WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Chippewas ask EPA to look into proposed mine
BAYFIELD - An Indian tribe is asking the EPA to look into the environmental impact of the proposed Gogebic iron ore mines.
Chippewa leaders representing six bands in northern Wisconsin are concerned that the open pit mine, located in northern Wisconsin, could pollute water resources and harm fish populations. Gogebic Taconite is proposing two pits of one-thousand feet deep, in a span of four miles. The company has not filed an application for a mining permit yet. Once it does, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Department of Natural Resources will conduct an environmental impact review. The EPA's review could include a veto of decisions by the state and Army Corps over things like dredging and digging close to waterways. The tribes' request is similar to one made by opponents of a mining project in Alaska, which had the EPA had agreed in February to review. According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the EPA rarely steps in like this. It agreed to evaluate 29 projects in the past 40 years -- and in 13 of those cases, the agency limited or stopped activities they said had posed environmental threats. The Chippewa bands asking for EPA intervention are the Bad River, Red Cliff, Lac du Flambeau, Saint Croix, Mole Lake, and Lac Courte Oreilles.
A Plover man, accused of murdering and hiding the body of a 36-year-old woman last year, entered a plea deal yesterday. 33-year-old Jose Luis Flores Aca pleaded guilty to first-degree intentional homicide and first-degree sexual assault, related to the death of Jamie Koch. A charge of hiding a corpse was dismissed. According to court records, Flores Aca told investigators that he assaulted Koch, after she angered him. Prosecutors say after he sexually assaulted the victim’s corpse, he drove the body to a field and set the car and victim on fire. Sentencing is set for September 30.
A judge set bond at a million-dollars yesterday afternoon for a former West Allis police officer suspected of killing two women and dumping suitcases with the victims' bodies in them. Fifty-two year old Steven Zelich made an initial appearance in Walworth County Circuit Court on two counts of hiding a corpse. Defense lawyer Travis Schwantes wanted a much lower bond, saying Zelich has not been charged with homicide. But District Attorney Daniel Necci said he expects homicide charges in the counties where his purported victims were killed -- Laura Simonson in Rochester, Minnesota, and the yet-to-be-named victim in Kenosha County. Authorities said Zelich stored away both corpses for months at his West Allis home and later in his vehicle. Officials said he dumped the suitcases along a grassy roadside near Lake Geneva on June fifth. Authorities said Zelich met both women online, then had separate encounters with them in which allegedly killed them violently. Zelich is due back in Walworth County next Thursday for preliminary hearing on the corpse disposal charges.
Two people were killed overnight when the car they were in struck a large tree and caught fire in Waukesha County. Sheriff's deputies and fire personnel were called to a rural road near Delafield around 2:40 Friday morning. They said the car was resting on the driver's side, and it lost control on a curve before striking the tree head-on.
Two unnamed parties have asked Federal Judge Rudolph Randa to keep their names secret if he releases any more documents related to the Walker John Doe probe. Lawyers for the two parties also asked Randa to notify them in advance before any more records are unsealed. The parties had objected to the release of about 250 pages of previous John Doe records -- but they were unsealed anyway. The parties cited news coverage of last week's releases, in which a prosecutor mentioned a "criminal scheme" that supposedly placed Governor Scott Walker at the center of an effort to have outside conservative groups coordinate election campaigns of GOP recall targets. Yesterday, a lawyer for the special prosecutor called that allegation a theory, and that Walker was not even a target of the probe. The unnamed parties who want to keep the case under wraps said many others named in last week's record release had their names bandied about as if were guilty of something -- by association if nothing else. Five media groups have asked that all the records in the John Doe be made public. Randa gave both sides two weeks to determine which records should remain secret. The attorneys said the review was taking place but they said "the risk of unsealing is more urgent."
It could be awhile before we find out if the plaintiffs in Wisconsin's gay marriage lawsuit are entitled to have their legal fees covered by taxpayers. Federal Judge Barbara Crabb of Madison ruled earlier this month in favor of same-sex couples and the Wisconsin Civil Liberties Union, which claimed that the state's ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional. However, Crabb put her ruling on hold until the case is done being appealed. Both sides have filed a request to have Judge Crabb delay her decision on legal fees. They say it makes more sense to see how the issue fares in the appellate courts.
A ten-year-old Milwaukee girl has been taken off life-support, 35 days after she was shot in crossfire while playing at an elementary school. Family spokesman Troy Lowe said Sierra Guyton was breathing and fighting as of Wednesday night -- and her doctors were not sure how long it would stay that way. Lowe said the family was asking the community to pray for Sierra -- and give her relatives the space they'll need to have closure and healing. The shooting has spurred a fresh debate over Wisconsin gun laws. Eighteen-year-old Sylvester Lewis and 28-year-old Jamey Jackson face criminal charges -- including reckless endangerment of both Sierra and her sister Kiara, who was also at the Clarke Street Elementary School playground but was not hit. Both defendants are charged with illegally possessing firearms as previously-convicted felons.
Milwaukee Police have started an internal investigation to find out why it took 20 minutes for officers to arrive at the scene of a stabbing where a woman died. Barbara Killebrew was stabbed late Tuesday afternoon at a north side home. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel said rescue personnel from the fire department got there within three minutes after they were called. But they normally wait until police secure an emergency scene before starting treatment -- and police didn't arrive until 17 minutes after the ambulance team did. Killebrew was pronounced dead six minutes after that. Police lieutenant Mark Stanmeyer said a preliminary investigation showed that the dispatch call was not handled under the normal protocol. He said Chief Ed Flynn has addressed the matter with his command staff, and issued a department-wide directive.
A 20-year-old man whom authorities said was killed by his father in Glendale was identified today as Robert Washington Jr. Robert and his 15-year-old brother Wesley were shot at their home yesterday afternoon. The younger boy was in stable condition at last word at Milwaukee Children's Hospital. The alleged shooter, 57-year-old Robert Washington Sr., was still in custody today. He surrendered a short time after the shooting incident. The Milwaukee County district attorney's office is expected to review the case on Monday before deciding on possible charges.
Milwaukee Police said Friday that a fight between two teenage girls appears to have prompted an exchange of gunfire between feuding members of two north side homes. Five people were wounded in the shootings, which occurred at a pair of homes on Milwaukee's north side Thursday. Police said today that three of the five shooting victims have been released from a hospital. A man and a woman were still hospitalized this morning. Investigators said a resident of one house went to the other house and opened fire, while a three-week-old baby was inside. Residents of the targeted house returned fire. Milwaukee Police said they recovered about three dozen shell casings from the scene.
A nine-year-old central Wisconsin boy is almost fully recovered, after he was struck by lightning a year ago yesterday. Blake Draeger was hurt last June 26th, when he was riding his dirt bike on his great uncle's farm near Edgar in Marathon County. His father and grandfather were moving dirt piles at the time. They were stunned to see holes in the ground where the lightning hit. Young Blake was knocked unconscious and had severe burns that were treated over the next several days at UW Hospital in Madison. Today, Blake has just small scars on his back and head from the ordeal. His father Chris Draeger tells the Wausau Daily Herald that ever since the calendar hit June, time has made him reflect on what could have happened.
Kenosha County authorities say a man is lucky to be alive, after his car ran into a stopped freight train that was blocking a road in Pleasant Prairie. It happened around midnight Thursday. Officers said most of the rail cars were painted black --and that's apparently why the motorist didn't see them. The crossing has no lights or signals. Investigators said alcohol or other drugs did not appear to be factors in the mishap. Rescuers extricated the man from his car, before taking him to a hospital. There was no immediate word on his condition, but the Kenosha News said the victim was expected to recover.
A federal agency has issued a preliminary report about last Friday's crash in Minnesota, in which a plane struck a house while ex-Packer Kole Heckendorf was inside. The National Transportation Safety Board did not list a cause of the crash. It killed 60-year-old pilot Scott Olson and his passenger, a 16-year-old foreign exchange student. The report said Olson was flying an experimental plane which took off from Saint Cloud, Minnesota around 8:10 last Friday night, and crashed into the home in Sauk Rapids 24 minutes later. A final report on the mishap won't be out for at least several weeks. Heckendorf, a football standout at Mosinee High School in central Wisconsin, was staying with his brother-in-law until he could move into a house with his new wife. Heckendorf jumped out a second story window and escaped without injury. The Packers signed him as an undrafted receiver in 2009. He was with a total of five NFL teams over a four-year period, without playing in a regular season game.
As Milwaukee struggles with sleep-related infant babies, officials in Janesville believe they have solved a similar problem. About a dozen babies died from unsafe sleeping conditions from 2005-through-2010. Police detective Erik Goth tells the Janesville Gazette he was bothered by that -- so he started a partnership with area hospitals to teach prospective parents in pre-natal classes about safe sleeping. Detective Christopher Buescher stepped in to help, after he lost a brother to sudden infant death syndrome 41 years ago. Goth and Buescher teach around 50 classes a year. Of eleven previous infant deaths in Janesville, eight involved infants sleeping on their stomachs -- and three were co-sleeping with parents. Since 2011, Janesville Police say they've had no reports of preventable infant sleeping deaths.
One of every ten working-age adults in Wisconsin die from conditions with excessive alcohol at their roots. That's according to a report released today by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. It reported 17-hundred alcohol-related deaths each year from 2006-through-2010 -- and the agency figures that those people would have lived a total of 44-thousand more years had they not drank. The CDC says the deaths take lots of forms -- breast cancer, heart-and-liver disease, and problems caused by binge drinking like traffic crashes and violence. For years, health-related groups have slammed Wisconsin's considerable drinking traditions. Still, the Badger State was nowhere the nation's highest rate of what the CDC calls alcohol-related deaths. The Badger State had 29 such deaths for every 100-thousand residents. Number-One New Mexico had much more, with 51 deaths. New Jersey had the lowest rate at 19 deaths per 100-thousand people. The CDC also said the problems with excessive drinking often cost a lot more than the alcohol itself -- about one-dollar and 90-cents per drink. That includes lost work time, and reduced salaries-and-wages to heavy drinkers.
Wisconsin's tax-funded employees are not getting the big premium increases for health insurance that private sector workers are facing. That's according to an annual survey from "M-3," the state's largest insurance broker. It said health premiums rose by an average of one-point-two percent this year for government and public school employees -- while those in the private sector swallowed a jump of seven-point-one percent. The firm surveyed over 550 of its clients from three employees up to five-thousand -- many from Wisconsin. They were enrolled in almost 1,100 benefit plans. M-3 vice-president Rich Twietmeyer said public sector bosses offered extra flexibility in areas like higher deductibles. And insurers had more competition in the wake of the Act-10 public union bargaining limits from 2011. The survey also showed that more employers jacked up their deductibles. Thirty-four percent of plans had annual deductibles of $2,500 for family insurance and 12-hundred-50 dollars for individuals. Six-percent fewer plans had those same deductibles the previous year.
Wisconsin's growing heroin problem appears to be creating another danger -- users throwing their needles on the ground, with a risk that whoever touches them could get sick. Concerned citizens in Marinette and neighboring Menominee, Michigan have gone on Facebook to alert others to the problem. Yesterday, they organized a cleanup at a Marinette park where they found four used needles. Tina Rupert told WLUK-TV in Green Bay that she feels sorry for her grandchildren who use a river beach at the park. Cleanup organizer Benjamin Conley called heroin a big problem in his community. Marinette Police Sergeant Scott Ries says the needles could have had heroin --- or maybe some type of legal IV fluid. Still, he says they're extremely dangerous because they can spread disease. Ries said officers have not targeted a specific part of the area where the needle evidence is more common than elsewhere in town.
For the second time in a month, a "Q"-Mart convenience store in the Sheboygan area has sold a million-dollar lottery winner. State officials said today that a "Q"-Mart in Sheboygan sold a ticket that won the second prize of a million dollars in last night's Powerball drawing. Another store from the same chain in nearby Kohler sold the first ticket with the same prize. Both matched five numbers -- but not the Powerball -- to win their respective prizes. Winners have 180 days to cash in their tickets.