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WISCONSIN NEWS BRIEFS: Cows and calves lost in Granton barn fire

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WISCONSIN NEWS BRIEFS: Cows and calves lost in Granton barn fire
Ellsworth Wisconsin 126 S. Chestnut St. 54011

GRANTON - Fire officials in Central Wisconsin say 121 cows and calves were lost in a barn fire on Thursday.

WQOW-TV in Eau Claire reports the fire occurred at Naedler’s Farms near Granton in Clark County. Several firefighter were treated for heat exhaustion, but officials say no one was seriously hurt. The cause of the fire remains under investigation. 

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A Madison man, accused of attempting to set his wife on fire, has pleaded guilty in a plea deal on Friday. In exchange for dropping felony charges of first-degree attempted homicide and false imprisonment, 60-year-old Andrew Spear pleaded guilty to three misdemeanor charges. Spears was accused of locking his wife in a storage locker then pouring gasoline on her and using a lighter to start the fire. His wife was not seriously injured. Spear’s sentence is scheduled for September 13.

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Milwaukee officials say three people may have died to heat-related incidents over the week. The Milwaukee County medical examiner’s office says two men, ages 71 and 79, were found in separate houses, but may have died because their homes were sealed and had no air conditioning. On Wednesday, a 44-year-old man was found unresponsive in an alley. Authorities say his body temperature at a nearby hospital was at 108-degrees… he later died in an intensive care unit. Authorities continue to warn people about taking precautions in the latest heat wave making its way across the state. Some good news for the weekend, though – temperatures are expected to cool off a bit.

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A Madison man, accused of attempting to set his wife on fire, has pleaded guilty in a plea deal on Friday. In exchange for dropping felony charges of first-degree attempted homicide and false imprisonment, 60-year-old Andrew Spear pleaded guilty to three misdemeanor charges. Spears was accused of locking his wife in a storage locker then pouring gasoline on her and using a lighter to start the fire. His wife was not seriously injured. Spear’s sentence is scheduled for September 13. 

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A report from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue predicts the state will add around 31,000 jobs during 2013. An economist with the department says it is a sign the state’s economy is slowly recovering. The economic forecast outlook also says the state’s unemployment rate will be at six-point-nine percent for the year and drop to six-and-a-half percent in 2014. Growth is also projected to accelerate through at least 2016.

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Wisconsin U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-Oshkosh) says he likes the latest bipartisan student loan deal, saying he will likely vote in favor of the bill. The proposal calls for market rates to tie into interest rates, but capped to prevent rates from going too high. Under the bill, graduates would pay a starting rate of three-point-86 percent and graduates would pay a slightly higher rate – starting at five-point-41 percent. The U.S. Senate is likely to vote on the deal next week. 

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The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources say they are very close to having eagles nesting in every county in the state. Aerial surveys on the number of bald eagle nests are underway. D-N-R says new breeding territories were recorded throughout the state last year, specifically Northwest, North-central Wisconsin and along the Mississippi River. This latest count follows a record number of occupied nests in April, including Racine County – which documented its first eagle nest. D-N-R says aerial surveys and rescues are funded by donations through the “Adopt an Eagle” fund. More information can be found on their website at DNR-DOT-WI-DOT-GOV (dnr.wi.gov) and searching for “Adopt and Eagle”. 

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A state equal rights’ officer said a prison guard worked without pay for 35 minutes a week, when the Corrections Department stopped paying him to attend roll calls. In a decision made public today, Jeffrey Glick of the state Labor Standards Bureau ruled on July 10th that Red-granite prison guard Paul Mertz should have been paid for attending even those roll calls that were informal – and from there, he should have been paid for walking to his station within the prison. Starting in March, the corrections department started the time clock when the guards arrived at their stations. Mertz filed a complaint challenging the policy. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel figures that Mertz is owed a total of $1,400. The paper also says the state’s newly-created guards’ union will ask that all 4,900 correctional officers from around the state be included in the pay ruling. That would cost taxpayers an extra six-point-seven million dollars. Union attorney Timothy Scheffler calls the policy a “wage theft scheme.” The state plans to appeal the ruling.

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A former state Justice agent used the state’s e-mail system to send messages that called his boss an obscene name, and mocked the way Islamic terrorists dress. The Associated Press said Dan Bethards was reprimanded, and suspended twice, for misusing the government’s e-mail system over the past decade. Bethards had accused his former boss, Jay Smith, of selling guns to law enforcement officers without the required federal licenses. It was recently reported that Smith was under a federal investigation for those allegations. That probe is continuing. The A-P asked for disciplinary files for both Smith and Bethards. Only Bethards had such a file. A state Justice official in Madison has said that Bethards’ accusations were not credible – and he and Smith had been engaged in a long-running series of arguments. Still, the official went to the federal government with the information. Both Smith and Bethards had worked in the Justice Department’s field office in Superior, which the state closed in May. Smith is still employed by the agency. 

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A jury in Milwaukee ruled today that John Spooner should spend the rest of his life in prison for killing his 13-year-old neighbor. The jurors determined that the 76-year-old Spooner knew what he was doing when he shot-and-killed Darius Simmons in May of last year. Spooner was convicted on Wednesday of homicide, but his sanity at the time was still in question. Prosecutor Mark Williams said Spooner was the state’s best witness when he testified that justice was served when he shot Simmons, after accusing the teen of stealing four of his guns. In the final testimony this morning, court-appointed psychologist Robert Rawski said Spooner knew what he was thinking when he shot Simmons – and decided not to kill the victim’s brother because it might have endangered others around him. Defense lawyer Franklyn Gimbel argued Spooner’s previous mental lapses showed how instable he was – such as the times he tried strangling his wife, and killed a kitten his daughter brought home. Had the jury ruled that Spooner was insane, he would have been sent to a mental institution for life. Instead, he’s going to prison – and Judge Jeffrey Wagner can set a date for a possible supervised release. No date was immediate set for Spooner’s sentencing.

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The man who was offered $300 in insurance money to help burn down his brother’s house and kill three kids living there has changed his mind about pleading guilty to it. Jeremy Wand of Argyle was supposed to be sentenced today, on his 19th birthday. Instead, his legal team asked Visiting Judge Thomas Vale to let Wand withdraw a plea deal his client made with Lafayette County prosecutors. Wand told the judge he was pressured by one of his lawyers to plead guilty in June to three counts of being a party to first-degree intentional homicide – plus counts of attempted homicide, arson, and felony murder. Another attempted homicide count was dropped. Vale will consider the new request at a hearing on August 22nd. If it’s turned down, Jeremy Wand could be sentenced then. The homicide charges carry automatic life terms, unless the judge allows for a supervised release after 20 years. Wand’s brother Armin was given three life prison terms plus 105 years for burning down his house last September, and killing his three kids and an unborn daughter. Prosecutors Armin was hoping to get thousands in insurance proceeds to help him start a new life.    

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The attorney for the Iron County government says a camp where mining opponents have been gathering is in violation of a county ordinance. The County Board’s Forestry Committee will meet privately on Tuesday to decide what to do about it. The conservative Media Trackers’ Web site reported earlier this week that the Lac Courte Oreilles Chippewa Indians have exceeded their two-week time limit to camp on county lands. Corporation Counsel Michael Pope says they’ve been there since May. He said the tribe could have applied for a more open-ended permit reserved for large gatherings – but it didn’t. Camp spokesman Paul DeMain tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the county has raised no concerns to him about violating any permits. He said the matter seems politically-motivated. State Senate Democrat Bob Jauch of Poplar says the camp is quote, “one of the bright lights in this very difficult issue.” Jauch said the group’s members helped authorities identify at least one of protestors who wore masks while harassing Gogebic Taconite mining workers on June 11th, damaging equipment and stealing a worker’s camera and cell phone. Katie Kloth of Stevens Point is charged criminally in the incident.   

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