City of Lincoln
2007 Media Releases
Mayor Chris Beutler today presented the Mayor’s Award of Excellence for November to Sergeant Luke Wilke with the Lincoln Police Department (LPD). The monthly award recognizes City employees who consistently provide exemplary service and work that demonstrates personal commitment to the City. The award was presented at the beginning of today’s City Council meeting.
Wilke, a City employee since 1992, was nominated by LPD Captain Jon Sundermeier in the category of productivity. He was nominated for his role in solving the case of 15-year-old Melissa Schmidt, who disappeared in 1995. In 2004, nine years later, information about the disappearance surfaced during an interview on a separate case. Sheriff’s Investigator Steve Eppens was interviewing Angela Hecox, the former wife of murder suspect Todd Baker. Hecox said she was present during the murder of Anne True and saw bones and clothing from a second victim in a ditch west of Lincoln. The second victim was suspected to be Melissa Schmidt.
Although Baker was convicted of Anne True’s murder and sentenced to life, an extensive search of the area for the second victim yielded nothing.
The next break came in January 2007 when Baker began talking to family members about a second murder victim. Baker was interviewed in prison and described how he had murdered a young girl in the Near South Neighborhood in 1995. He tried to help locate the site where he left her body, but was unsuccessful. The search was renewed, and Angela Hecox again helped look for the remains.
Finally, on January 26th of this year Captain Todd Duncan spotted what looked like a bone in a mound of earth on Southwest 112th Street. The bone was determined to be human, and a crime scene search began. Members of the Lincoln-Lancaster County Crime Scene Technician Unit worked in bitterly cold weather to recover a partial human skeleton. DNA testing confirmed that it was Melissa Schmidt.
On September 17th, Baker pled guilty to her murder and was sentenced to a second life term.
This case is a great example of interagency cooperation between LPD and the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Department. Sergeant Luke Wilke was in charge of the investigation into Melissa’s disappearance. He worked closely with members of her family, and they expressed gratitude for his hard work, dedication and sensitivity to their needs.
Sergeant Wilke organized and conducted many of the early searches for Melissa’s remains. He was the interviewer when Todd Baker admitted to the murder. He helped with logistics at the crime scene and coordinated the lab testing of the remains. He interviewed the suspect’s family members in Florida. Although many people were involved in the case over the years, Captain Sundermeier said Sergeant Wilke deserves a great deal of credit. He was the driving force that led to the clearance of this terrible crime and brought some closure to a grieving family.
Todd Baker admitted in court that the two victims were strangers to him. Because of the hard work of Sergeant Wilke and the law enforcement team, he is no longer a threat to this community.
The other categories in which employees can be nominated are customer relations, loss prevention, safety and valor. Consideration also may be given to nominations that demonstrate self-initiated accomplishments or those completed outside of the nominee’s job description.
All City employees are eligible for the Mayor’s Award of Excellence except for elected and appointed officials. Individuals or teams can be nominated by supervisors, peers, subordinates and the general public. Nomination forms are available on the City Web site at lincoln.ne.gov (keyword: personnel) or from department heads, employee bulletin boards or the Personnel Department, which oversees the awards program.
All nominations are reviewed by the Mayor’s Award of Excellence Committee, which includes a representative with each union and a non-union representative appointed by the Mayor. Award winners receive a $100 U.S. savings bond, a day off with pay and a plaque. Monthly winners are eligible to receive the annual award, which comes with a $500 U.S. savings bond, two days off with pay and a plaque.