Update: Scheel will serve at least 60 years for killing grandparents
ST. CLOUD — A Paynesville man pleaded guilty Thursday morning to first-degree murder in the deaths of his grandparents in March.
Gregory Allen Scheel, 34, admitted to first-degree intentional murder while committing domestic abuse, one count each for Wilbert Scheel, 93, and Gloria Scheel, 80 — the grandparents who had let him live with them in their Paynesville home.
The bodies of Wilbert and Gloria Scheel were found March 22 in their vehicle near Games Lake County Park in Kandiyohi County. They had been reported missing March 21.
Scheel was arrested March 22 in Kandiyohi County. He was initially charged with second-degree intentional murder, and a Stearns County grand jury added four first-degree murder charges in April.
Under Minnesota law, Scheel can be sentenced on one count per victim. The first-degree intentional murder charge carries a life sentence with the possibility of parole after 30 years. Scheel was sentenced to consecutive sentences, and he won't be eligible for parole for at least 60 years, according to a news release from the Stearns County Attorney's Office.
Scheel was sent to prison following the guilty plea. He will return to court for a sentencing hearing Oct. 4.
After his grandparents' bodies were discovered, authorities began searching for Scheel, who had also been reported missing.
They found him on foot about a half mile from the vehicle. According to court records, after Scheel was detained and before he asked for a lawyer, he told investigators that his actions had something to do with a drug debt.
The Stearns County Attorney's Office had said in March it would seek the maximum penalty allowed. Court records indicate Scheel had 10 felony convictions since 2003 and still has several charges pending against him in Chippewa County and Kandiyohi County.
In addition, two aggravating factors were noted by the county attorney's office — that the crime had been committed against vulnerable victims, and the victims were treated with "particular cruelty."
Court records include gruesome descriptions of how Wilbert and Gloria Scheel died.
Wilbert Scheel was found with his hands and feet bound with electrical cord and a plastic bag over his head and was found to have died by asphyxiation. Gloria Scheel was found with an electrical cord around her neck and had died by strangulation.
The bodies had been hidden under a piece of carpet in the car. The vehicle had been charred and smelled of gasoline.
Authorities also found a wooden stick with two pieces of metal in one end with electrical wire attached, apparently a makeshift cattle prod, and a car battery covered with blood in the car.
The Scheels were beloved in the town of Paynesville, where people said they would be greatly missed.
They had a long history as business owners in the town and were known for their kindness and generosity. They delivered Meals on Wheels three days a week. Wilbert Scheel was known for his habit of cracking jokes and his love of cars.