Illinois Man Caught After Holding Couple Hostage In Makeshift Dungeon
Chad Schipper blamed a “demon inside me” for kidnapping Larry and Connie Van Oosten for $350,000.
A husband and wife in Illinois were startled awake by an intruder standing at their bed. The couple’s ordeal would end with the FBI discovering them in a makeshift dungeon hidden in the basement of a home under construction.
On Feb. 8, 2017, the Whiteside County Sheriff’s Office received a call about a possible kidnapping at First Trust & Savings Bank in Albany.
Responding deputies learned that Connie Van Oosten came into the bank and requested a $350,000 from a teller, who she was able to pass a note indicating she and her husband, Larry, were being held against their will and needed help.
Surveillance video showed Connie leave the bank, with a cashier’s check in hand, walk down the street and enter a vehicle that then fled the area.
Deputies rushed to the Van Oostens’ home around 6:15 p.m. and spoke with the couple’s son, Jeff. According to the sheriff’s office, Jeff said he had been away for several days on a business trip in Washington and hadn’t heard from his parents. A search showed a broken window at the home, confetti from a deployed taser and spots of blood.
After furthering questioning Jeff and his sister, Amy, investigators cleared the pair. The FBI had meanwhile determined the vehicle Connie entered outside the bank was a Chevrolet Caprice from the early 1990s.
Investigators also learned the cashier’s check the bank gave Connie was made out to a specific company, The Store Edge. An older model Chevy Caprice was registered to an individual connected with the business: Chad Schipper.
“I’ve known him since we were in Sunday School together,” Amy says, explaining she would never have expected someone from the community being tied to her parents’ kidnapping.
Amy’s brother, Jeff, recalls while he and Schipper, the valedictorian of his class, didn’t run in the same crowd, they were friendly and would say hi if they saw each other.
Just after midnight on Feb. 9, 2017, agents determined Schipper was associated with several properties, including two in Geneseo, Illinois. At one address, a large home with a four-car garage, agents found nothing out of the ordinary but didn’t have probable cause to search the residence.
Agents surveilled the home and also continued to watch the Van Oosten’s house.
During the night, a deputy spotted a silver Caprice in the area and attempted to pull the vehicle over. The driver wrecked after a high-speed chase, and the deputy discovered Schipper behind the wheel.
“There was no one else in the vehicle, but we discovered a shovel, plastic sheeting, duct tape, a saw, which all for us indicated he was going to put someone in this plastic sheeting and bury ‘em,” Whiteside County Sheriff John Booker says.
Around 3 a.m., agents kicked in the door of the property they were surveilling and fanned out, conducting a methodical room-by-room search. Agents, however, were unable to locate the kidnapped couple. Then, they spotted a television monitor with a surveillance video feed. The footage on the screen showed two people on a mattress in a room that had no windows or doors.
Agents conducted a second search of the home and discovered a removable plywood floor in a closet leading to a solid steel hatch. After cutting a lock on the hatch, they opened it and descended into a secret walled-in room in the basement.
There, agents found Connie and Larry Van Oosten. “They told us it was the FBI, and that they were here to rescue us, and that we were safe,” Larry recalls of the “very joyful moment.”
In a post-arrest interview, Schipper admitted to carrying out the scheme. “I wanted to do it, and I did do it,” he said.
According to the kidnapper, money was tight and he was unable to cover bad investments he had been making.
Larry said that the morning of the kidnapping, he awoke to an armed person, later identified as Schipper, standing next to his bed dressed in black. The intruder shot a taser at Larry and forced Connie to handcuff her husband. The assailant then handcuffed Connie and put duct tape over the couple’s mouths and eyes.
After forcing the couple into the trunk of the Caprice, Schipper drove them to the home under construction, where he led down a ladder and into the sealed-off room in the basement.
Schipper later told detectives that he had asked Larry and Connie for money years prior to the kidnapping. “If they had helped me out then, things might have been different,” he said.
The kidnapper added that he disassociated when committing the crime, which he blamed on “the demon inside me.”
Schipper eventually pleaded guilty to the failed plot and received 60 years in prison without the possibility of parole.