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STATE NEWS ROUNDUP: Trucker sentenced to 20 years prison for killing a family in an Interstate crash

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STATE NEWS ROUNDUP: Trucker sentenced to 20 years prison for killing a family in an Interstate crash
Ellsworth Wisconsin 126 S. Chestnut St. 54011

A trucker has been sentenced to 20 years in prison after he drove his rig almost non-stop from Milwaukee to western Nebraska, where he killed a family in an Interstate crash. 37-year-old Josef Slezak of River Grove Illinois was sentenced yesterday, after he struck a plea deal. Authorities said he fell asleep at the wheel on Interstate-80 near Sidney Nebraska last September, and rear-ended a car. Christopher and Diana Schmidt of Gaithersburg, Maryland were killed, along with their children ages 2-and-3. Diana was also 30-weeks' pregnant with another child. Slezak earlier pleaded no contest to four charges of vehicular homicide, plus one similar count involving an unborn children. Four manslaughter charges were dropped in the plea bargain.

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State officials now say the foundations of seven piers will have to be replaced at the Leo Frigo Memorial Bridge in Green Bay. The Interstate-43 bridge over the Fox River was closed three weeks ago yesterday, when it sagged two feet due to a drop in one of the 51 piers that support the high-rise structure. D-O-T engineers said underground pilings for one of the piers corroded, along with the chemical make-up of the surrounding surface soil. Now, the D-O-T says new tests have shown that the soil composition of six adjacent piers is similar to that of the one which sank. The tests were completed as crews began installing two truss supports to keep the bridge from sagging any further. A permanent repair plan for the Frigo bridge is expected in at least a couple weeks. The bridge will be closed for at least several months, until all the repairs are made.

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A suburban Milwaukee restaurant owner is accused of using three McDonald's locations to pay for a drug trafficking operation -- and to launder profits from those drugs. A federal grand jury has indicted 38-year-old Edward Patterson of Whitefish Bay on counts possessing marijuana, conspiring to deliver it, and money laundering. Four other Milwaukee area suspects have been charged, along with a 42-year-old California man. They're all accused of sending large amounts of marijuana from the Golden State, to be sold in the Milwaukee area. Fifteen search warrants were executed as part of the operation. Agents seized 90-thousand-dollars, 11 guns, and an undisclosed amount of marijuana. Patterson owns McDonald's restaurants in Glendale, Mequon, and Fox Point. Officials said he made three drug deposits in the restaurants' checking accounts totaling over 12-thousand dollars.

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Authorities hope new technology will identify a woman found dead 14 years ago in a Racine County cornfield. Officials called her "Jane Doe." Her body was exhumed yesterday for a fresh examination at the Milwaukee County medical examiner's office. She was listed as five-feet-eight and 120 pounds when she was found dead in the town of Raymond in July of 1999. Investigators say they hope to learn more about what happened to the woman just before her death, with the goals of identifying both the woman and those who may be responsible. 

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A 39-year-old Neillsville man was killed after he rolled his vehicle while being pursued by a Clark County sheriff's deputy. It all started around one a-m yesterday, while deputies were told that a vehicle was driving through yards near Neillsville in the town of Pine Valley. A short time later, the deputy was almost struck head-on when a vehicle reportedly crossed a center line. The officer said the vehicle appeared to be one that was going through yards, so he chased the driver with his lights and siren activated. Officials said the vehicle sped through a stop sign, and lost control a short time later. It veered into a ditch and rolled over several times. The driver died at the scene. A passenger was seriously injured. No names were immediately released. An investigation continues.

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Harley-Davidson is voluntarily recalling some of its 2014 motorcycles, due to a safety concern. The Milwaukee-based company reports a hydraulic problem in which the clutch might not disengage -- thus making it hard to slow down or stop. The problem affects seven new models of Harley's Touring motorcycles, plus three models of its Trikes and Softail C-V-O's. Owners of the affected bikes are being urged to contact their dealers for inspections. Repairs will be made for free. A total of 29-thousand bikes are being recalled. They were made between early May and Monday of this week. More information is available at Harley-Davidson's Web site.

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Police have arrested a student for making a bomb threat yesterday at his high school in suburban Milwaukee. About 11-hundred students at Glendale Nicolet were sent home after a hand-written threat was found in a boy's bathroom, and two suspicious packages were discovered on the first-and-second floors. A bomb squad checked out the packages and found they were harmless. Glendale police captain Mark Ferguson said the key to the arrest was that his officers remained diligent. He said school bomb threats have become so commonplace that quote, "You try not to get complacent." The high school building was deemed safe around 12:30 -- but most students were long gone by then. Officials said some Glendale students were supposed to take P-S-A-T tests yesterday, but didn't. Classes resume today. Administrators will determine whether a make-up day will be needed later in the school year.

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One man was killed in an apartment fire in Madison. Fire-fighters were called to the Riverwood Apartments on the city's south side around 3:40 yesterday afternoon. The blaze was put under control about just after four o'clock. Damage was contained to a corner apartment on the second floor, where the man's body was discovered. The apartment directly below that was also heavily damaged. Fire-fighters were called back to the scene around six last evening, after smoke started pouring from the roof. Officials said the re-kindling was also extinguished quickly. The name and age of the man who died were not immediately released.  

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. 
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