CRIME AND COURT ROUNDUP: Coalition of church groups calling for reforms in the Corrections Department
A coalition of church groups is calling for drastic reforms in the Wisconsin Corrections Department. Over 100 members of the umbrella group WISDOM demanded yesterday that the state release up to three-thousand prisoners who are eligible for parole. They were sentenced before the state's no-parole law took effect in 2000, and the group contended that many have been behind bars much longer than their sentencing judges intended. Those releases could save the state 96-million dollars a year. The group also wants to end over-crowding in the state's prisons, and to put an end to solitary confinement. The group held a news conference to unveil its new campaign called "Reform Now." They then crowded a meeting of a state criminal justice advisory board. Members said they were frustrated, because the state has not made much progress in their call from 2012 to reduce the state prison's population in half, to around 11-thousand inmates by 2015. Corrections Secretary Ed Wall told an A-P reporter that a committee in his agency is looking at solitary confinement issues -- and he believes his department and WISDOM can find agreements on other subjects.
The former West Allis police officer charged with dumping two murdered women in suitcases was forced to resign in 2001, after he allegedly harassed at least a half dozen other women. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel obtained personnel records yesterday for 52-year-old Steven Zelich, who served for 12 years on the West Allis police force. The records showed that investigators uncovered a pattern of inappropriate incidents -- including the stalking of a hair stylist even after she had another boyfriend and a baby. The paper said Zelich also stalked exotic dancers, and demanded dates while at their clubs. One dancer said Zelich contacted her a-thousand times over eight years. The last straw for West Allis Police apparently came in May of 2001, when a woman fled Zelich's apartment in just her underwear while crying. Zelich was charged in June with two counts of hiding a corpse, after he allegedly killed women in Rochester Minnesota and Kenosha County and dumped their bodies in separate suitcases near Lake Geneva. Prosecutors say homicide charges will be filed in the places where Laura Simonson and Jenny Gamez were killed.
A jury in Milwaukee could decide today whether a 29-year-old man is guilty of murdering a cook who tried to break up a fight at a George Webb's restaurant. Delorean Bryson testified in his own defense yesterday, in the third day of his trial on a charge of first-degree intentional homicide. Prosecutors said Bryson was a part of a group that was terrorizing restaurant customers and employees last December 20th. Twenty-one year old Reginald Evans was shot and killed while coming out of the kitchen to break up the melee. Bryson said he shot his gun to protect his cousin -- but he didn't realize that the bullet struck Evans. Three other alleged instigators are facing separate trials on lesser charges that include harboring a felon, and disorderly conduct. Police said they identified the suspects quickly. That's because one of them used a credit card to pay for what they ate.
A cattle company from Iowa and a farmer from southwest Wisconsin have been fined for shipping and holding animals that had tuberculosis. Farmer Roger Vogt of Glen Haven and cattle company owner Duane VanderVeen have agreed to pay civil forfeitures totaling over 15-hundred dollars. Officials said calves exposed to tuberculosis were shipped by the Westview Cattle Company from its gathering facility in Michigan to locations in Minnesota and Iowa. Gopher State investigators later learned that 666 calves were diverted to Vogt's Grant County farm in 2012, and were held there for several months. Officials said the cattle were not allowed to enter Wisconsin because they did not get have negative T-B tests or proper identification or inspections. Follow-up tests on Vogt's other cattle showed no trace of T-B.
A van driver was killed after colliding with a semi-truck in central Wisconsin. It happened just after 1:45 yesterday afternoon near Wild Rose in Waushara County. The State Patrol said a van pulled from a stop-sign on County Trunk "P" into the path of a semi-truck coming from the left on Highway 22. Officials said drivers at the stop sign have limited visibility looking left on 22 because of a gradual hill that crests a few hundred feet away. The van driver died at the scene of the crash. The trucker was taken to a Wild Rose hospital for treatment.
Authorities continue to investigate a shooting incident involving two boys in a cornfield near Sharon in Walworth County. Sheriff's deputies said one boy was shot in the head yesterday afternoon, and was taken to a Janesville hospital. The other boy was being questioned by investigators at last word. Undersheriff Kuret Picknell said it was too early to know if the shooting was accidental or on purpose. The wounded boy's condition was not immediately disclosed.