Gloria and Wilbert "Willie" Scheel were fixtures every Sunday at the 10:30 a.m. service at Grace Methodist Church in Paynesville.
She was president of a women's group at the church for years. He was a well-known businessman who took Colorado skiing trips into his 80s, played competitive pingpong and drove the local beauty queens in summer parades in his classic convertibles.
"It's a small community and these people were known by everyone — I mean, all of the Paynesville royalty — for just many, many years," said Linda Liestman, who said she has known the couple "forever."
Forever came to an end this week when the Scheels were found dead in their car on a rural road near Game's Lake in Kandiyohi County. Willie Scheel was 93; Gloria Scheel was 80.
Their grandson, 33-year-old Gregory A. Scheel, remained jailed Saturday in Kandiyohi County on suspicion of DWI, and Stearns County Sheriff Don Gudmundson said in a statement Friday evening that he will face charges of second-degree murder in the killings. No cause of death was given, but an autopsy revealed that the deaths "did not appear to be from natural causes," he said, and a medical examiner ruled the cause of the deaths as homicide.
According to police, a family member called them after the Scheels missed a dinner date on Wednesday night. Their car, with the bodies in it, was found by investigators about 5 p.m. Thursday after a local resident spotted it stuck in the mud.
Suspicion quickly turned to their grandson, who had been living with them for several months and has a long criminal record.
Gregory Scheel was arrested about 9 p.m. Thursday as more than a half-dozen state and local law enforcement agencies investigated the case.
Word of the killings spread quickly Friday through Paynesville, a city of 2,400 residents about 85 miles west of the Twin Cities.
Kari Schaefer, director of youth and family ministries at Grace United Methodist Church, said the couple "were two people who would help you no matter what you did."
Many remember Gloria Scheel for running a Christmas program at the Salem Historical Church near town, where she also had led Sunday school. The Christmas program hadn't been held for 30 years until Gloria helped restart it in 1997.
Liestman recalled attending the program.
"It was like stepping back in time to walk in and to see her just ageless and vibrant and nothing had changed. It was just wonderful," she said.
Perhaps Christian charity was the reason they helped their grandson, who has led a troubled life. In 15 years, Gregory Scheel has had at least 15 criminal convictions, according to state court records — a mixture of felonies and misdemeanors for which he served time in both local jails and state prison.
His convictions include burglary, theft, receiving stolen property, domestic assault, drug possession, violating a protective order and drunken driving.
At the time of his arrest this week, he was already facing charges in Chippewa County for burglary, theft and escape involving an incident in December last year.
Gregory Scheel allegedly stole a box of baby toys that had been delivered to the doorstep of a home near Montevideo, records show. Police arrested him after finding his car pulled over on a highway.
While being booked at the Chippewa County Jail in Montevideo, he dashed out the door and escaped. Police found him hours later hiding in the attached garage of a Montevideo home, where the owners discovered him while letting out their dog. When captured, Scheel had in his possession a knife and a crude homemade device resembling a Taser, according to the criminal complaint.
'Just all goodness'
According to an article published by Paynesville Area Online, Willie and Gloria Scheel married in 1959. Willie had a small restaurant called the Black Saucer Steakhouse at the time, and he eventually built a 40-unit motel around it. They sold the Black Saucer Motel in 1999 and bought some land on the Crow River west of Paynesville, where they built their home and other houses for sale under the name WilGlo Acres.
Gloria and Willie Scheel made friends with people of all ages, Liestman said.
"They were just gifted at that," she said. "They communicated with many, many people in the community by e-mail or by Facebook. And they were out and about."
She said Willie Scheel had throat cancer several years ago but that never slowed him down. He would still chat people up with his quiet, raspy voice.
"They were just involved in many things in the community over the years and up until the last," Liestman said. "They were just highly loved and highly respected by everybody. Just all goodness."