Schaefer's parents finally divorced in September 1969, as he returned to Florida Atlantic University. Three days after classes convened, on September 8, a mysterious fate overtook a former neighbor, the object of his teenage lust and rage.
Lee Hainline had married Charles Bonadies on August 21, 1969. It was a rocky union from the start, with frequent quarrels. One bone of contention was Leigh's announcement that her childhood neighbor and sometime tennis partner had offered her a $20,000 salary to join the CIA. Charles laughed at the idea and told her to forget it. On September 8, he came home to find a note from Leigh, saying the she had gone to Miami. She never came back, and her car was later found in a Fort Lauderdale parking lot. Leigh's brother called Schaefer and heard a strange story: Leigh had phoned him, Schaefer claimed, to say that she was leaving Charles and asked him for a ride to the airport, where she meant to catch a flight to Cincinnati. Schaefer agreed, but Leigh never called back with a departure time. Charles filed for divorce on October 6, his petition granted on March 10, 1970. Nothing more was heard of Leigh Bonadies until her jewelry surfaced at Doris Schaefer's home, in April 1973. Her fate remains unknown.
Schaefer's second try at student teaching fared no better than the first. FAU administrators placed him at Stranahan High School, but supervisor Richard Goodhart removed him on November 11, 1969, after a series of classroom harangues. "I told him when he left," Goodhart recalled, "that he'd better never let me hear of his trying to get a job with any authority over other people, or I'd do anything I could to see that he didn't get it." Schaefer withdrew from school, blaming marital problems. Four years later, he would tell psychiatrists that he was barred from teaching "because they only wanted black people."
The next to vanish from Broward County was Carmen Marie Hallock, a 22-year-old cocktail waitress. She had lunch with her sister-in-law on December 18, 1969, discussing a date she had planned for that evening. Hallock said she was meeting a teacher who had offered her a job involving "some kind of undercover work for the government." The position featured international travel and "lots of money." Hallock missed work the next night and when she had not been seen by Christmas Day, her relatives used a spare key to check her apartment. They found the bathtub full and her dog unfed. Hallock's car found in a nearby parking lot a few days later. When Schaefer's stash of souvenirs was seized in 1973, police recovered two of Hallock's gold-filled teeth and a shamrock pin identified by her family. Her body has never been found.
In March 1970 Schaefer petitioned FAU administrators to alter his records, changing the November withdrawal to an "incomplete" and allowing him to resume study. They obliged, and Schaefer returned as a full-time student, along with his wife. The marriage was doomed, though. Martha filed for divorce on May 2, citing Schaefer's "extreme cruelty." He rebounded with a month's vacation in Europe and North Africa, including forays into the Sahara Desert. Schaefer would later boast of victims "on three continents," and while given his record the claim might be plausible, no slayings outside the U.S. are confirmed.
By October 1970, to make tuition money, Schaefer was working as a security guard at Florida Light and Power. There, he met secretary Teresa Dean and they became engaged, tying the knot soon after Schaefer's August 1971 graduation from FAU, with a bachelor's degree in geography. It was useless without a teaching credential, but Schaefer had chosen a new career path.
Having failed to "do right" as a priest or teacher, he set his sights on law enforcement. Hired by the Wilton Manors Police Department on September 3, 1971, Schaefer was sent back to Broward Community College, this time to the school's police academy. He graduated on December 17, 1971 and hit the streets to begin his six-month probationary term. Schaefer was on the job barely three weeks before another local woman disappeared.
Belinda Hutchens was another 22-year-old cocktail waitress, married to a drug addict who later told police that she "had her own lifestyle" and "did what she wanted to do." Arrested for prostitution in November 1970, she had paid a $250 fine in Fort Lauderdale. There were no more arrests, but Hutchens flaunted her extramarital affairs. On January 5, 1972 her husband and two-year-old daughter watched her climb into a blue Datsun sedan, a strange man at the wheel, and vanish from their lives forever. In 1973, the search of Doris Schaefer's home revealed an address book containing the name, address and phone number of Belinda's husband. Days later, he identified Schaefer's blue Datsun as the car that took Belinda on her last ride. No other trace of her was found, no charges were ever filed.
In Wilton Manors, Schaefer proved himself as poorly suited for police work as he had been for the classroom. Chief Bernard Scott told reporters, "He used poor judgment, did dumb things. I didn't want him around." Colleagues called Schaefer "badge happy," obsessed with writing traffic tickets. Ex-FBI agent Robert Ressler claims Schaefer stopped young women and asked them for dates. Years later, detectives asserted that one of those women—never publicly identified—vanished forever, soon after Patrolman Schaefer stopped her car.
Chief Scott was ready to fire Schaefer on March 16, 1972, when Schaefer surprised him by winning a commendation for a drug arrest. It saved his job, but only briefly. The "dumb mistakes" continued, and Scott called him in for their last talk on April 19. Schaefer begged for another chance, "almost with tears in his eyes," and Scott relented. The next day, Scott learned that Schaefer had applied for a job with the Broward County Sheriff's Department and he fired Schaefer on the spot.
There would be no Broward County badge for Schaefer, though. He failed the department's mandatory psychological exam and was rejected. Applications to other local departments set Chief Scott's telephone ringing in Wilton Manors. "I told them," he recalled, "I would put on a uniform and walk the streets myself before I would have him back."
On June 30, 1972 Schaefer was hired by Sheriff Richard Crowder in Martin County. He came with a glowing letter of recommendation from Chief Bernard Scott of the Wilton Manors P.D. It was only a month later, with Schaefer charged in the Trotter-Wells case, that Crowder checked the letter out and learned it was a forgery.