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WISCONSIN NEWS BRIEFS: Woman found in burned car in Waupaca County reportedly murdered

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WAUPACA - Authorities say a central Wisconsin woman found dead in a burned vehicle in Waupaca County was apparently murdered. The victim is a 36-year-old Plover woman.

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Sheriff Brad Hardel said she might have been killed before being placed in a car found yesterday in the Waupaca County town of Harrison. Also, officers in Plover are checking out an apartment there. The state Justice Department is helping with the investigation. An autopsy is pending, and the victim’s name was not immediately released.   

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Five people have been killed in Milwaukee since last Friday. The latest victims were a 26-year-old man shot-and-killed around 4:15 yesterday afternoon on a north side residential street. Police said the victim got into an argument that escalated to a fight and property damage. The suspects left the area for a time, and then came back and shot the victim. The second murder happened around 10:45 last night on Milwaukee’s northwest side. Details were not immediately available. Twenty people have killed or wounded in Milwaukee in the last six days. The city’s homicide toll for the year stands at 52 – and officials said two others were near death after being gravely wounded in a pair of robberies on Tuesday. 

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The state government will take a number of steps to help the victims of yesterday’s tornadoes and heavy thunderstorms in the northern two-thirds of Wisconsin. Governor Scott Walker outlined those steps today after seeing some of the damage in northeast Wisconsin – including a Trinity Lutheran Church in New London that was destroyed by one of three tornadoes in the region. Walker said Wisconsin Emergency Management would come up with damage estimates, coordinate resources, and apply for eligible disaster relief. He said the Administration Department would make state emergency funds available to homeowners and eligible businesses. Walker said the Health Services department would provide any needed assistance – and the departments of transportation, insurance, agriculture, and the housing-and-economic authority would provide help in their areas of expertise. Also, Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson is asking the National Guard for personnel and equipment to help with his cleanup. The Appleton area was hit the hardest. Thousands there are still without power. In the Marinette County traffic crash, officials said Porterfield town chair Eugene LaCombe died and 23-year-old Keith Franks was hurt while clearing road debris. They were hit by a 19-year-old driver whose vision was limited by rain, winds, and the glare from LaCombe’s vehicle which had flashing lights on. An elderly couple had minor injuries at a campground in Fremont. Outagamie County canceled its court sessions yesterday as it declared a state-of-emergency.   The National Weather Service now says three tornadoes caused most of the storm damage in the Fox Valley and northeast Wisconsin early yesterday. In Marinette County, a man killed while clearing storm debris from a rural road was the chairman of the town of Porterfield. At least three people were injured from the storms. We Energies says it might not be until tomorrow night until all the power is restored in the Appleton area, as three sub-stations were damaged.  The weather service said the tornado then went toward Hortonville, where hundreds of homes were damaged by flying trees. The same storm also produced a second tornado on the north side of Appleton, where numerous homes were damaged and several utility poles snapped near a shopping mall. It was an EF-One tornado, with winds of 100-to-110-miles-an-hour. The third twister hit Brown County near Kaukauna, damaging two barns and many trees. The EF-One storm then moved into Calumet County, where two metal truss towers were blown down.   

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About 15 protesters were arrested and cited at the State Capitol rotunda today. The singing group continues to protest without a permit, maintaining they are exercising their right to free speech. Over 175 citations have been issued over the past two weeks, after a judge allowed for permit requirements of 20 or more people to gather at the rotunda. The anti-Walker group refuses to get a required state permit for Capitol gatherings, saying it should be their constitutional right to assemble without one. Capitol Police have issued close to 200 tickets over the past two weeks. Yesterday, the administration said it would not arrest onlookers, after giving out warnings to a number of those people.   Assembly Democrat Sondy Pope of Cross Plains received such a warning this week. The Wisconsin State Journal said it inquired about the authority of Capitol Police to cite observers – and administration spokeswoman Stephanie Marquis e-mailed quote, “Observers will not receive citations.” She did not say why observers got warnings in the first place. Police told some of the 60 people watching yesterday’s sing-along they might be cited if they don’t leave. The State Journal said none appeared to be arrested. However, A member of the Veterans for Peace was arrested yesterday, after members of his group went to the State Capitol to support the Solidarity Singers. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said the arrested member of the Veterans for Peace had his group’s flag confiscated – and that spurred another member to yell and point at officers. Also, a woman sat down and refused to move – but she later got up and left before she could be arrested. State Senate Democrat Jon Erpenbach of Middleton told the Wisconsin Radio Network that Governor Scott Walker was being a quote, “big bully” in the way his administration is handling the matter. Erpenbach said it’s disturbing that Capitol Police are handcuffing, searching, and photographing people for what’s essentially a municipal ticket. He also criticized the idea of threatening observers with arrest if they don’t keep moving. 

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Some state prison guards have filed a lawsuit in Dane County Court this week, claiming they are owed back pay. The lawsuit stems from a 2012 work rule, stating that employees are considered on duty when they are present at their assigned location. The 10 guards are seeking a class-action, which means additional guards could be included in the suit. In court documents, the guards claim they received no pay for pre- and post-work duties; from communication with relief officers to checking in and out equipment.

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A military judge ruled today that Fort Hood murder suspect Nidal Hasan can keep representing himself, and the standby attorneys who are giving advice to Hasan cannot withdraw. Prosecutors are starting to make their case against Hasan, the Army psychologist accused of killing two Wisconsin soldiers and 11 others at Fort Hood Texas in late 2009. Two soldiers testified they assumed the incident was a training exercise, until they say blood from the victims. Hasan asked neither soldier any questions, as he pursues a silent defense strategy in which he apparently intends to be convicted and sentenced to death. His standby lawyers asked Judge Tara Osborn for permission to take over the case, or withdraw. Osborn would not let them do either, saying it’s clear that the lawyers simply disagree with Hasan’s legal strategy. Amy Krueger of Kiel and Russell Saeger of Mount Pleasant were the Wisconsinites killed in the Fort Hood attack. Six Badger State residents were among the 32 injured. All the Wisconsin troops were members of a Madison unit training to go to Afghanistan and help other soldiers deal with stress and other personal problems.   

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State lawyers asked a federal judge today not to hold a trial on Wisconsin’s latest abortion law, until an appeals court decides whether to put the law in place until that trial. Federal Judge William Conley is scheduled to hold a trial November 25th on the lawsuit from two abortion groups which seeks to strike down the new law requiring abortion doctors to have local hospital admitting privileges. Judge Conley temporarily blocked enforcement of the law the day it took effect last month. On Tuesday, the State Justice Department asked a federal appeals court in Chicago to put the law in place before the trial can be completed. Today, the state asked Judge Conley to delay the trial before the appeals court decides whether the law should stay blocked. Planned Parenthood and Affiliated Medical Services filed suit against the measure, saying it’s unconstitutional to require abortion doctors to have hospital admitting privileges. The plaintiffs say it would close two clinics in Appleton and Milwaukee – and render another Milwaukee to half-capacity. The state says the law is needed in case abortion procedures go wrong. The state also says it’s against the law for hospitals which take federal funds to reject admitting privileges based on religious beliefs.

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A cell-phone used by Wausau area native Kira Steger Trevino was sold soon after she disappeared in February – and it later turned up in Indonesia. The 30-year-old Trevino was found dead in the Mississippi River in Saint Paul almost two-and-a-half months after she vanished. Her husband, Jeffrey Trevino of Saint Paul, is scheduled to go on trial for her murder on September 16th. A search warrant made public on July 26th revealed that Kira’s cell-phone was not used for a while after her disappearance – but it was later activated in Indonesia. The warrant said the phone was taken at some point to a Saint Paul business called “E-Z Traderz,” which buys and sells electronics. The owner of that store gave police the name of a man whom he believed sold him the phone. In the search warrant, police were trying to obtain phone records to corroborate reports that Kira was in a romantic relationship with another man just before her death.   

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Governor Scott Walker says he’ll make a new tax reform package part of his re-election campaign for next year. At the Wisconsin State Fair yesterday, the Republican governor said he’s often asked whether he would consider repealing the state income tax. Walker said he might be interested in exploring it, but quote, “A lot of ground work would have to be done.” That includes a decision on what would replace an income tax to help run state government – and finding ways to pull it off. Walker says he’s not nearly ready to make any recommendations on tax reform, but he said a “comprehensive package” would be included in his 2014 campaign. Wisconsin’s income tax was approved in 1911, and was the first in the nation to raise significant amounts of revenue.   

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The grand champion steer went for $30,000 last night at the Governor’s Red, White, and Blue Ribbon Livestock Auction at the State Fair in West Allis. Dan Spoerlein raised the cross-bred steer. Kenosha Beef and Birchwood Foods bought the 13-hundred-pound animal. 16-year-old Sarah Lillesand sold her reserve champion steer for 18-thousand dollars to Milwaukee’s Potawatomi Bingo Casino. The auction raised a total of $239,750 dollars, almost $19,000 more than last year. Some of the proceeds are used to fund more than a dozen scholarships. Governor Scott Walker ran through the crowd during the bidding, urging buyers to raise their offers. He called the auction a fun event that helps young people have fun in agriculture. The State Fair began a week ago. It runs through Sunday.

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Tomorrow is the deadline for low-income parents to apply for state-funded vouchers to send their kids to private schools this fall. Wisconsin approved a limited statewide choice program a few weeks ago. Forty-eight private and religious schools have applied for the program. The limit is 500 students – and if there are more applicants than that, only the 25 schools with the highest numbers of applications will be allowed to take part. The state Department of Public Instruction says it will wait until next week to announce how many parents apply, and which schools will make the final cut. Wisconsin’s voucher program has run for 20 years in Milwaukee, and two years in Racine. Supporters say it provides a better alternative to under-performing public schools. Opponents say it takes away much-needed state funds from public education. 

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A preliminary hearing has been delayed again for a man charged in Wausau with the death-and-dismemberment of a man from Saint Paul. A Marathon County judge has approved a defense request for a mental exam to see if 26-year-old Kou Thao is competent to stand trial. A date for a competency hearing could be set August 23rd, the next time the case is scheduled to be reviewed. 58-year-old Tong Pao Hang was reported missing in April. His body was found just over a week later in Milwaukee. According to authorities, Thao’s brother-in-law helped wrap the victim’s body in a tarp and placed it in the defendant’s car. Officials said Thao carried the severed head to a home in Milwaukee, where other body parts and Thao’s car were later found by police.

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The State Building Commission has agreed to spend almost $47-million to build a new structure to preserve archives for the State Historical Society and Veterans’ Museum. The facility has been proposed on Madison’s near east side. It would replace an old mail handling structure near the Yahara River.   

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A former Wisconsin Rapids man has been ordered to stand trial for the 2008 murder of his daughter’s ex-boyfriend. 54-year-old Joseph Reinwand is accused of shooting 35-year-old Dale Meister at the victim’s mobile home in Wisconsin Rapids. A police detective testified that Meister had just obtained visitation rights for the baby he had with the defendant’s daughter. Reinwand’s attorney said the evidence was circumstantial, and he asked that the charges be dropped. They were not, and a plea hearing will be scheduled once a special prosecutor decides whether revised charges should be filed. Reinwand is currently charged with first-degree intentional homicide, arson, and two counts of bail jumping. Although the crime happened more than five years ago, the charges were not filed until May – after Reinwand reportedly admitted to a fellow inmate at the Stanley prison that he stalked Meister before choking and shooting him.

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Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is being asked to send a criminal suspect from Upper Michigan back to his home state. 52-year-old Scotland Stivers of Sault Sainte Marie has been fighting extradition ever since he was arrested in Marinette County on June seventh. He’s charged with endangering courtroom workers, when he tried to ingest a vial of sodium cyanide in a suicide attempt. That happened in March of last year, right after he was sentenced to jail for polluting a bay along Lake Huron by illegally mooring three old tugboats. Stivers also faces assault charges in a second county, where authorities said they found poison and 25 firearms at his home. Officials said Stivers has skipped out on subsequent court dates in both Chippewa and Cheboygan counties in Michigan. Authorities said they captured Stivers in Marinette when he tried to check into a motel under an assumed name but paid with a credit card that listed his real name. That was when Marinette officers learned that he was wanted on Michigan warrants. He’s being held there under a $100,000 cash bond. A Chippewa County judge has asked Governor Scott Walker to order Stivers’ extradition. 

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Wisconsin gas prices dropped another penny overnight. The Triple-“A’s” statewide average for regular unleaded is $3.62-a-gallon, three-and-a-half cents less than a week ago. Roy Hinz of the state’s Triple-“A” says the August trend so far is similar to that in 2010-and-’11, when national gas prices fell nine-cents a gallon from July. Last year at this time, refinery issues and Hurricane Issac caused a sudden 33-cent increase. Patrick DeHaan of Gas Buddy.com says there are no obvious issues that could drive up fuel prices – but that can change at the drop of a hat. In the meantime, experts say gas will keep dropping after Labor Day, when most vacations are over and kids are back in school. 

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The chief prosecutor in Walworth County has cleared three sheriff’s deputies of wrongdoing after they shot a 39-year-old Elkhorn man to death in June. District Attorney Daniel Necci ruled yesterday that officers Garth Frami, Wayne Blanchard, and Jeffrey Shaw acted in self-defense when they shot at Jeremiah Krubert. His family said Krubert had previous struggles with mental illnesses. The DA said Krubert attacked her mother’s boyfriend with a pipe, and stole deputy Todd Neumann’s squad car after the officer tripped during a confrontation. Krubert crashed the car in a farm field, and ignored requests from the three pursuing officers to drop a gun he found in the squad car. He was loading the weapon when he was shot by the three officers. It was the second time the DA found Blanchard justified in shooting a suspect. He also killed 22-year-old John Brown in May of 2012. Brown’s mother has sued Walworth County for that incident.

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Five town hall meetings will be held throughout Wisconsin during the next month, on the issue of weight limits for agricultural equipment on state highways. A study group with more than 20 stake-holders recommended new height-and-width requirements for farm equipment that travels on Wisconsin highways. Weight allowances for so-called “implements of husbandry” would be 15-percent above those recommended by federal bridge formulas – except where posted, and during spring thaws. The UW Extension Service will co-sponsor the five upcoming public meetings, along with agriculture and transportation officials. Those meetings will all start at 7 p-m on August 19th in Madison, August 20th near Stratford, the 28th in Cashton, the 29th in Green Bay, and September third in Chippewa Falls. More information is available on the DOT’s Web site, accessible at Wisconsin.gov. 

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Three tickets matched all the numbers last night to win the third-highest jackpot in Powerball history. Two players in New Jersey and one in neighboring Minnesota will split a prize of 448-point-four million dollars. The jackpot started at 425-million yesterday, and strong ticket sales during the day pushed it up. In Wisconsin, four tickets won at least 10-thousand-dollars by matching four regular numbers plus the Powerball. Those tickets were sold in Pewaukee, New Berlin, Dousman, and Delafield – all in Waukesha County. One of those tickets won $40,000 by buying the Power Play option – but lottery officials won’t know until later today which one it is. All told, Wisconsin had just over 75,000 winners. Forty-thousand of them won four-dollars just by matching the Powerball. Last night’s numbers were 5, 25, 30, 58, and 59. The Powerball was 32. The jackpot returns to $40-million for the next drawing on Saturday.

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Governor Walker says he agrees with giving mandatory prison sentences to those who illegally possess firearms. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Police Chief Ed Flynn have suggested a minimum three-year sentence for illegal gun possession, and Senate Republican Alberta Darling of River Hills is drafting a bill to that effect. It’s part of an effort to deal with a rash of 19 shooting incidents in Milwaukee since last Friday, and a 19-percent increase in non-fatal shootings in June and July. The Republican Walker said he would support gun measures that don’t infringe on the rights of law-abiding citizens to legally possess firearms. Yesterday, Barrett gave the police department an extra half-million dollars in emergency funds to give officers more overtime to stop the shootings. Barrett also wanted Walker to provide a half-million dollars in matching state funds. Walker said later said no, indicating that mayors across the state would line up for cash if he approved Barrett’s request.

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Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and the U.S. Department of Labor have reached a settlement to improve safety conditions at stores across the U.S. and Wisconsin. A spokesman for the company says the settlement stems from violations discovered by OSHA inspectors at a Rochester, New York store. The settlement includes safety protocols for trash compactors and handling hazardous, undiluted chemicals. The retail giant says it took immediate action, once the issues were discovered. The company will also pay $190,000 in fines related to the New York store. The settlement affects over 2,800 Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores in 28 states, including Wisconsin.  

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UW-Madison bird flu researcher Yoshihiro Kawaoka is among a group of scientists who proposed new experiments today. That’s after Chinese scientists reported the first human-to-human transmission of a relatively new type of bird flu virus. A woman and her father died in that case. Kawaoka and other noted bird flu researchers are seeking approval to conduct the type of tests they voluntarily suspended a year ago on a different strain of the bird flu. The experiments would make the new virus more transmittable in labs to predict its evolution in nature, and how it might spread from poultry to humans. In a joint letter in the journals Nature and Science, the researchers said their goal in the new studies is to create drugs and vaccines that could counter the new strain.

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More motorists are buckling up in Wisconsin. Governor Scott Walker said today that 83-percent of drivers and passengers had their seat belts on, according to an observational survey by the state DOT. Walker told the Governor’s Highway Safety Conference in Stevens Point that compliance with the buckle-up law is at an all-time high. This year’s rate is about four-percent higher than the 79-percent from the previous two years. Before now, seat belt usage had not noticeably changed since 2010, the year after police started the so-called “primary enforcement” in which they no longer had to find other violations to give people $10 tickets for not buckling up. Walker and State Patrol Major Sandra Huxtable said the annual “Click It or Ticket” campaign around Memorial Day was more successful than in the recent past. They said 375 law enforcement agencies spent the campaign looking for unbuckled motorists – that’s the most ever.   

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One of Wisconsin’s largest coal-fired power plants would get a major upgrade, under a proposal given to state utility regulators. Alliant Energy is seeking permission to replace two steam turbines and a dozen coal pulverizers at the Columbia Energy Center just south of Portage. The project would cost $130 million. Alliant, which owns the plant with two other utilities, says the improvements would pay for themselves within five years. Electric customers of the three utilities would cover 60-million dollars, or just under half the cost. The state’s Public Service Commission will be asked to okay the work in the fall of next year. It’s one of several proposed improvements at the Columbia plant. New scrubbers are now being installed. As part of a federal pollution settlement, Alliant plans to seek approval next year for a new $200-million pollution control system.

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Two people were killed overnight after a car slammed into a house in eastern Wisconsin. It happened around 2:30 Wednesday morning in the Winnebago County town of Clayton. Authorities said the car drove through a stop-sign on a town road, and struck the home located on County Trunk “T.” A 27-year-old Winneconne man and a 21-year-old Oshkosh woman were killed. Their names were not immediately released.   

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Republican state legislators have raised over twice as much campaign money as Democratic incumbents for their next election bids. According to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, the 78 Republican senators and representatives raised about a million dollars in the first half of this year. The 54 Democrats raised only $411,000. The GOP also has a big edge in the amount raised by its party campaign committee – $363,000 dollars from January-to-June, compared to $143,000 by the Democratic legislative committee.

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The state Justice Department will try to find out if Waupun police lieutenant Bradley Young is tied to any other crimes, besides the ones he allegedly committed the past two days. The 43-year-old Young was arrested late yesterday. That’s after he allegedly burglarized a Green Lake restaurant, stole a pick-up truck in Green Lake, crashed the vehicle in a police chase in Barron County, stole a car near Rice Lake, and broke into a cabin west of Spooner. That’s where he gave up after state and local officers surrounded the home. State officials say charges are pending, and no court appearances have been scheduled. Young remains in the Burnett County Jail. Waupun Deputy Police Chief Scott Louden said state investigators would try to determine if Young may have been involved in other break-ins in Green Lake County. For now, he’s on administrative leave.

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The Pulaski School Board will discuss a recent conviction by one of its members tonight. Christine Vandenhouten was given a citation for hosting an underage drinking party at her home the night of May 11th. She recently paid a $366 fine. Because she’s an elected official and not a district employee, the school system cannot pursue disciplinary action against her. Vandenhouten has been on the Pulaski School Board since April of 2011. She, her teenage son, and nine other Pulaski students were cited. The district’s acting administrator said at the time that some students who were not ticketed admitted being at the party. School athletes and club members who attended were punished by their respective organizations. 

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Today is the 36th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s final ride on his favorite roller coaster – the Zippin Pippin, which is now in Green Bay. The rock-and-roll legend died just over a week later. The ride is now at Bay Beach Park in Green Bay, where officials plan to celebrate the anniversary in a number of ways. Riders will get glowing necklaces to help brighten the wooden roller coaster. Presley’s favorite peanut butter-and-banana sandwiches will be served, along with “hound dogs.” A costume contest and tribute performance will also be featured. The Zippin Pippin ran for decades in Memphis where it became Elvis’ favorite ride. Green Bay spent almost four-million dollars to recreate the roller coaster, using the original seats. It has attracted thousands more riders than expected since it opened at Bay Beach in 2011.

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Sean Scallon
Sean Scallon has been a reporter and Sports Editor at the Pierce County Herald newspaper in Ellsworth since 1998. He holds a bachelors degree in communication arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He's also worked at newspapers in Glenwood City, Wisconsin; Marion, Illinois and Shawano, Wisconsin. Sean also works as a sports reporter for other newspapers and websites in RiverTown Multimedia from River Falls to Hudson to New Richmond and Red Wing.
(715) 273-4334
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