YUTAN — The story of a high school volleyball coach and teacher who was brutally murdered by her husband more than two decades ago will be told on the Oxygen network Saturday.
The episode of “Accident, Murder or Suicide” will rehash the case a week before the 22nd anniversary of Sandy Schnabel’s death on May 22, 1999. The program includes interviews with investigators and others associated with the case, along with former members of the high school volleyball teams Schnabel coached before her death. The show begins at 6 p.m.
Sandy Schnabel, 40, was murdered by her husband, Mark Schnabel, while her three young children were at home. Mark Schnabel was arrested for first-degree murder at the cemetery just after the graveside service for his wife concluded, with family and friends watching.
The Yutan Volunteer Fire Department was called to the scene just after 1 a.m., on May 22, 1999, for what appeared to be an accident involving the Schnabels' minivan and a storage shed at their rural Yutan acreage. When they arrived, firefighters found Sandy Schnabel’s body underneath the minivan, which was on fire. The storage shed had also caught fire.
Then-Saunders County Attorney Tom Jaudzemis claimed Mark Schnabel staged the accident and fire to cover up the fact that he had beaten his wife in their home. Two of their three children testified that they heard the fight and saw their mother with blood on her face.
Mark Schnabel told investigators that he and his wife had argued the night before, but that he had not struck her. He said she left the residence after the argument. His defense attorney, Chuck Forrest, told the jury that Sandy Schnabel died after the minivan hit the storage shed and she was ejected.
Witnesses for the prosecution said there was no evidence to support the claim that the minivan had collided with the building, or that Sandy Schnabel could have been ejected from the vehicle during the collision. Investigators also testified they found hundreds of blood spots in the living room of the family’s home, and there was blood on an all-terrain vehicle that may have been used to transport the body.
After a trial before Saunders County District Judge Mary Gilbride, Mark Schnabel was found guilty of second-degree murder. He had pleaded no contest after a plea agreement that reduced the charges from first-degree murder.
On Nov. 30, 1999, the judge sentenced Mark Schnabel to life in prison without parole. In her sentence decree, Gilbride did not specify a minimum sentence. Mark Schnabel appealed the sentence, and the court ruled that the minimum sentence would be 20 years.
The state parole board unanimously denied Mark Schnabel’s request for parole in 2016 after his oldest child testified in person and one of his daughters sent a letter asking the board not to allow their father to be released from prison. Several of Sandy Schnabel’s former volleyball team members also attended to support the Schnabel children.
Sandy Schnabel was a business teacher and volleyball coach at Yutan High School for 12 years. She led her team to a Class C-1 state championship in 1992.