CRIME AND COURT ROUNDUP: Smith's attorney claims she had permission to take her nephew
A woman who's on trial for kidnapping her newborn nephew near Beloit claimed she had permission to take the infant. Matthew Noel, the defense attorney for Kristen Smith, told jurors yesterday that the baby's father allowed her to take young Kayden Powell to her home near Denver. Noel said both parents were about to move to Colorado to start a new life. He made the remark in an opening statement in Smith's federal court trial in Madison on a kidnapping charge. Federal prosecutor Julie Pfluger said in her opening statement Smith didn't have the baby -- and denied knowing where he was -- when police stopped her in Iowa on an outstanding warrant from Texas. He was found the next day in a crate outside a gas station in sub-freezing temperatures. Kayden survived that ordeal. The F-B-I called its first witnesses who said Smith applied for a birth certificate that was found in her home undated -- and her computer indicated that Smith looked at Web sites about having fake pregnancy bellies, and advice on how to breast-feed an adopted baby. Smith's trial is expected to continue throughout the week.
A West Bend man who's long been a suspect in the 1990 murder of Berit Beck has been convicted of trying to kill his ex-girlfriend almost a year ago. Fifty-two year old Craig Hron faces up to 130 years in prison when he's sentenced September fifth. A jury recently convicted him of attempted homicide, stalking, reckless endangerment, and attempted carjacking in an attack last August on his former live-in girlfriend. Hron reportedly told an ex-roommate a month before the attack that he wanted to kill Tammy Jollie, and hide her body so nobody would find it. Fond du Lac County authorities would not say if Hron is still a suspect in the strangling of 18-year-old Berit Beck of Sturtevant two dozen years ago. She was on her way to a computer class in Appleton but never made it. A month later, a farmer found Beck's head along a roadside ditch. Her case became part of an F-B-I investigation after several young women were killed in Wisconsin around that time. Most of those murders have since been solved. Officials said Hron had Beck's hairbrush, but there's been no direct link between him and the murder victim. Earlier this year, a 60-year-old Kenosha man became a suspect in Beck's death after evidence was re-analyzed. That man has never been charged, either.
Wisconsin is helping North Carolina police try to win a U-S Supreme Court case that challenges the rights of officers to search vehicles they stop for burned-out tail-lights. It's similar to a Milwaukee case that police lost earlier this month. In the North Carolina case, a sheriff's deputy stopped a car on an Interstate because it only had one working tail-light. After the driver consented to a search, a back-seat passenger was found to have cocaine and was arrested for that. The defense said North Carolina only requires one working tail-light, and the state said the arrest should be upheld anyway. It said the search was "objectively reasonable" and did not violate the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches -- even if the car was stopped by mistake. Wisconsin Attorney General J-B Van Hollen said yesterday that the Badger State supported that stance in its legal brief. Eighteen other states and Washington D-C have signed onto the Badger State's argument. Earlier this month, the Wisconsin Supreme Court reversed a car passenger's gun conviction, saying Milwaukee Police should have never stopped the vehicle -- which had a series of tail-lights with only one of them burned out. On a slim 4-3 vote, the Wisconsin justices said the single burn-out was not enough to find the entire tail-light defective.
An ailing central Wisconsin woman could soon find out whether her court case will be revived in the theft of her missing mother's Social Security checks. Seventy-one year old Delores Disher of Almond was accused of helping her husband and brother steal 175-thousand dollars in benefits to Marie Jost -- who vanished in 1980 and is presumed dead. Disher's case was suspended last summer after she suffered a stroke in jail. She has spent several months in a nursing home with a number of health issues. Portage County prosecutor Cass Cousins said a hearing was planned yesterday to determine if she's now competent to stand trial. But due to those health issues, the hearing has been pushed back to September second. The district attorney asked that Disher's case be re-evaluated after she attended she attended the sentencing for her husband in mid-April. Ronald Disher was given a four-and-a-half year prison term. Charles Jost is in a supervised release program, after he was found innocent-by-insanity. Delores Disher is charged with theft-by-fraud, forgery, unauthorized use of others' personal documents, and mail fraud. All those counts are felonies.
A Milwaukee man will spend almost ten years in prison for driving drunk in a high-speed chase that ended in a crash which almost killed a sheriff's deputy. The Journal Sentinel said 41-year-old Kevin Hutchins Junior was the one-thousandth repeat O-W-I offender charged in Milwaukee County since tougher laws took effect in 2010. Last October, Hutchins got into a seven-mile chase with sheriff's officers at speeds up to 100-miles-an-hour. His vehicle slammed into a concrete wall on the Highway 41 expressway spur near Miller Park, and went airborne before landing on the windshield of deputy Scott Griffin's patrol car. Griffin told a judge yesterday he has not been able to return to work since the crash -- and he feels constant pain, anxiety, and depression. Griffin is seeking worker's compensation, as he plans to retire from law enforcement. Hutchins told the judge he needs help to deal with his alcoholism, and he apologized for the incident. He had pleaded guilty to causing injury while driving drunk, reckless endangerment, and fleeing an officer.
Officers in northwest Wisconsin said alcohol appears to be a factor in a one-car weekend crash that killed the driver. The victim has been identified as 29-year-old Preston Wilson of Frederic. A 30-year-old male passenger from Centuria was taken to a Saint Paul hospital with injuries. Polk County sheriff's officials said Wilson lost control of his car on a curve at high speed on a rural road near Saint Croix Falls. It flew over a driveway and hit several trees in a ditch. Neither man was wearing a seat-belt. The mishap occurred early last Saturday.