Breanna Schneller was 18 years old when she was murdered by her fiance’s co-worker, Raul Ponce-Rocha — Murder In The Heartland on Investigation Discovery takes a closer look at the case.
Schneller lived with her fiance, Sebastian Ramirez, and his brother at an apartment on 12th Avenue in Wausau, Wisconsin. At around 10:00 am on May 2, 2009, the brothers went to work at El Tequila Salsa restaurant in Rib Mountain on North Mountain Road. When they returned after their shift, they found Schneller dead.
Dr. Robert Corliss, a forensic pathologist, testified that the DC Everest High School senior had been brutally beaten and stabbed multiple times in the chest, neck, and wrist.
Police interviewed Ramirez, who stated that he saw Schneller texting on the day she was murdered. That’s when police went searching for her phone at her apartment, but it wasn’t there. Officials contacted the Department of Criminal Investigation (DCI) for help in locating the victim’s phone.
DCI was able to trace Schneller’s phone using GPS equipment. Undercover officers went to retrieve it and discovered the phone inside a bag that was thrown in a dumpster behind El Tequila Salsa, which was specifically used for cardboard.
Schneller’s cell phone, along with two pairs of her underwear, and two mismatched gloves were found inside the bag. Police said one of the gloves had a blood stain on it.
Four days after Schneller was murdered, police questioned Ponce-Rocha, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who worked at the El Tequila Salsa with the Schneller’s fiance and his brother.
Ponce-Rocha told police that he had nothing to do with Schneller’s murder. At the time of her death, he said he was picking up a co-worker, Luciano Sanchez-Ramos, who lived in the same apartment complex as Schneller, which is a five-minute drive from the restaurant.
Surveillance video from the restaurant captured Ponce-Rocha leaving around 10:19 am, but Sanchez-Ramos told police that Ponce-Rocha didn’t arrive until 10:48 am. Ponce-Rocha and Sanchez-Ramos were seen on video arriving at the restaurant at 10:53 am.
Wausau police arrested Ponce-Rocha on charges of first-degree intentional homicide after his DNA was found on an iron that was used to beat the victim, as well as a glove and a restaurant takeout bag.
Police also found four pairs of stolen women’s underwear and a glove in Ponce-Rocha’s bedroom that matched one of the gloves found in the dumpster. He also had several cuts on his hands, a lighter, and sharpening a knife.
The motive for the killing was unclear, but police suspected that Ponce-Rocha broke into Schneller’s apartment to steal her underwear to add to his collection, but when he realized she was home, he killed her.
In 2011, Ponce-Rocha was found guilty of murdering Schneller. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Murder In The Heartland — Deviant Deeds, airs at 10/9c on Investigation Discovery.