CRIME AND COURT ROUNDUP: Closing arguments today in trial for Merrill woman facing seven criminal charges
MERRILL -- We could find out today whether a Merrill woman is guilty of causing a high-speed drunk driving crash that killed two of her friends 23 months ago. Jurors are scheduled to hear closing arguments this morning in the trial of Ashley Baumann. Jury deliberations will begin soon afterward. The 26-year-old Baumann faces seven criminal charges for allegedly driving her van at almost 100-miles-an-hour before it rolled into a field, killing Misty Glisch and Jessica Hartwig. The defense contends that Hartwig's sister was driving the vehicle -- and not Baumann. Prosecutors have tried to show that Baumann was indeed the driver, pointing to cell-phone photos before the crash which showed her behind the wheel. They also said hair on the driver's side was Baumann's -- although the defense claims that wind from a nearby rescue chopper could have placed that hair there. A crime lab analyst said Baumann's blood alcohol level appeared to be three-and-a-half times the legal limit about the time of the crash. It was almost twice the legal limit five hours after the incident.
One of Wisconsin's new anti-heroin laws allows trained law enforcement officers to carry the heroin antidote Narcan. But police and sheriff's officials in parts of central Wisconsin are in no hurry to have the drug on hand in their squad cars just yet. Melissa Dotter of the Marathon County "Push-Back Against Drugs" campaign says she'd like to see officers carry Narcan. But she notes that the drug has a high cost and a limited shelf life -- so grant funds may be needed. Marathon County Sheriff Scott Parks tells W-S-A-U Radio in Wausau that his agency will probably have to do some research before moving ahead with it. Wausau Police and Portage County sheriff's officials say they'll probably let their local ambulance crews handle Narcan. Wausau Police Chief Jeff Hardel says paramedics arrive as quickly as officers to emergencies -- but it's something they'll review before making a final decision. Racine County officers were the first in the state to add Narcan to their squad cars earlier this month. Assembly Republican John Nygren of Marinette proposed expanding the accessibility of Narcan as one of his four anti-heroin bills which became law in the last legislative session.
Caledonia in Racine County had two fatal vehicle crashes within an hour of each other on Mother's Day. The first one happened around 4:20 in the afternoon. Police said 32-year-old Leonard Boczkowski of Racine died after his truck went through a stop sign, collided with a semi-truck from his right, and then hit a utility pole. The 35-year-old semi driver was not hurt. About 50 minutes later -- around 5:10 p-m -- a 21-year-old woman died in an off-road motorcycle mishap in Caledonia. It happened on residential property. Officials said alcohol did not appear to be a factor, and the mishap is still under investigation. The woman died at a Racine hospital. Her name was not immediately released.
Experts disagree on whether a recent court ruling could keep more public records sealed throughout Wisconsin. A state appeals court said it was okay for the Milwaukee School Board to withhold a female employee's attendance and disciplinary records from a man suspected of abusing her. Korry Ardell was previously ordered not to contact the woman when he was under a restraining order -- and the Milwaukee School Board said releasing the records could have put the employee in jeopardy. Until now, the state Open Records Law did not require Wisconsinites to identify themselves, or explain why they want government records -- and Ardell's attorney, Rebecca Mason, tells the A-P that the appellate ruling changes all that. The Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council is also concerned for the same reason. The law prohibits those incarcerated from obtaining many public records -- and the appellate court said it was okay to include Ardell in that group, even though he was never in jail and never charged criminally with abusing the woman. Attorney Mason said the court decision sets a precedent in which those who don't agree with certain viewpoints can have their public record requests denied. Milwaukee assistant city attorney Melanie Rutledge disagrees, saying that the court was only trying to clarify that employee safety should be considered in handling records' requests. Rutledge calls the court decision a narrow one. Ardell plans to appeal it to the State Supreme Court.
Oconto High School in northeast Wisconsin is opening today for the first time since a fire 26 days ago caused five-million dollars in damage. For the last three weeks, students have attended classes at a middle school where extra space was available. About 300 students and 40-plus staff members were affected, after a 16-year-old boy reportedly started the blaze by smoking a home-rolled cigarette in a restroom stall -- and an ember smoldered in a toilet-paper dispenser. Authorities said it was an accident, but prosecutors continue to consider possible charges against the youngster. W-L-U-K T-V of Green Bay said a smoke detector is in the repaired restroom for the first time -- and plastic stall partitions were replaced with flame-resistant metal walls. Superintendent Sara Croney told the T-V station that the Oconto district might seek voter approval in November for other school improvements -- including sprinkler systems.
State and local authorities are investigating an incident in Beloit last night, in which a woman was killed by a driver who was just starting to flee officers. Beloit Police said they responded to a compliant about an unwanted person in a house around 7:40 p-m, and they found 47-year-old Sheila Rosenbaum and a 40-year-old man inside. Officers said they tried arresting the man, but he jumped into a vehicle and struck Rosenbaum while trying to get away. Officials said the Beloit officers fired shots at the man's vehicle, and it crashed a short time later. The man reportedly tried running off, but police caught him. He was taken to a hospital with a gunshot wound. Officials said the man and Rosenbaum knew each other, but they were not sure how. State justice investigators are looking into the police shooting.
The discovery of human remains in Shawano County are being investigated as a homicide. Sheriff's officials said two people discovered the remains late Saturday afternoon in a wooded area in the town of Richmond, west of Shawano along County Highway Triple-"M." Sheriff Randy Wright said the remains, artifacts from the scene, and other pieces of evidence were shipped to the State Crime Lab for review. Media reports quoted a neighbor who wondered if the remains belonged to a woman missing since last summer. Authorities did not say anything about that. They don't expect to release other information until the crime lab completes its review of the forensic evidence.
A man killed in a traffic crash near Plover that knocked out power to 24-hundred residents has been identified as 37-year-old Gabriel Migut of Vesper. Portage County sheriff's deputies were called to the crash site on Highway 54 about 1:15 a-m yesterday. Investigators said Migut's pick-up truck veered into a ditch, tried getting back onto the road, and rolled over three times across the opposite shoulder. The truck then hit a power pole, where Migut was ejected. Crews from the Wisconsin Public Service utility replaced the pole, and those who lost their power had it back around 4:30 yesterday morning -- more than three hours after the crash.
Milwaukee Police are investigating a pair of shooting deaths from yesterday. The first happened around 2:30 a-m at Big-"C's" Blues Lounge on the city's north side. Police said two men got into a physical altercation, the suspect went to a handgun, and later shot a 47-year-old man to death. Police said witnesses were cooperating with investigators -- but no one was in custody at last word. The other shooting death occurred about 12:30 yesterday afternoon about a mile west of Milwaukee's downtown. Police said a 33-year-old man was shot in the street. Rescuers performed C-P-R, but the victim died at the scene.
Authorities in Waukesha County are trying to figure out the cause of a house fire that killed one person and injured another. It was reported about 1:15 yesterday morning in the town of Ottawa. North Prairie fire-fighters were the first to respond, and several other fire departments helped out. Investigators said the blaze was contained to a bedroom. A man died at the scene, and another victim was taken to a hospital for treatment. More information about those people was not immediately released. Sheriff's deputies are handling the investigation.