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A young man disappears from Madison, Wisconsin

Chad Maurer

Chad Maurer

A young man disappears from Madison, Wisconsin, then two days later he’s found dead in Chicago.

In the spring of 1990, 19-year-old Chad Maurer was working in a bike shop in Madison, Wisconsin. A popular student and well-rounded athlete, Chad hoped to save up enough money to move to Colorado for college and snowboarding.

On the afternoon of May 19th, Chad returned home to grab a quick lunch before returning to work. Everything seemed normal, including Chad’s request for gas money. Chad’s mother, Dolly Maurer, remembers that day vividly:

“There was nothing about him that was different. He wasn’t on edge. He was just so excited about the job. And he had a big smile on his face, as usual.” 

Chad’s father, John Maurer, noticed nothing unusual either:

“I was standing right outside saying good-bye to him and I didn’t notice anything different either, about anything or the car. It was kind of cool out that day and I just don’t think he intended to go anywhere else or he would have had a jacket with him.”

But Chad didn’t make it back to work. He ended up 150 miles away in the south side of Chicago, one of the roughest neighborhoods in the country. That’s where a maintenance worker found Chad’s car abandoned in the garage of a housing complex. Inside the car, Chad lay dead, apparently from carbon monoxide poisoning. The Chicago police contacted the Maurers with the tragic news that their son had committed suicide. Chad’s mother could not believe it:

“My system went into shock. My brain went into shock. Chad had too much going for him. Chad had all his friends and Chad loved life. Chad was not depressed. Chad was not down. He had so many goals.” 

He was found dead in his car

He was found dead in his car

The Chicago police claimed there was no evidence of foul play, yet the knuckles on both of Chad’s hands had been skinned to the bone and there were bruises on his face. When the Maurers asked to see Chad’s old clothes, they found them stained with blood.  John and Dolly began to fear that their son had been murdered. They went to review police photos of their son’s body, along with Dane County Sheriff’s Department Detective David Bongiovani:

“The parents noted the jacket on the front seat was not a jacket they knew Chad owned.  It would be interesting to know if the jacket size is consistent with Chad’s size. Or it may give us an idea of the basic build of somebody that may have been in the car with him.”

The jacket was another clue pointing to the involvement of an unknown person in Chad’s death. The autopsy report also suggested that Chad had not taken his own life. The level of carbon monoxide in his body was 74%, much higher than usually found in a suicide.  While the findings proved that Chad had died of carbon monoxide poisoning, the extremely high levels suggested he had been put in the car while unconscious, rather than getting into the car under his own power. Det. Bongiovani:

“My understanding is that levels where they’re conscious, at the time they succumb to carbon monoxide, is about 50 to 60%. Levels that get up to 74 to 80% are more consistent with a person being unconscious or sleeping when they succumb to carbon monoxide poisoning, and that’s because people naturally have a tendency to breathe deeper and more methodically when they’re sleeping than when they’re awake.” 

The cause of Chad’s death was changed from suicide to undetermined and authorities began a full-blown investigation. The bike shop owner was quoted in a local newspaper saying he thought Chad had seemed afraid. Soon after the article appeared, the shop was vandalized. No other stores in the area were hit. It appeared someone was sending a message. 

Was Chad’s murder drug related?

Chad’s story was aired on a local Crime Stoppers program in Madison. After the broadcast, a caller left a disturbing tip alleging that Chad was involved in a drug deal with people who lived in his apartment complex. These same people had previously lived on the south side of Chicago. Sgt. John W. Ridges is with the Chicago Police Department:

“We know through our intelligence sources that there is a pipeline of narcotics trafficking from Chicago to Madison. Now, there’s nothing in Chad’s background that would really suggest that he’s involved with narcotics. But because of this conduit, there’s a possibility that he might have been tricked into being involved in narcotics and narcotics trafficking.”

Det. Bongiovani has his own theories:

“Is it possible that somebody offered him money? Chad was looking for money and wanted to move to Colorado. He was hoping to get a couple thousand dollars to go there for a snowboarding and BMX event. Is it possible somebody offered him $500 to make the trip, and then when they got to Chicago, reneged on that, and an altercation occurred, with Chad obviously being the loser of that altercation?” 

Sgt. Ridge thinks that someone in the Madison area may know more than they are willing to tell:

“I think probably that’s who we’re trying to reach out to now, because we’re not going to know what happened inside that garage unless we know the circumstances surrounding how he got there, and that’s what we’re really after at this point.”

Chad’s mother, Dolly, is left to deal with the pain of not knowing:

“All we know in Chad’s case is that Chad is dead, and he ended up in Chicago, and we know he was beaten up. But why was he beaten up? How did he end up in Chicago? There are so many questions. And every day we wake up and we think a different thing that could have happened to Chad. I know it won’t bring Chad back, but we cannot rest, and we cannot put Chad to rest until we really have the answers to this case.”