Justice Delayed: The Murder of Mindy Schloss
Updated: Jul 31, 2022
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This murder happened in Anchorage, Alaska.
Alaska is the last frontier, a label intended to evoke feelings and qualities of the old west: self-sufficiency, rugged individualism necessitated by harsh geography and climate.
Alaska is also the most transient state. Only 41% of Alaskans were actually born there. The largest state in geography, but only 700,000 people live there. And of those people in and around Anchorage. People flow in and out and through Anchorage as a gateway to the remote parts of the enormous state. Professionals in Anchorage, often travel to the states remote regions to work in natural resource industries or to provide contracted services like medical care. For the people that live there, Anchorage has densely packed business and multi-use housing areas as well as quiet, large lot residential zones. One attractive aspect is a mix of greenbelts and parks woven into, and forming barriers between, various zoning districts. These parks feature 250 miles of trails that allow year-round foot, bike, and in winter, ski transit, connecting to almost anywhere in the city.
Mindy Schloss was born in Brooklyn, New York. As a young adult, she moved to Seattle, and still in her mid-twenties she came to Anchorage where she embarked on a career in nursing. Over the years, Mindy achieved several degrees: A bachelor's in nursing from the University of Alaska Anchorage, followed by masters degrees in public health, adult nurse practitioner and psychiatric nurse practitioner. By August of 2007, at 52 years old, Mindy Schloss was a woman with a challenging nursing career. She loved to travel the world for recreation and traveled extensively around Alaska for work.
She owned a house on Cutty Sark Street in Kincaid, a middle-class relatively peaceful enclave, situated, just southwest of Spenard. She had a long-term boyfriend who lived in his own house elsewhere in Anchorage. Mindy's busy life required that she employ a housekeeper. She also hired out maintenance and had a contractor making some improvements to her home.
People who knew Mindy said that she enjoyed her independent life, her profession, and the travel that allowed experience parts of remote Alaska that few ever see. Despite her love of travel, Mindy had recently decided to focus her work in Anchorage. She had signed a lease for office space in a nearby location, popular with medical professionals.
Unknown to Mindy, there was a man living next door who'd been watching her. From the window in the room he rented on Cutty Sark Street, he could see down into Mindy's windows. He could see that she was an attractive woman. And he could see when she was alone.
Anchorage is the land of the midnight sun. In early August, the sun sets around 10:30 PM and rises again about 4:30 AM. So in the early morning hours of August 4th, after the last light had faded, the man broke into Mindy's house as she slept. He violently attacked her. Raped her as she cried out for help. He was young and powerful and he came prepared with a gun and zip ties. He forced her to give up the pin to her bank card. Then he bound and gagged her. Secured her in the back of her small car. She then endured a drive at least 45 minutes away from her home and her life.
And when the car came to its destination, the man forced Mindy out onto a gravel road in a heavily wooded area. He made her walk into the woodline where he made her knee. Then he shot her in the back of the head, killing her instantly. The man got back into Mindy's car and drove back to Anchorage. He dumped the car in a lot near the airport and walked away.
Kathleen Hodges called Anchorage Police Department on August 7th, 2007. She was worried about her friend, Mindy Schloss. Hodges was calling from Fairbanks, about 350 miles north of Anchorage. Mindy hadn't shown up for work in Fairbanks, and she wasn't answering her phone. She hadn't told anyone she wasn't coming. And Mindy was a reliable person. Hodges knew, just showing up was unthinkable unless there was something seriously wrong. Other people were also concerned that Mindy had been unreachable.
Those concerns filtered through the Anchorage police department to Sgt. Slav Markovitz, head of the homicide unit. At APD, the homicide unit also triaged incoming missing person reports. It turned out that patrol had already been to the house to check for Mindy. They found nothing immediately alarming, but no Mindy. APD Detective Pam Paranoud went back to the house and took a closer look. What she found was suspicious. Mindy was not the kind of person to go off on announced. Her car and key personal effects were not in the house. During the first canvas. of the neighborhood a witness said they heard a woman scream out in the in the early morning hours on Saturday, but nothing else. The residence north of Mindy's place was quiet and nobody came to the door. Mindy's boyfriend was initially unreachable. Detectives talked to the housekeeper and the contractors with no solid leads.
Upon additional interviews in the neighborhood, two significant things came to light the residents at the house to the north where young, had loud gatherings, and were considered a nuisance by some. A woman came forward to report that one of the men living at that house had approached her. He asked that she not mentioned his presence to the police, ostensibly, because he had an unrelated arrest warrant. The woman said she thought the man's name was Josh.
This was a breakthrough conversation in the investigation. A potential suspect was actively trying to information from the police. When Detective Paranoud was able to corner the two young owners of that house, they admitted that they were renting a room to Joshua Wade.
From there, the case began picking up steam. Mindy's bank confirmed that two withdrawals for $500 had been made during the period that she was believed to be missing: one from near her house, the other off 36th Avenue in Spenard. Video from those transactions showed a male, wearing a blue coat, a baseball cap pulled down low and a bandana across his face. In one, the bandana slipped, exposing his chin, but still the picture quality was not good. Nor was the face exposed enough to make an immediate identification.
Detectives obtained a search warrant for the house and found several items. A, blue jacket, similar to one wornin the ATM camera, a receipt for one of the two $500 withdrawals, and a watch identified as belonging to Mindy. Mindy's red Acura was found where it was dumped at the airport, and some of Mindy's things were inside, but there was no clear indication of where she might be. And Wade was nowhere to be found.
The quick succession of revelations turbocharged the investigation. Turning it quickly from a missing person case into a manhunt for a suspected killer. Across APD additional resources were tasked for the effort. Detectives scoured the city, looking at locations linked to Wade. Line searches were conducted in parks, near Mindy's house. The FBI assisted with the investigation, flying up one of their bloodhound tracking teams. The two hounds were used independently, and each tracked a scent from where the car was dumped to the house on Cutty Sark and from the ATM all four miles to that. house. In an unusual move, large billboards, basically huge wanted posters, with Wade's photo were set up at major roadways in neighborhoods that he was likely to frequent.
On September 2nd, 2007, 29 days after Schloss went missing, the police department received a call from a woman who claimed to know Wade. She said she was calling because Wade was outside of her apartment, located on tutor road, a short distance east from the police department. When Wade realized the woman on the phone was talking to the police, he ran to a nearby apartment, forced his way inside and held a girl hostage. The police locked the area down. This was occurring in the middle of the day, near one of the busiest intersections in Anchorage. So after the police perimeter was set, the media started arriving. For a brief time, the entire city was focused on the drama at Tutor and Boniface. But it didn't last long. An APD negotiator successfully convinced Wade to come out. The media was able to take photos of Wade in handcuffs and a white wife beater shirt as he was placed in the back of a patrol car. In the background of these photos, SWAT and other officers could be seen securing their gear at the successful conclusion of the manhunt. Following his arrest, Wade was taken to the Anchorage police headquarters. He didn't say much and invoked his right to an attorney.
On September 13th, 2007, a worker serving a wooded area near the town of Wasilla ,about 45 miles north of Anchorage stumbled across decomposed human remains. Mindy was finally found after having been missing for 39 days.
All of Wade's accused crimes could be charged Alaska statute. Still, the charges were made under federal code, because that brings the ability to seek the death penalty. As the forensic processing progressed, Wade was initially charged with bank fraud for using Mindy's ATM card. The evidence in this case, all pointed to Wade: the ATM receipt, recovered stolen property, zip ties from the house that matched those on Mindy's body, DNA from the car, and data from Wade's phone, and a photo showing Wade with the same make and model of gun used to kill Mindy.
After months of a awaiting a death penalty trial, Wade made a plea deal with prosecutors. He would admit to killing both Mindy Schloss and Della Brown. And in return, the death off the table. Wade was headed to life in prison at Spring Creek Correctional Facility in Seward, Alaska.
Wade was then sentenced in 2009 for the murder of Mindy Schloss. The judge chastised Wade for preying on innocent women, and Wade angrily shouted at the judge, "what about all the men I killed?!" The judge then invited him to talk about those men, but Wade's defense attorney took control of his client.
Fast forward to June 20th, 2014 . The FBI released the following statement:
"The Alaska Department of Law, United States Attorney's Office for the District of Alaska, Anchorage Police Department, and Federal Bureau of Investigations Alaska Office are working together to investigate claims made by convicted killer Joshua Wade, that he murdered three people in addition to Anchorage residents, Della Brown and Mindy Schloss. In 2009, Wade pled guilty and was convicted of carjacking and killing Mindy Schloss in 2007. As part of that conviction, Wade also admitted to murdering Della brown in 2000. The Alaska Superior Court imposed a sentence of 99 years to serve, and the United States District Court imposed a consecutive sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole for the overall conduct.
The original sentences imposed against Wade required that he be imprisoned for at least 66 years by the State of Alaska Department of Corrections before being eligible for parole on the state conviction. If Wade was paroled, he would then be transferred to the Federal Bureau of Prisons to serve the balance of his life behind bars for the federal conviction, with no possibility of release.
Under the terms of an agreement later reached between Wade and state and federal law enforcement, Wade agreed to provide information about three murders that he claims responsibility for committing. In exchange, prosecutors agreed to transfer Wade from the state prison to a maximum security federal prison outside of Alaska to serve his life sentence. Wade told Anchorage Police Detectives and Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation that he is responsible for the murder of a man in Anchorage in 1994 and for the murder of another man in Anchorage in 1999. Law enforcement believes Wade is referring to the unsolved murders of 38 year old John Michael Martin in 1994 and 30 year old Henry Ongtowasruk in 1999. We had also stated that he killed an unidentified man on the same night that he murdered Della Brown in 2000.
Mark: I'm Mark Rein and I'm here with Marcy. So, let's talk about this case.
Marcy: Yeah, this is such sad case.
Mark: Many of the personal details of Mindy Schloss came from her obituary and public statements made by friends. I really felt her because her story was so relatable to me and many other Alaskans. Marcy, you're a nurse who has traveled to remote of the state to provide service to people. A lot of professionals in Alaska do this either with roles government, or as contracted professionals filling a specific need.
Marcy: Yeah. She went to my alma mater UAA and she got a Master's in Public Health like me. She traveled the state for work like I did and I've actually worked several travel jobs where I lived alone for periods and I never felt comfortable being alone and this case is one of the reasons. That feeling that if it could happen to her it could happen to me.
Mark: The missing persons report here is reverse from a lot of incidents. Many times, people from Anchorage traveling to the bush were missing, you know, kind of out there somewhere. Anchorage people would go to Kodiak or the Southeast and go missing while hiking or fishing and our role at APD was coordination with people or organizations in those remote areas.
Marcy: Is it true that you have to wait 24 or 48 hours to report a missing person?
Mark: Well the easy answer is no, you don't to wait. But the response you get depends on how the report is received. Keeping in mind that most people, uh, in missing person reports are not missing due to a problem, they just can't be reached for one reason or another. On patrol because of the areas I worked, I ran into missing people regularly. And those people would often say, "oh, that reports for my mom or that's my husband. And I don't want to talk to them."
Marcy: I remember as a dispatcher telling people that adults have the right to decide not to talk to you.
Mark: Yeah. It's the right of adults to go off unannounced or to be delayed somewhere. That's common. Part of the misunderstanding about this, people who hear about this are appalled if they hear that someone's missing and the police aren't actively searching for them. The sad reality is that there are so many missing person reports coming in on a daily basis that if departments started an immediate ground search, anytime they came in, that's all they would do. So on the street, we'd clear missing person reports. When we ran into people that we could identify, uh, we clear them from the computer system, but I'd always encourage those individuals to contact whoever made the initial report and smooth things over. Missing person reports are kind of triaged by patrol officers, dispatchers as they come in, who take the initial report and then those are reviewed by the Sergeant of Homicide.
Marcy: So what do they look for when they're reviewing those reports?
Mark: Well, both for patrol and when it reaches Sergeant Markowitz in homicide, that assessment is more art than science. There's a lot of judgment of how suspicious the situation is. I'll cover more on missing persons in a subsequent episode, but I can say that some cases are immediately alarming and the search starts right then. Some not so much. For example, a person who is a known addict, who has disappeared a lot in the past, maybe frequently disappears for days at a time. It's not going to get as much immediate attention, you know, minus any other compelling details. In general, subject's vulnerability, if they're young, if they have medical conditions. Those kinds of things increase the urgency.
Marcy: What was it about the Mindy Schloss report that triggered a more robust response?
Mark: So most of this crime occurred on that Saturday morning, a friend called the next day and patrol went out, but no one was home, nothing was immediately alarming. Her coworker called in from Fairbank's the next day, which is Monday. So multiple people calling in with their concerns, separately, coupled with certain details. That's what got the ball rolling. She was a dependable working professional and a woman who lived alone, which increases the appearance of vulnerability. But the urgency only grew as the week passed. And there's still no word. With that, the more intense process cranks up.
Marcy: After she's not at home and she's not at work, where do you look?
Mark: You're gonna start with your inner circle and, and work out. And this basically applies to any missing persons report that comes in, that we're gonna, you know, that's suspicious enough that we're gonna immediately start working or, or work after a period of time. You know, she had a boyfriend. He's not around. We're gonna find out where he's at. It turns out he was out of town on a job, just like she was at different location. So you look at the house cleaner, the contractors, the friends, the coworkers. Who might seem suspicious? Who's not acting quite right? You know, these interviews take time. The next level of inquiry after those, the phone records and banking, takes a little longer. As you work your way out, you begin to look at the neighborhood. Preliminary canvas, like in this case, will be quick. So you got to do that likely maybe the first day. You're hoping to find a neighbor who says, "oh, Mindy, She said she was going to lake. She drove out there Sunday". But in this case that didn't happen. So when they didn't get anything in the immediate circle of associates, they went back to comb the neighborhood later.
Marcy: What you described as pretty systematic. Is that how all types of crimes are worked?
Mark: Yes, basically, and particularly in unknown suspect cases. I started my detective time in burglary. The definition of burglary is unlawful entry with the intent to commit a crime. Now, this can be unlawful entry with the intent to commit any crime, but usually burglary is associated with theft. My time in burglary was frustrating because you're trying to prove a crime that no one saw happened. And about this time in my personal life, I had to do a research project. So I studied burglary. What I found, is there a lot of consistencies in these investigations that hold true with investigating other crimes. For example, burglaries are most often committed by people with inside information: family members, friends, hired workers, neighbors.
Marcy: Why is that?
Mark: Well, they know you have something worth taking because they've seen it. They've been inside your house or they been outside your house. They know things that are going on. I remember one of the books I read describes a factor as "the outwardly apparent signs of occupant prosperity", which basically means that if your neighbors can see you have good stuff through the front window, you're at greater risk of having your house burg'd. Also houses on corners, or that have a foot path that runs along the property are at greater risk. It's easier for a suspect to see inside, scope for activity. The public access allows for them to case the area and not to stick out as someone who doesn't belong.
Marcy: Right. So even if cops stopped them, they can still say that they were just walking on the sidewalk or on the trail, minding in their own business.
Mark: Burglars, most often hit places they're familiar with. There are many who travel from the poorest areas of town to the richest to commit a burglary.
Mark: Well, they aren't comfortable there. They feel like they don't belong. They feel exposed. In their own neighborhood, they know what's going on. It's always amazed me when I went to a break-in at some home where there's obviously very little value or like the only thing that was taken was the new TV they just bought. You know, that wasn't just some random person who opened a random door. Someone knew what they were going to steal and when the coast would be clear.
Marcy: And that's why you nag me not to post vacation photos on Facebook?
Mark: Yes! Tell everyone about your fabulous trip. Only after you returned. It's operational security.Travel information should be a need to know only basis. I once worked a string of burglaries where a guy's house was hit five times. He was so mad at me because I hadn't caught the burglar. He'd call me and just start screaming when I answered the phone. I knew it was going to be inside job. Every time they would leave the house for an extended period of time, they'd get hit. It was weird because the guy also didn't want me to interview his kids. It turned out that it was his daughte