped into his truck and headed off,” Dr. Donny Nuessle said.
No one ever saw him again.
His truck was discovered at the Dollar General in Watertown. It was locked. There were no keys. His wallet was there and all the money was gone. And most disturbing of all. The page with his sketches for the new project was missing. Someone tore it out.
Dr. Donny Nuessle spent a career as an emergency room physician. He is a man of action, so he actually hired planes to fly over the land looking for a foundation, a pile of bricks, anything that could lead him to where this meeting was supposed to have taken place.
“I think it was some sort of a set-up, I don’t know how many people were involved, and I don’t know how to connect, it’s just what’s the motive,” Laura Nuessle said.
Years passed with nothing. No news, no old man with a pile of bricks was discovered, no foundation.
And then four years ago, someone discovered a skull on a hill. It was David, but what was he doing here and what does that suggest?
To good friend Brenda Aiken it suggests the killer is from around here.The remains of David Riemens, who lived off the grid, were found years after his disappearance (Submitted to FOX 17 News)
“If someone is randomly going to kill someone for their money or something, and they are not from around here, it would seem like they would just get rid of the body,” Aiken said, “They wouldn’t go to the pains of knowing how to get to the land and throwing the body over the fence in some trees and leaves knowing that people don’t go there.”
And think about it, while this sight is in plain sight of Highway 70, there are also some paths that cut through property that could get you here in complete secrecy.
Weeds were 5-feet-high here when Riemens disappeared, it feels like it was someone who knew about this path, knew this remote area so well, they picked the perfect place to dump his body.
“I think that lane next to the property line that leads up to that tree stand that needs to be investigated, I think the person who leased the land and some of his family members, people who would have had access, if that gate was locked, should be looked into,” Aiken said.
But wait, if you are thinking this is a 9-year-old murder, why wasn’t this investigated at the beginning? You are onto something.
The friends admit this is a difficult case, but feel that the Wilson County Sheriff’s Department did not work it hard enough, did not follow leads they provided, did not interview enough people who had strange connections or made odd comments.
“We were more frustrated with the police than impressed, there really wasn’t much for them to find, but what frustrated us was intriguing comments that would come to us as hearsay, and we would report them to police. On several occasions, we learned they never went and investigated and talked to and sort of followed that lead,” Dr. Nuessle said.
And with no physical evidence, the bones did not reveal the cause of death. With no cell phone records, the only hope was multiple, aggressive interviews or checking out hearsay.
“It just seems like one of those leads has got to be true. It’s frightening because we know the murderer is probably still in our community,” said Laura Nuessle.
FOX 17 News spoke with the detective in charge of the case. He said they checked out lots of leads and followed up on lots of hearsay but just didn’t make those details public.
Wilson County Detective Major Robert Stafford said with that being said, he is willing to take a look at any new leads and go over some of the old ones. He said he wants to solve the case and will do whatever it takes.