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Local

Geneseo man pleads not guilty to kidnapping rural Erie couple

More details emerge about life of accused abductor

MORRISON – A masked and armed Chad Schipper broke into Larry and Connie VanOostens’ home, threatened to shoot them before whisking them away against their will – and planned to make them pay him a ransom for their release.

So says information in Whiteside County Court documents outlining the four Class X felony charges to which Schipper, a father of six young children, pleaded not guilty Monday.

Schipper, 40, of Geneseo, entered the pleas through his newly appointed public defender, James Heuerman, after a court appearance earlier in the day. The paperwork was filed Tuesday in Whiteside County Court.

Meanwhile, a GoFundMe account set up to help Schipper’s wife, Donielle, and their children says she was kept completely in the dark.

Schipper is charged with home invasion with a firearm, aggravated kidnapping with ransom, aggravated kidnapping with concealed identity and aggravated kidnapping armed with a firearm, each of which carries at least 6 to 30 years in prison. He also requested a jury trial.

He is being held on $1 million bond, and has a preliminary hearing Feb. 27.

According to investigators:

The VanOostens’ 2-day ordeal began sometime Feb. 7, when Schipper took them from their home in rural Erie at gunpoint.

At 4:45 p.m. the next day, the Whiteside County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call from 1st Trust and Savings Bank in Albany reporting concerns that a customer and her husband might have been abducted.

A description of the car involved was provided, and Schipper was arrested at 4:45 a.m. the following morning after fleeing police who tried to pull him over, then crashing his car on state Route 84 north of Port Byron.

The VanOostens were found 15 minutes later in a Geneseo home Schipper reportedly owns. He was hospitalized in Illini Hospital in Silvis with unspecified injuries until Sunday afternoon, when he was taken to jail. His right arm is in a cast.

The GoFundMe account, titled “Donielle’s Family Crisis,” was established Saturday by Randin Joy Letendre, Donielle Schipper’s sister.

In her plea for assistance, Letendre writes that Donielle, a stay-at-home mom who homeschools their children, “found out Thursday morning (when her door was broken down by police officers and a gun was pointed in her face) that her husband was arrested for embezzlement and kidnapping. ... He has destroyed countless lives by taking and squandering the investments of those who trusted him.”

Schipper is not charged with any financial crimes.

According to Letendre, Schipper kept the family’s financial information to himself, and his wife is just learning that “due to the nature of his crimes, there is no money; they have lost their home due to delinquent taxes; there are more unpaid bills than we have even found yet; and we discovered today that he ran up over $180,000 worth of credit card debt in her name alone.”

As of tonight, $4,445 of the $200,000 goal had been raised.

According to online records, the Erie High School graduate opened Schipper Financial Services LLC, which he runs out of his home at 14163 Wolf Road, on July 12, 2013. It is registered with the state of Illinois, but Schipper has not been a registered investment adviser or broker since September 2013, according to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, which regulates businesses and people selling securities in the U.S.

According to his affidavit seeking a public defender, Schipper is unemployed. He has no health insurance and is not receiving any welfare assistance, although he does have $6,000 in unspecified monthly income. He has a $305,000 home, the affidavit said.

The sheriff’s department has declined to release further details of the incident, including a motive for the abductions, or how Schipper might know the VanOostens, who are in their 60s. His parents and the VanOostens attended the same Erie church, several Quad Cities news outlets have reported.

According to a release from the FBI’s Chicago office, issued while the VanOostens were being sought, the abduction “could be financially motivated.”

According to Rock Island County Court records, Schipper also is being sued for more than $50,000 in three civil suits stemming from a 2014 traffic accident in which he rear-ended a stopped car and set off a chain reaction accident.

The VanOostens and their daughter, Amy Powell, own Quality Interiors, an interior design and gift shop in Erie.

“They didn’t deserve what happened to them,” one VanOostens’ neighbors, Chila Ott, 57, said Tuesday.

Everyone in the neighborhood tries their best to look out for one another, but the VanOostens always had visits from children, employees from Larry’s former pest control company, their church, and so it was not unusual to see different vehicles at their home, Ott said.

Tips received from the community have been very helpful, Lt. John Booker said, and he continues to ask for the public’s help in the investigation.

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