Real Name: Unrevealed
Case: Lost Heirs
Location: Sacramento, California
Date: May 8, 1987
Details: For twenty-five years, Charlie Scheel was a fixture in Sacramento, California, selling newspapers at his newsstand at the corner of K and 10th streets. He never missed a single day of work until May 8, 1987; it was the day he died. In death, he became a man of mystery. In his tiny hotel room, police found a paper sack stuffed with over $67,000 in cash. No one is sure where this money came from, or who is entitled to it now. But the search for Charlie’s heirs still goes on. He did not have a will, birth certificate, social security number, bank account, or driver’s license. Officially, he did not exist. It seems that he was a man who knew everybody, but nobody really knew him.
Ray Turner was the manager of Glendale Federal Savings Bank, which was on the corner near Charlie’s newsstand. Every morning for twelve years, he would take coffee and donuts out to Charlie. On rainy days, he would let Charlie put his papers in the bank entrance. He recalls that when he would come to work every morning, Charlie was there with a smile on his face. Charlie worked seven days a week, 365 days a year. He never took a day off, not even for holidays. Ray says that for twelve years, every day he came to work, Charlie was there on the corner. According to him, Charlie had many friends in the community. However, no one really “knew” him. Ray says that he did not even know Charlie’s last name.
Ray remembers that Charlie was frugal and rarely spent his money. One customer recalls that Charlie always seemed to wear the same outfit: a brown shirt and brown pants. He also wore dentures, which he took out while drinking coffee. Other customers recall that he was an avid sports fan; he often talked to them about the San Francisco Giants. Yet he never attended any sports events, as he was always working.
For several years, Charlie lived in a $150-a-month room at the Golden Hotel, which was a half block from his newsstand. On May 7, 1987, the day of his death, he left the newsstand around 11am. He went to McDonalds and then returned to his hotel room with his lunch, which he shared with the manager, Linda Jenssen. She was one of the last people to see him alive. She recalls that he was somewhat of a loner. He never talked about his background or where he came from. He never mentioned if he had siblings or any other family members. According to her, he mainly stayed to himself. Each day, he would go up to his room and eat his lunch. But he would never really socialize with anyone.
On May 8, a tradition came to an end in Sacramento. When the morning newspapers arrived at 4:30am, Charlie was not at his regular post at the newsstand. Police were called to do a welfare check. They found him in his hotel room, lying on the floor near his bed. He had died of heart disease. As the police searched for clues to his identity, they found the $67,000 (in $100s and $50s) hidden away in an old white McDonalds paper sack next to his bed. They also found hundreds of dollars in his wallet, shirt pockets, and pants. The only other personal items they found were a penknife, some keys, and six snapshots of him. Perhaps the unknown photographer who took those pictures has some clues to Charlie’s past.
Deputy Public Administrator Ramona Nunes, who is in charge of the search for Charlie's heirs, says that “we live in a world of numbers,” and Charlie is one person that “doesn’t fit.” No one knows his social security number or his place of birth. The date of birth listed for him (on papers found among his belongings) has not been confirmed. It places him at seventy-six years of age. However, he told friends that he was fifty-eight. People who knew him thought he looked like he was in his fifties. As a result, there is no starting point for anybody to look into his past. Nunes says that it is a mystery that he was able to work at the same place for twenty-five years without people knowing anything about him.
There are only a few clues to Charlie’s identity. He told several customers that he had been a boxer in the Navy. He mentioned to a friend that he had a sister “somewhere back East.” He briefly mentioned to a customer that he had worked on a farm in Michigan. Linda says that her warmest memory of him is that he was always there and you could always depend on him. She says that he was a “dear, sweet man” who will be missed by everyone who knew him.
Since Charlie died, the corner of K street and 10th in Sacramento has changed forever. The newsstand where he once handed out papers and good will has been torn down. He is gone, but his memory lives on with a plaque on the bank building at the corner, which is still known as “Charlie’s Corner.” The plaque reads: “In Memory Of Charles Scheel Who Sold Papers On This Corner For 25 Years 1962 – 1987.”
If Charlie's heirs cannot be found, his money will end up in the state treasurer's bureau of unclaimed property.
- This case first aired on Special #5, which aired on February 5, 1988.
- It was excluded from the FilmRise release of the Robert Stack episodes.
- Some sources state that Charlie went by the nickname "Chuck".
Results: Solved. In November 1987, Sacramento heir investigators Bill Davis and John March received an anonymous tip from one of Charlie’s customers. The customer said that Charlie may have been from Pennsylvania. Davis went there and searched state vital statistics records. He discovered that in March 1957, Charlie had been arrested at the Pittsburgh airport for disturbing the peace and deserting his pregnant wife. He was not convicted. Through this arrest record, a marriage license, a birth certificate, and other sources, Davis and March were able to locate Charlie's family.
Charlie was born on March 30, 1928, in Sharon, Pennsylvania, and was fifty-nine when he died (not seventy-six as records indicated in Sacramento). In December 1956, when he was twenty-nine and working as a bus driver in Sharon, he married forty-year-old Mary Agnes Wysokie, a divorcee and mother of three. For reasons unknown, he abandoned her a few months later and moved to California. In 1957, she gave birth to their daughter, Jacquelyn. The couple never divorced; however, he never contacted them again.
Strangely, despite apparently having a good relationship with them, Charlie never contacted his parents again after leaving Pennsylvania. However, he did stay in contact with and visited several cousins (he had twenty-two in total). During these visits, he often "flashed" a wad of $100 bills (despite rarely spending any money in Sacramento). His cousins had no idea that he was married or had a daughter. Mary Agnes died in April 1987, just two weeks before Charlie.
Davis and March located Jacquelyn, then thirty and living in Volant, Pennsylvania. They told her about Charlie and his estate. She knew very little about him, as Mary Agnes rarely talked about him. She also did not know he had relatives living nearby. The only thing Mary Agnes mentioned to her was that he lived in California. She had thought about searching for him, but decided not to because of loyalty to Mary Agnes. She was happy to learn that he had "made a lot of other people happy" through his job.
Jacquelyn's claims were processed by the Sacramento Public Administrator. On May 9, 1988, a Sacramento Superior Court Judge declared her Charlie's rightful heir. She received about three-quarters of his estate; the rest had been used for his funeral, burial, and other fees. She and her husband used the money to buy a new house for them and their three children. She later got in contact with Charlie's relatives. In Spring 1989, she and her family traveled to Sacramento to meet his friends and learn more about him.
- News vendor’s "family" feels the loss (Page 1)
(Page 2) - May 9, 1987
- Frugal news vendor left $67000 behind (Page 1)
(Page 2) - May 15, 1987
- Street vendor leaves behind bag of money - May 16, 1987
- Vender dies with $67,000 - May 16, 1987
- Frugal newsstand operator leaves $67,000 in paper bag - May 16, 1987
- News vendor's cash - May 16, 1987
- Fruga! Newsstand Operator Leaves $67,000 - May 17, 1987
- Man Left $67,000 Cash In Paper Sack - May 18, 1987
- He was a mystery man: News vendor had secret past - January 25, 1988
- Cash can't buy memories of father - July 26, 1988
- Cash gain can't buy lost years: Dad left $67000 but no memories - July 26, 1988
- Money can't buy memories of father she never knew (Page 1)
(Page 2) - July 26, 1988
- News Vendor Had Secret Past - November 30, 2006
- 7 of the Freakiest ‘Unsolved Mysteries’ Set in the SF Bay Area - October 24, 2016
- SitcomsOnline Discussion of Charlie Scheel (includes articles)
- Charlie Scheel at Find a Grave