40 YEARS AGO on this date, AUGUST 19th, Lloyd, Phyllis and Terri Schneider were savagely murdered in their home. In 1976, it was the most heinous crime to have occurred in the history of Logan County. Only Michael Drabing was arrested, charged and convicted of the murders.
It was two o’clock in the morning on Friday, August 20th when the phone rang at our house. I can still hear the stirring in my parents’ bedroom and see my father rushing down the staircase as I lay in bed wondering what was going on. I feared that either my Nana or Grandods had died. Then my mother stepped into the hallway and told me the shocking news. Dr. Glen Tomlinson had called to inform my father that Michael Drabing was at Abraham Lincoln Memorial Hospital and had confessed to murdering the Schneiders. I couldn’t believe my ears. I was immediately concerned about the events I’d experienced the month – and also just two days – prior.
On July 16, ’76, I had attended Nancy Schneider’s big outdoor party at the Schneider’s farm. I got to the party late because I had a gig at the Hotel Lincoln that night – singing and playing my guitar. When I arrived at the Schneider’s, there were several kegs of beer lined up by the back screen door, and the local band “Glacier” was performing. I witnessed three separate confrontations that night that ultimately changed my life. The first confrontation occurred when Phyllis Schneider found Pat Hanley, Michael Drabing and Rick Jones inside the house. The two other confrontations were heated exchanges between Lloyd Schneider and Pat Hanley, Michael Drabing, and Rick Jones – the final exchange was the most intense. Drabing and Jones were right by Hanley’s side in Hanley’s pickup, and it was Pat Hanley at the wheel who shouted all the threats and promised he was going to “get” and “kill” Lloyd. I was in the immediate area to hear and observe all three confrontations. Michael Drabing, Pat Hanley and Rick Jones graduated with the Lincoln Community High School class of ’73; Hanley’s mother worked as a secretary at LCHS, and Jones’s father was the superintendent, Dr. Robert Jones.
Following the final argument between Hanley and Lloyd Schneider, I was nearly run off the road and into a ditch by Hanley. When Hanley reached the one-lane bridge on Fifth Street Road, his truck came to a flat-out stop over Kickapoo Creek. I was unable to cross the bridge. I rolled up my car windows, locked the doors and kept my distance while Hanley got out of his truck and walked around to the passenger side. Drabing then stepped out on the passenger side, and they both began urinating off the bridge into Kickapoo Creek. Jones stayed inside the truck. Hanley began yelling to me from the bridge, goading me to get out of my car. Finally, an eastbound driver on Fifth Street caused Hanley and Drabing to get back into the truck, and they proceeded east to Lincoln to Manny’s bar where the partygoers had decided to congregate when the party ended.
The Monday following Nancy’s party, I told others, including my father, Logan County State’s Attorney Roger Thompson, about the one-lane bridge incident and the confrontations I witnessed between the three 21-year-old guys and Lloyd and Phyllis Schneider. Dad was angry about what had taken place and indicated he was going to have a talk with Rick Jones, who was Associate Judge Robert Thornton’s bailiff in the Logan County Courthouse during the spring and summer of 1976. Prior to ’76, Robert Thornton had been the Police Magistrate in the early ‘50s. I, and two of my friends, also worked in the courthouse during this time frame as deputy circuit clerks. I don’t know if my father ever spoke to bailiff Rick Jones about these incidents prior to August 19, ’76, but it would have been my father’s nature to have given Jones a piece of his mind.
It’s important to add that during the months of 1976, expelled Lincoln College student Russell Albin Smrekar, 21, was making repeated appearances in the Logan County Courthouse as the defendant in the Lincoln College burglary case and also the Kroger shoplifting case. Lincoln College student Michael Mansfield had disappeared from Rolling Meadows, IL on December 31, ’75, just 6 days before he was to testify against Smrekar at the Logan County Courthouse in the Lincoln College burglary case. Similarly, Lincoln realtor Ruth Martin had disappeared on June 2, ’76, just 6 days before she was to testify against Smrekar in the Kroger shoplifting case. Both theft cases were subject to ongoing continuances, and the Kroger shoplifting case was heard at varying times in Judge Thornton’s court.
Within the first few days subsequent to the Schneider triple homicide, I witnessed additional occurrences while in the company of other witnesses that caused me to believe Michael Drabing did not act alone. These events were exceptionally suspicious, and another key witness to these events came into possession of evidence that had to have related to the Schneider triple homicide. This evidence was never produced to authorities.
Drabing claimed he was insane when he (allegedly) single-handedly stabbed Lloyd, Phyllis and Terri Schneider 90 TIMES. The murders were clearly premeditated, and through my exhaustive reinvestigation of the Schneider case I’ve found many red flags; there are facts and evidence supporting that accomplices must have assisted Drabing in the crime. Left-handed Drabing sustained an allegedly self-inflicted slice wound on his outer right calf – cut almost to the bone – and it bled “profusely.” Pending his December ’76 trial, Drabing was placed in a Macon County Jail cell, and then in October ’76, Russell Smrekar became his cellmate following Smrekar’s arrest for the Fry double homicide. It’s interesting that these two murderers were placed in the same cell. Another Macon County Jail inmate said Drabing admitted that he “couldn’t get his wound to stop bleeding.” The night of the murders his jeans were, in fact, saturated with blood, yet NONE OF THE BLOOD OR TRACE EVIDENCE found on Drabing’s clothing was found in his Ford Torino. This fact overwhelmingly supports that someone else drove him to his mother’s house in another vehicle following the crime.
Lloyd, Phyllis and Terri were murdered somewhere between 11:15 and 11:30 PM. Drabing testified at trial that he sat down and rested for a bit after the stabbings, and then he stabbed them some more. Then he realized he’d lost the unloaded J.C. Higgins revolver during the struggle with Lloyd; he spent some time looking for it but couldn’t find it. Next, he realized the youngest Schneider daughter and the boyfriend of Terri Schneider (who was also at the home that night) had escaped out of Terri’s bedroom window. He went outside to look for them but couldn’t find them, so he went back inside the house. How much additional time did all this activity take? Drabing assumed his fingerprints would be on the gun and that the two who’d escaped could identify him; for these reasons, and also because he was badly wounded and bleeding “profusely,” he decided to go home. It was a 10-minute drive, alone, from the Schneider residence to the Drabing house on North Adams Street in Lincoln (IL).
When Drabing fled the scene of the crime, he ran across the Schneider’s front lawn. They had just mowed their grass, and his blood-soaked jeans collected a lot of the dead grass lying on the surface of the lawn. He claimed he was so tired he couldn’t hold on to the knife, and he dropped it somewhere. He didn’t bother to look for it. Why did Drabing run in the exact direction toward where the sheriff’s deputies would be approaching, especially if his car was allegedly parked in the opposite direction of where he was running? He then had to continue running – wounded, bleeding, stumbling and falling – 1 to 2 miles back to his car (Drabing alleged both distances). How long did that take? All this activity would have taken much more than 10-15 minutes, with the inclusion of the driving distance to the Drabing house on North Adams Street.
The sheriff’s dispatch received the first call from the youngest Schneider daughter at 11:41 PM. She had to break into a neighboring farmhouse to call the police. The first responding deputies arrived at the Schneider farm at 11:48 and 11:49. As Drabing was (allegedly) driving home, he claimed he passed the first squad cars on Fifth St. Rd., and he was listening to Gerald Ford giving his acceptance speech on the radio at the Republican Convention.
After Michael arrived home, Patricia Drabing summoned the family doctor, Dr. Glen Tomlinson, to come to her house because Michael was bloody, “bleeding profusely” and not responding to questions. Dr. Tomlinson had gone to the Community Theater for the opening night of “Gypsy.” I was also at the play that night, sitting in the same row as Lloyd and Phyllis Schneider, just several seats away. Tomlinson went to the Hotel Lincoln with friends after the play, and it was there that he was notify to go to the Drabing residence. He had to return home, first, prior to driving to the Drabing’s. The doctor testified at trial that he arrived at the Drabing’s at “midnight,” and Michael had arrive about 20 minutes before he got there (at approximately 11:40).
The morning of Friday, August 20, ’76, I was called up to my father’s office. Dad wanted me to tell a roomful of deputies, investigators and others what I’d witnessed and experienced the month prior at the Schneider’s party. I told them what I knew, and I also provided my father with additional information in the days that followed.
Drabing testified at trial that murdering the Schneiders was a “dry-run” in a continued plan of a “revolution” to exterminate “the rich.” He further testified he had “two targets” in mind and “one most likely” prior to the date of August 19, ’76. “I particularly thought about the Schneiders,” said Drabing, “and then Roger Thompson, I thought, would be a good one, too.” My father remained concerned about possible accomplices at large from the time of Drabing’s arrest, post conviction of Drabing, and until he died an untimely and disturbing death on May 5, 2001, the day before his 69th birthday.
Drabing testified at trial that he originally planned to kill the Schneider’s on Tuesday, August 17, ’76, but he changed his mind because he decided to go out with Pat Hanley and Rick Jones, instead. Where did the three guys go the night of August 17th? They went to Kickapoo Creek Park after the park had closed; they were purportedly somewhere in the park when they were approached by the park ranger who made a “big deal” about something. From Kickapoo Creek Park they drove to Railsplitter Park “to check out a road.” Included in the topic of their discussions that night was Charles Manson and the book and movie “Helter Skelter.”
On Wednesday morning, August 18, the morning prior to the Schneider murders, bailiff Jones arrived at the courthouse looking bedraggled. He admitted to me and another co-worker that he’d just gotten home at 6:30 a.m. that same morning and “some weird things happened.” Later that afternoon, he returned to back part of the circuit clerk’s office and told me with a smirk on his face, “Somethin’ big and somethin’ bad’s gonna happen.”
Drabing was examined by a number of psychiatrists who wrote reports to my father prior to trial, and they later testified at trial. One psychiatrist offered interesting information presented to him by Drabing on November 5, ’76, prior to trial. The psychiatrist wrote in his report:
“He [Drabing] stated that during this time [a few days prior to August 19, ‘76] he was planning the murders. He put the gun in the car, he got some rope, and he bought a knife. He selected the victims whom he knew slightly but had no particular antagonism towards them, other than he felt they were rich and needed to be killed. He drove around the house and decided where he would park the car. He first went out on August 17th with the intention of killing them and is not sure why he did not follow through.”
What Drabing relayed to the psychiatrist proves that Drabing changed his story when he testified at trial. At trial, Drabing knew exactly why he didn’t follow through with killing the Schneiders on Tuesday, August 17th. Here’s some verbatim trial testimony:
Roger Thompson stated, “You said you decided to kill the Schneiders on August 19th, is that correct?”
“Uh-huh,” Drabing responded.
“Hadn’t you actually thought about a plan to go out there on the evening of the 17th of August?” recalled Thompson.
“Yes, as a matter of fact, that afternoon I put everything I needed in my car.”
Thompson asked, “What caused you to abort your plans for that evening?”
Drabing was kind of smug, “Oh, I guess you could say I had a social function.”
Thompson stated, “And that is when you went out with your friends Pat Hanley and Rick Jones, is that right?”
“Uh-huh,” Drabing responded.
“And you went out with them and drove around and went out to Kickapoo Park, I believe, and then Railsplitter Park and talked, is that right?”
“Did you discuss the book Helter Skelter with Rick Jones that evening?”
Drabing verified, “Yeah.”
So, at trial, Drabing knew exactly why he didn’t carry out the murders on the 17th – he had a “social function” and went driving around with Hanley and Jones. What’s significant here is that Drabing told the psychiatrist prior to trial that he did go to the Schneider’s on the evening of the 17th, and he drove around their house and decided where to park his car. Drabing, Hanley and Jones admitted they were all together driving around on August 17th, and they talked about “Helter Skelter” that night. Therefore, if Drabing did go out to the Schneiders, like he told the psychiatrist he had, and he was in the area surrounding their home deciding where to park his car on the original evening he planned to kill the Schneiders, then Hanley and Jones (it would logically seem) must have been in his company. The Schneiders apparently reported “prowlers” outside their home just prior to the murders.
August 17th was also the date of Drabing’s last appointment with the Springfield Vine Street Clinic. He stopped taking his prescribed medication on the 17th, a mild sedative called SK Pramine. The medication had been prescribed to him for depression and anxiety, and also because he’d told a psychiatric social worker he was having thoughts about killing people. Apparently, Drabing wanted to be on top of his game on the original night he planned to carry out the “revolution.”
The below selected dialogue was taken from a meeting held in the Logan County State’s Attorney’s office on August 30, 1976. It begins with discussion about Drabing’s Ford Torino:
Bob Carnduff: Everything we found and pointed out to Ron Smith as far as chemical testing for blood was negative. It didn’t show any traces of blood, anyway.
Roger Thompson: Did you go through his clothes to see if he had like a rag or handkerchief, towel in his pocket, or piece of it, anything like that?
Bob Carnduff: His clothing didn’t have anything in it.
Bob Schacht: Wasn’t there grass that fell out of his cuffs or something?
Bob Carnduff: Well, there was grass on his pants.
Bob Carnduff (continued): Did he state to [Doctor] Tomlinson, or did Tomlinson state where his car was parked?
Roger Thompson: Yeah, he told Tomlinson he thought about two miles away from that house. Now . . . .
Greg Winter: He couldn’t have gotten to his car in time and met the squad cars and went back into town.
Bob Schacht: I don’t think so either.
Greg Winter: Especially if he said he went outside and looked inside for them and tried to find the gun and sat down for a couple of minutes. There’s just no way he could have gone that far that fast.
Roger Thompson: As far as having any physical evidence there, still there’s a lagging doubt in a lot of people’s minds because of the interior of that car [Drabing’s Ford Torino] that he [Drabing] may have come back into Lincoln by other means.
Roger Thompson (continued): Getting back to the car, do you think that it has been processed just as completely as possible at this point?
Ken Otey: There’s nothing there. I think I’ve done about all we can do with it right now. I don’t know what else we can get out of it unless Bob would have some suggestions.
Bob Carnduff: No because of all the running and as wet as his tennis shoes were and like you said, from the grass and dirt that was on his pants, there just wasn’t any of this present in that car.
Roger Thompson: Well, as far as any other person or persons involved in this, the only person I can think of at all as being suspicious in that respect would be this Pat Hanley. He had given a statement, and I think that that statement needs to be checked out. Have you done anything on that Bob or contacted anybody to check out the names?
Bob Carnduff: I haven’t done anything in Jacksonville yet.
Roger Thompson: Okay, I’ve given you a copy of that haven’t I, of Hanley’s statement? Yeah, okay.
Bob Carnduff: We’ve got a couple guys who live over there.
Roger Thompson: I think as long as the people are thinking that, we’ve got to look into it. Check out his alibi.
Roger Thompson (continued): We do know that he [Drabing] was very interested in the book ‘Helter Skelter’. He talked about it as late as Tuesday, the 17th with Rick Jones. He had seen the T.V. movie and supposedly had read the book twice. And Stu, you said you were going back through it again making notes, and I’m doing the same thing.
Roger Thompson (continued): The defense in this case is bound to be insanity. He [Drabing] almost has to build an insanity defense because of the fact he did express these fears, that he was going to hurt somebody to his mother, and he goes down there eight weeks ago [to the Springfield Vine St. Clinic]. Now it’s very important, suppose that was just part of the whole damn thing . . . an alibi prior.
Roger Thompson (continued): Vine Street, of course, is in an interesting position. They can’t very well say that the guy is a homicidal maniac because they give him, in effect, a mild dose of pills, SK Pramine in the lowest prescription form, 50 mg., and subject him to weekly counseling sessions with a psychiatric social worker. What are they going to say? They’re not going to say, they’re in a hell of a position; they’re between the devil and the deep blue sea, the way I look at it.
As it was, state investigators waited until Sept 9th to go to Jacksonville to check out Hanley’s sketchy alibi, which was never fully corroborated. The complete absence of blood and trace evidence in Drabing’s car pointed to accomplice(s) being involved in the murders, but that lack of physical evidence in Drabing’s car made it impossible to indict others. Drabing made it known to investigators that he was not a “snitch.” Drabing pled insanity, which was his only ploy and chance for an acquittal, a lessor sentence, or time in mental institution. If he had rolled over on his possible accomplices, he couldn’t have used an insanity plea, for he and his accomplices could not have been simultaneously insane on August 19, ’76. It seems there was critical physical evidence collected in the Schneider case that may not have been brought out in detail to my father in ’76. This evidence, and an abundance of additional evidence and information, strongly points to there being accomplices involved in the murders.
The person who withheld critical evidence and information in ’76 relating to the Schneider murders is still living in Lincoln. This evidence seemed to blatantly support that accomplices were involved in the murders. This person is continuing to withhold this critical information TO THIS DAY and has chosen to not tell the truth. This person has had plenty of time and opportunity to do the right thing but has not voluntarily exposed the information connecting to the evidence withheld. For many different reasons, this person should be interrogated – this should have happened a long, long time ago.
I do not believe for one millisecond that Michael Drabing was the sole mastermind of this premeditated Manson copycat crime or that he acted alone. Both Drabing and Smrekar were Manson followers. There is far more to this than most Logan County citizens realize. The Martin and Schneider murder cases absolutely warrant and demand official reinvestigation. If you think you know everything about these cases, you don’t. Even I don’t have ALL the answers, but I have abundantly more answers and information to reveal than ever offered in the past. Grand Jury hearings should be convened to hear new evidence and information not brought to light in ’76, in addition to evidence that was, in some instances, concealed from the proper authorities in ’76.
Michael Drabing’s recent drop in security level and transfer from Menard to Lawrence Correctional Center is especially troubling and unjustified. It doesn’t matter how “model” an inmate he’s possibly been, nothing can erase or gloss over the magnitude of the crime in which he was involved. It’s now 40 YEARS LATER, and Drabing’s still not telling the complete truth about the murders. If he were to spill the beans, he could no longer claim he was insane or “mentally ill”; that bogus plea is all he has to hold on to if he is to have any chance of future parole. I believe this is largely why he is not a “snitch.”
The time has come to put an end to that old saying, “If you want to commit a murder and get away with it, do it in Logan County.” If Abraham Lincoln is revered by past and present citizens of Logan County – and if the town of Lincoln is to represent and uphold his good name – citizens will take a serious interest in this and help to see that these long neglected injustices are fully and properly investigated. The reinvestigation of the Ruth Martin case is also critical in conjunction with the reinvestigation of the Schneider triple homicide. Please SIGN THE PETITION on this website and encourage others to do the same. The time is NOW.
Bonnie J. Thompson (Copyright 2013, 2015, 2016)