November 16, 2020 | By Kayla Chouinard
This story is part of a collaborative project between Project: Cold Case and a University of North Florida Journalism class. The student credited above wrote this story as a class project.
George Schwender was the type of father who worked hard to support his six children in every aspect of life, whether it was working a full-time job or coaching his kids’ softball teams. He would often encourage and broaden their imagination from a very young age.
“He was very much a person who was interested in his children. He helped my brothers with their Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts,” Adrienne Sachse said of her father. “He was very much into doing things with his kids.”
George would often take his children to search for fossils, fish at the beach, and splash in the ocean. That quality time meant everything to him and his kids.
The gentle, loving father was kind to everyone. When it came to athletics, he didn’t play favorites and wanted to give everyone the opportunity to experience playing.
“He was one of those people who wasn’t out to win.,” Adrienne recalled. “He played every single kid in the neighborhood. He made sure every kid got a chance to get up and bat.”
Born on August 23, 1927, George Schwender grew up during the Great Depression. Adrienne described her father as a “serious man,” likely due to the timeframe of his childhood.
“He was the oldest of three. Most of his early years were set during the hardest time of the Depression,” Adrienne said.
George was the type of child who kept the golden egg he won on Easter for months. He kept it until it began to smell too bad to keep. George never cared about the cash prize that came with it, but he cared about the egg he earned and never wanted to let go.
“His mother said she wanted the egg so it could be food. And he said ‘No, it’s mine! You can have the five dollars, but it’s my egg.’ He kept the egg all summer long,” Adrienne recalled with a laugh.
Adrienne loves to tell the story of when her father was just a boy and would shovel coal off passing trains and throw it down to his sister. This act is considered stealing, and many people were shot at the time for stealing train coal. That never stopped George from climbing atop the trains and shoveling coal to bring home to his family.
That brave mentality would carry George throughout his life up to his last moments.
On June 17, 1970, George and his partner Harry Schenck were working for Brink’s, a cash management company. George was the driver of their armored vehicle that day.
The two men arrived at the Zayre Department Store on Beach Boulevard and parked by the front door.
Harry was inside the building picking up paperwork, checks, and cash. George was sitting in the armored.
Then shots rang out.
Harry attempted to retreat further into the building and hide behind counters but was struck by the gunshots.
George stepped out of the vehicle to assist and rescue his partner Harry when he was shot. He died immediately.
Newspaper clippings from the time indicated that there were multiple suspects, as many as three, involved in the shooting. There were two white gunmen and a black female who was the get-away driver.
After they fled the scene, local authorities set up blockades on the bridges leading out of Jacksonville and even flew a helicopter around town but were unable to locate the suspects. The search then grew nation-wide as newspapers across the country picked up and published the story of the Brink’s security guard murder.
One person of interest was arrested in connection to the Schwender murder but was later released and charges were dropped.
In 2018, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office told Action News Jax that there was a piece of evidence that they believed may hold the key to solving this case. After sending the evidence to a lab to be tested, the results, unfortunately, came back inconclusive.
Despite his wounds, Harry Schenck survived and would live for another 36 years. He had to undergo multiple procedures and blood transfusions in the hospital and the following years. He died on February 10, 2006, due to hepatitis he contracted from those blood transfusions.
On that fateful June day, the Schwender family, unknowingly, were given a chance to say goodbye thanks to an unusual mishap.
When George arrived to work that day, he accidentally locked his keys inside the car. Shortly before lunchtime, George and Harry swung by the Schwender home with the Brink’s truck to pick up his spare key.
It was the final time the family saw George. He was murdered just hours later.
Mrs. Schwender never remarried after George’s murder. In fact, she never dated again. She knew that she couldn’t wallow for too long, as she couldn’t stop being a mother to her kids after their father’s death.
Diana Miller was thirteen when her father was killed. All she can remember of the funeral was that it was raining.
“At the very beginning, she stayed in her bedroom a lot and you’d go in there and you knew she was crying because her eyes were all red,” Dianna said. “After a week or so, she came out of her room and said, ‘Okay, I need to do what I need to do.’”
The loss of their father left the Schwender children to grow up in a single-parent home. The six of them had to lean on each other and help around the house.
But they always remembered the lessons that their father taught them. George would often tell his children to share and give to others.
“He kept saying ‘Share. You don’t have to have a lot to be able to share,’” Adrienne said.
“You’ve always got your time. Even if you don’t have the money, you got time.”
If you have any information on the unsolved murder of George Schwender, please call the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office at (904) 630-0500. To remain anonymous and possibly be eligible for a $3,000 reward, call First Coast Crime Stoppers at (866) 845-TIPS.
Research and Impact
For almost six years, Project: Cold Case has worked diligently toward bringing awareness for cold case homicide victims and their families. Founder and Executive Director Ryan Backmann often states that cold case homicides are, in essence, “a public health concern,” as the offender is still running free and can potentially act again, causing even more harm to our communities.
The National Institute of Justice convenes working groups of experts addressing the historical research that a violent offender will likely repeat the action. With over 250,000 unsolved homicides in the U.S. and growing by about 6,000 annually, the work of decreasing those numbers to reflect positively upon our communities is vitally important for Project: Cold Case.
For the many survivors out there, having an ally like Project: Cold Case offers reinforced comfort that they are not alone in their unique journey to advocate continued awareness for their loved one.
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