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CRIME AND COURT ROUNDUP: Jury awards $39 million in damages in downtown parking ramp accident that killed a teenager

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A jury in Milwaukee has awarded 39-million dollars in damages for a freak incident at a downtown parking ramp that killed a teenager three-and-a-half years ago. After hearing five weeks of testimony, jurors found the Random Lake firm of Advance Cast Stone mainly responsible for the death of 15-year-old Jared Kellner and injuries to two others. The company installed a decorative concrete panel that fell from the second floor of the O'Donnell Park ramp, with the three victims right below it as they were heading to Summerfest. The ramp's owner, Milwaukee County, was awarded six million dollars for the repairs it had to make. The victims' awards were for injuries, pain-and-suffering, and emotional distress. Advance Cast Stone was also told to pay 15-million dollars in punitive damages. The company was found 88-percent at fault. A construction management firm was found 10-percent liable, and it reached a settlement with the plaintiffs earlier. Milwaukee County was found two-percent at fault. Issues remain over insurance coverage. Those issues will be explored during a court hearing on Monday.

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A plea deal has been set for a former Rhinelander High School teacher charged with seven drug-and-theft-related counts. Joshua Juergens waived a preliminary hearing yesterday in Oneida County Circuit Court. Attorneys on both sides said the 35-year-old Juergens would enter a plea on December fifth, with sentencing possible the same day. Juergens was arrested earlier this month after computer equipment was missing from Rhinelander High. A search warrant was obtained for the defendant's home, and police said they found 66 marijuana plants in a growing operation -- along with illegal prescription drugs and paraphernalia. The Rhinelander School Board fired Juergens on Monday night. He was hired last fall as an English teacher. The superintendent recently said school officials were never made aware of some of Juergens past criminal charges, driver license suspensions, and small claims judgments against him.

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A man who died in a Racine County house fire just hours before he was to be evicted was identified as 62-year-old Dennis "Butch" Radford of Mount Pleasant. The cause of the blaze is still under investigation, but Mount Pleasant Police say they're treating it as a crime scene until it's proven otherwise. Sheriff's officials were planning to serve an eviction notice at the house yesterday morning. The Racine Journal Times said the house was being foreclosed upon, and its ownership was transferred last month to a suburban Chicago investment firm. Fire-fighters could not immediately recover Radford's body due to the structural damage. They saw his body lying on a basement floor. The state Fire Marshal's office and the Racine County Arson Task Force are among those investigating.

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A Dane County man has pleaded innocent to causing the death of his girlfriend's five-year-old son. 24-year-old Dakota Black of Oregon was arraigned yesterday on a charge of first-degree reckless homicide in the death of Brayden Turnbill in late October. Authorities said Black and his girlfriend Sharon Turnbill were staying at her cousin's house in Sun Prairie when Turnbill came home from work and found her son having a hard time breathing. It was later learned that the child died from blunt-force trauma to the head. A detective testified that Black was the only adult who was home when Brayden collapsed -- but Black denied hurting the infant. Brayden died at a hospital two days after the incident.

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A jury will resume deliberations this morning in the second trial of Chad Chritton, the Madison man accused of starving and torturing his teenage daughter. Jurors told the presiding judge last night that they reached a verdict on a reckless endangerment charge, but they had not reached an agreement on three other counts. Chritton is accused of locking his daughter in a basement for years until she broke free early in 2012. She was 15 at the time, and weighed just 68 pounds. The jury's deliberations began yesterday after almost a week-and-a-half of testimony. Prosecutors said Chritton used an alarm system to confine his daughter to their family's basement, where she was starved. Defense lawyer Jessa Nicholson said Chritton was over-burdened by the girl's mental health issues. She said her client fed the teen, and allowed inspections of his alarm system. In March, a Dane County jury convicted Chritton of child neglect -- but they could not agree on the other charges that are being considered now, including false imprisonment. His wife is serving a five-year prison term.

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Autopsies are scheduled today for an elderly couple killed in a murder-suicide near Oregon in Dane County. Sheriff's officials said a legal client and his girlfriend walked into a law office and began arguing. The 68-year-old man then reportedly pulled a gun, shot his 63-year-old girlfriend, and finally shot himself to death. The law office also served as a residence, and the two people who lived there were not hurt. Both people killed were from Madison. Their names were not immediately released.  

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Jason Schulte
Jason Schulte is a reporter for the New Richmond News since February 2015. Prior to that he spent eight years at the Pierce County Herald in Ellsworth. His duties with the News will include covering news out of Hammond and Roberts along with action from St. Croix County court system. He lives in Roberts with his wife and two daughters. 
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