Thomas Schlender

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 18, 2012

‘Tough time’ for Schlender family

By Rupert Howell

Thomas Schlender wasn’t unlike other grandparents. He loved to spoil his grandchildren. Having 12 along with two great-grandchildren, there was a lot of spoiling to do.

His son-in-law, Matt Anderson, said that Schlender’s death last week is especially hard on the little ones. They are the ones he snuck off with and bought candy and ice cream.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Thomas Schlender, 74, of Nebraska, was murdered along I-55 near the Pope exit south of Batesville early in the morning of May 8. Three days later Lori Ann Carswell, 48, of Desoto County was killed near I-69 in Tunica County with many similarities including the same gun.

“They are having a tough time,” Anderson said of the grandchildren.

 The older folks aren’t doing so well either.

Anderson explained that when someone is lost to death by illness or old age, there is time to reconcile and say goodbye. Anderson lost his first wife to cancer and speaks with experience and also knows that his father-in-law embraced his three new “step grands” as his own grandkids.

And Anderson knows how his father-in-law tended to other family needs such as being care giver for his wife of 50 years, Janet, who for the past eight years has been partially paralyzed following a stroke.

“They were a dashing young couple,” Anderson noted.

It wasn’t unlike Schlender to travel all night to a destination to pick up a grandchild such as the night that proved fatal along I-55.

Law enforcement officials believe someone may be acting as law enforcement and pulling over lone drivers in sparsely populated dark areas.

Schlender’s family has been keeping up with investigators and Anderson says the family will be here when the culprit(s) is tried in a court of law.

“We want them to know what they took from us,” he said while admitting that the family was aware that investigations and apprehension could take a long time.

“We can’t say enough good things about the folks down there. We feel as if they have embraced us as their own,” he noted while naming the Panola County sheriff, coroner and state investigator.

He also mentioned that the hearts of the Schlender family were with the Carswell family stating that his family wanted to reach out to them at the proper time—when the Carswells were ready.

Schlender’s family had a private viewing before a memorial service Thursday afternoon. All family members had an opportunity to say a few words Anderson said adding that some had asked that he speak for them.

“He was just one of those fellows you enjoyed being around… he never complained,” Anderson said.

 “We just want to keep his story out there…”

Comments from The Panolian’s Web site, included:

“Molly’s Mom” wrote, “Please place this dear man’s obituary in our section of Panola obituaries. He may not have lived here but this was the last place he existed. He should be in our place of honor just like our home people. Let his family know that we aren’t the kind of evil people that randomly ended his life…”
“Pat Wallstin” wrote, “… He was a man of honor and loved his family dearly. They were his world…”
“Beverly” wrote, “… Mr. Schlender certainly looks like he was a wonderful man who loved life. That smile is beautiful. My prayers go out to his family – I know they must really be hurting now…”

Schlender’s obituary is published on page A2.