Pair charged with murder in connection with Altoona man's death

Sep. 16—EAU CLAIRE — A woman and man were set to benefit financially from the homicide of a 79-year-old Altoona man by getting his house, car and money, authorities say.

The Altoona man, Dennis Schattie, was killed on April 4 or 5. His decapitated body was found April 12 in the Rock River, near the Fordham Dam, in Rockford, Ill., authorities said.

Tracey A. Clark, 55, of Eau Claire, and Brandon A. Gaston, 46, of Rockford, Ill., have each been charged in Eau Claire County Court with felony counts of first-degree intentional homicide and hiding a corpse as a party to a crime.

Clark is scheduled to make her initial court appearance on Thursday.

During his initial appearance on Friday, a $1 million cash bail was set for Gaston, which prohibits him from having contact with Clark or members of her family or Schattie's family.

Gaston returns to court Sept. 27 for a preliminary hearing.

According to the criminal complaint:

Schattie's body was wrapped in a tarp. The head was not recovered. There was a rope either around or inside the tarp with the body. A plastic bag inside the tarp was holding a saw, butcher knife, hammer and a broken set of dentures.

The body appeared to have been sawed in several places. The upper portion of the body also appeared to be burned in several places. The odor of gasoline or some sort of possible accelerant emanated from the body.

Based on the dentures and fingerprints, authorities identified the body as Schattie and learned that he lived on St. Andrews Drive in Altoona.

A female was seen driving a blue Chevy van owned by Schattie through an Illinois toll both on April 5.

The van and a second vehicle with Illinois plates were found by authorities at the St. Andrews Drive residence in Altoona on April 14.

The vehicle with Illinois plates was disabled and found by the State Patrol near DeForest on April 8. Gaston and a second man were taking items out of the vehicle and placing them in the blue Chevy van, which was being driven by Clark.

State troopers learned that Gaston had been released from prison in Wisconsin on Dec. 21 and that Clark was under supervision by the Wisconsin Department of Corrections.

Gaston was arrested and taken to the Dane County Jail because he was found with marijuana.

A search warrant was executed at the St. Andrews Drive residence in Altoona on April 8. Clark and a man were at the residence and agreed to be questioned.

Clark said she knew Schattie for 22 years and had been living with him since 2019 when she was released from prison. Clark said she had not been employed and received disability payments.

Clark admitted cleaning the garage and the back of the blue Chevy van with the man. She claimed that one of her cats had defecated in the back of the van and a lawn mower had leaked while inside the van. She admitted using bleach. She told the man to dispose of the floor mats from inside the van.

Clark said the van and Altoona residence were both in her and Schattie's names. She said if Schattie died, she would own both the van and the residence. Clark said her name was also placed on Schattie's annuity about a year ago.

Clark acted surprised on April 14 when authorities told her about Schattie's homicide.

Red stains found on a wheelbarrow in the garage of the Altoona residence and on the blue van's rear door rubber seal were discovered through DNA testing to be Schattie's blood.

Neighbors near the Altoona residence told authorities a man was pressure-washing the blue van on April 11. In nearby dumpsters, authorities found floor mats containing red stains and the odor of diesel fuel. DNA testing showed the red stains were Schattie's blood.

On May 6, authorities interviewed an inmate at the Eau Claire County Jail who was housed in the same block as Gaston.

Gaston told the inmate he killed Schattie and had pre-planned the murder with Clark while Gaston was still in prison. Gaston told the inmate the murder was about "money over everything."

Gaston told the inmate Clark was the mastermind behind the plan.

The inmate said he thinks Clark was driving the van and that Gaston strangled Schattie in the back seat.

The inmate said Gaston then told him that he has been with Clark for awhile and was using her as a tool to get money. Gaston told the inmate that when he got home from prison, Clark had $100,000 in cash waiting for him.

Clark was arrested on April 14.

An autopsy on Schattie's body failed to identify the cause of death because of the condition of the body.

Clark and Gaston are both being prosecuted as repeat offenders. Clark was convicted of a felony count of burglary in November 2012 in Shawano County. Gaston was convicted of a felony count of second-degree sexual assault by use of force in November 2012 in Eau Claire County and was sentenced to nine years in prison.