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‘He was never hostile to anyone:’ Friend stunned by former UW classmate’s killing at Devil’s Lake

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John Craig Schmutzer

MADISON (WKOW) -- A former UW-Madison classmate of Devil's Lake State Park homicide victim John Schmutzer says Schmutzer's killing leaves many people stunned.

"He was never hostile to anyone," New York investment banker Max Roitstein says. "He was always level headed. So this took a lot of people by surprise."

" I was sort of blown away," Roitstein says.

Roitstein says when he was a UW-Madison sophomore and Schmutzer was a senior, they were both in the Wisconsin School of Business's Investment Banking Club.

Sauk County Sheriff's officials say Schmutzer, 24, was fatally stabbed Wednesday near the park's Grottos Trail in broad daylight. A search continues for his killer. Sheriff Chip Meister says it's unclear whether Schmuzter's homicide was targeted or random.

"John was someone who sort of took me under his wing," Roitstein says of Schmutzer. "He was always willing to do mock interviews and get me prepared for what the people on the other side would be asking me."

"Very down to earth," Roitstein says about Schmutzer. "I remember he was always willing to to go like the proverbial extra mile." After Schmutzer's graduation from UW-Madison, he entered the financial profession, having done an internship and compensated work at a New York firm. Schmutzer, of Wauwatosa, was an investment banker in the Milwaukee area at the time of his death.

"Our hearts go out to his family and friends on this tragic loss," said UW-Madison spokesperson Meredith McGlone.

Roitstein was not surprised his old classmate would visit Devil's Lake.

"When he first sort of made his way into my life, he presented on a Senior Focus talking about his passions," Roitstein says. "I know he liked the out of doors, growing up in Wisconsin."

Meister says during a period of time before Schmutzer's killing, he visited Wildcat Mountain State Park in Vernon County, LaValle and the Hilldale Mall in Madison. Meister does not explain how Schmutzer's movements prior to his death factor into the homicide investigation.

Roitstein says absorbing this tragedy could be more possible if a stranger came upon Schmutzer and violence ensued. "I would hope there was no one who would premeditate this and take it out on him like that."

Roitstein says his last communication with Schmutzer was his former classmate congratulating him on achieving full-time status with a New York financial firm. He says the homicide is already having lasting impact. "It changed my perspective on a lot of things. Make sure to savor the small moments you have with people because you never know when something catastrophic like that could happen."

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Tony Galli

Reporter, WKOW

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