WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Madison man dies in shooting
MADISON - A 33-year-old man was shot-and-killed in Madison last night. A potential suspect is in custody as a person-of-interest while officers continue to investigate.
Police said the victim was apparently targeted, and it might have been the result of a domestic dispute. Officers were called around seven last evening. The victim died later at a hospital.
A South Milwaukee woman who died from a fire at her home was identified yesterday as 58-year-old Kay Bertrand. The blaze broke out last Thursday afternoon. Fire-fighters pulled Bertrand from the second floor of the house and took her to a hospital, where she died the next day. The Milwaukee County medical examiner's office said Bertrand died of burns and smoke inhalation.
A suburban Milwaukee man was killed in a snowmobile crash in Upper Michigan. The State Police said 37-year-old Chad Schlenvoght of Port Washington died after his machine lost control on a roadway and overturned. The victim was ejected. Officials said a passer-by later found the man early yesterday on the shoulder of a town road about two miles northwest of Iron Mountain Michigan. Efforts to revive Schlenvoght failed. The crash remains under investigation.
Alcohol is thought to be factor in a one-vehicle crash near Baraboo that killed the driver. It happened just after 12:30 yesterday morning on a town road west of Highway 12. Sauk County authorities said the vehicle lost control and flipped onto its roof. The driver was pinned inside, and was not wearing a seat belt. No one else was in the vehicle. The victim's name was not immediately released.
Don't go outside in shorts just yet -- but it is 37-degrees warmer in parts of northern Wisconsin than it was 25 hours before. It was five above zero at Land O'Lakes in Vilas County at seven this morning -- the same place where it was 32-below at six a-m yesterday. Snow was falling early today in much of northern and southeast Wisconsin -- the trade-off almost every time the mercury rose by any sizable amount for a day-or-two during one of the coldest winters in the state's history. It's still well-below zero in the far northwest along Lake Superior. The city of Superior had a 13-below reading at 7 a.m, and Ashland was at minus-five. It was also foggy in parts of the north. Kimberly in the Fox Valley had three-inches of snow yesterday and last night. Much of the state had between a half-inch to two-and-a-half. Light snow is expected to clear out of Wisconsin today, and then -- you guessed it -- colder temps are due back in tonight, with lows of 10-below in the north to plus-10 in the south.
Be glad you didn't have Packer tickets for Green Bay Monday morning. It was 24-below in Titletown, shattering the old record of 10-below for this date in 1943-and-1950. The National Weather Service said the minus-24 was the ninth-coldest temperature ever recorded in Green Bay, and the second-coldest ever for March. In Madison, it got down to a relatively balmy minus-eight Monday -- and that tied the city's record-low for the date set 130 years ago in 1884.
Spring seems like a long way off. But the Coast Guard will start cutting ice today in the Duluth-Superior harbor, to get ready for the shipping season on Lake Superior. The ice-breaking will take place on spots frequented by ice anglers -- including the Superior Front Channel and the Superior Harbor basin. The ice-cutter is named "Alder." It will also chop harbor ice across the state's border at Duluth Minnesota. It then plans to head to other harbors on Lake Superior.
A lock-and-dam on the Mississippi River will open a week later than expected. The Army Corps of Engineers says Lock No. 8 at Genoa in southwest Wisconsin will open on March 17th instead of next Monday. The Corps says shipping boats will not be able to use the Mississippi any time soon anyway, due to the cold winter. So work crews will have more time to finish renovations and maintenance work. Lock-and-Dam Number-Eight has been closed since December second. Crews have been repairing concrete, and replacing a bubbler system that prevents gates from freezing when it's cold.
How would you like a $10,000 monthly heating bill? Melrose Tomatoes in western Wisconsin saw its propane bill surpass five figures for its five greenhouses. The company provides fresh tomatoes year-round to restaurants and stores in the region. Manager Ann Strait tells the La Crosse Tribune that her fuel bill is 25-percent higher than a normal winter, even though she locked in a rate before propane skyrocketed in January. Others were not as fortunate, after the National Weather Service in La Crosse recorded its fifth-coldest December through February on record. Now, some farmers are looking at ways to lock in lower prices down the line -- perhaps switching from propane to bio-mass or other types of fuel if they can.
Over 100 environmental advocates from Wisconsin and seven other Great Lakes states are lobbying in the nation's capital this week. They'll attend the semi-annual meeting of the Great Lakes Commission. They'll also lobby their congressional representatives to keep supporting the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a multi-year plan to clean up the massive waterways. The package sat on a shelf for years before President Obama started providing federal funds in 2009. Since then, the Initiative has spent over a billion-dollars to clean up polluted shorelines and industrial sites, and protect wildlife habitat near the Great Lakes. Obama White House official John Goss is scheduled to speak to the group about the ongoing effort to keep the invasive Asian carp out of the Great Lakes. Federal EPA Adminsitrator Gina McCarthy is scheduled to address the group tomorrow.
Governor Scott Walker says the sexual harassment accusations against state Assembly Majority Leader Bill Kramer are "outrageous." And if they're true, the Republican Walker said Kramer should not hold elective office, or any other position of public trust. The 49-year-old Waukesha Republican checked into a treatment facility on Saturday. That's after allegations surfaced that Kramer inappropriately touched one woman and verbally abused another last week. State Assembly Republicans are scheduled to meet at 10 this morning to decide whether to strip Kramer of the majority leader's post he won last fall -- and whether to name a replacement as the current session winds down. West Bend Republican Pat Strachota said he should seriously consider resigning from his Assembly seat. If he doesn't, it will be up to the voters to decide in November. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said Kramer allegedly hugged a female staffer and touched her breasts after a social event following a GOP fund-raiser in Washington last Wednesday. On the plane ride home the next day, he reportedly made vulgar remarks to a female lobbyist. Also, the paper mentioned a third possible incident involving a Wisconsin congressional staffer recently. Other details were not disclosed.
Wisconsin workers and property owners will soon be one step closer to getting a major tax break. The state Senate is scheduled to meet late this morning to act on a $504-million tax cut package. Majority Republican leaders say they have enough votes in both houses to pass it. They'll give the Republican Walker the original tax cuts he proposed in January -- a $131-dollar property tax reduction this year for the median-priced home, plus a $46-dollar average income tax cut. The GOP negotiated some late changes on other parts of the package. Another $100-million dollars would be placed into the state's general fund, instead of the original idea of expanding the government's rainy day fund. Also, there are $38-million in new spending cuts to off-set a possible structural deficit to start the next budget period. Democrats still say the middle class would not get enough of the tax break, to be funded by a projected billion-dollar surplus in the current state budget. Senators are also expected to spend another $35-million of the surplus on job training grants.
A limit on new regulations for Wisconsin's existing frac-sand mines was debated yesterday at the State Capitol. Opponents told lawmakers at a public hearing that the bill would tie local governments' hands, because they could not regulate new technology and the future issues that arise from it. Like a more restrictive version earlier, critics like the Sierra Club called the new bill a corporate giveaway to a booming industry. Senate Republican Tom Tiffany of Hazelhurst had offered a compromise bill to allow communities to regulate future silica-sand mines as they wish -- but not the hundred-plus mines already in existence, most of them in western Wisconsin. Assembly Republican Joan Ballweg of Markesan said she was confident that state agencies would do a good job of regulating the industry -- and she said local governments may not have the expertise to make necessary judgments. The compromise bill bans for restrictive zoning for existing mines. It would also protect mines from new ordinances if they're in business for the preceding year. The bill's prospects are uncertain, as the current session is now entering its final month.
Wisconsin will soon require all hospitals to offer a four-dollar test that could save newborns with congenital heart disease. Governor Scott Walker went to Milwaukee Children's Hospital yesterday to sign a bill requiring the exam, which will join other mandatory health tests at birth. Walker calls it a "simple little test that can save a life." The bill had languished in the state Legislature for about two years before it got a push last December from a series of news stories in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. That paper found over a dozen hospitals were not performing the Pulse Oximetry test. It also brought forth a 2010 study showing that nine Wisconsin newborns died over a five-year period because their congenital heart disease had not been detected. As a result of the bill signing, the state Health Services Department will now write new rules for hospitals to follow in administering the test. Over 30 states already require it.
A 33-year-old Merrill woman is jailed under a quarter-million dollar bond, after she was charged with trying to hire a hit-man to kill her fiance who's a local attorney. Jessica Strom appeared in Marathon County Circuit Court yesterday on a charge of conspiracy to commit homicide. Prosecutors said she tried hiring a former criminal justice classmate to walk into her fiance's law office in Merrill and quote, "blow his brains out" before flying the body to Door County. She reportedly said she was in a "bad relationship." Officials said Strom offered sex and a-thousand dollars to the alleged hit-man when they met at a Wausau restaurant last week. He went to law enforcement instead, and authorities said Strom was arrested after a sting operation. She's due back in court a week from tomorrow for a preliminary hearing. WSAU Radio in Wausau said the intended victim was a 49-year-old lawyer, and a former prosecutor. Circuit Judge Michael Moran withdrew from the case after setting Strom's bond, saying he knew the attorney. The station also said a special prosecutor may be necessary, since the Marathon County DA's staff is also familiar with the person.
An innocent plea has been entered for a man accused of killing his girlfriend in their Black River Falls apartment. 37-year-old Michael Harmon stood mute at his arraignment yesterday in Jackson County Circuit Court. A judge entered the plea to a charge of first-degree intentional homicide as a repeat offender. Harmon is accused of shooting 34-year-old Angela Nelson, who was found dead in their bathtub last June 9th. Harmon told police that he and Nelson were in a struggle when the gun went off, and his lawyer is claiming self-defense. But in previous testimony, a medical examiner said there was no way the victim was shot at close range, based on the area of the bullet wound. Authorities said Harmon left Black River Falls after the shooting, and was later arrested in Milwaukee -- where his father is a former police officer. No new court dates have been set in the case.
A jury deliberated for six hours before convicting a Rockford, Illinois man for the shooting death of a Janesville area woman. 24-year-old Kody Walsh was found guilty of murder, after he shot 36-year-old Lori Daniels of Afton in September of 2012, while the two were riding in a vehicle on Interstate-90 near South Beloit, Ill. After the shooting, prosecutors said Walsh stole the vehicle and shot at the driver. Walsh was chased by police until the vehicle crashed in Rockford. He then ran off, and was captured a week later in Tennessee where he led police on another chase. The verdict came at the end of a week-long trial. Jurors found Walsh innocent of attempted murder charges for shooting at the vehicle driver and two police officers. Walsh faces 45 years to life-in-prison. He's tentatively scheduled to be sentenced on April seventh in Rockford.
A new mother who spent a week in jail now says she cannot breast-feed her baby, because she was not allowed to pump milk while behind bars. 27-year-old Britney Weber tells the Green Bay Press-Gazette her four-week-old daughter has digestive problems due to her lack of breast-feeding ability. She blames staff members at the Brown County Jail for not letting her pump milk while she was jailed on contempt-of-court charges for a traffic case. The jail lets female inmates express milk when a doctor-or-nurse considers it medically necessary. Sheriff John Gossage said he could not comment on Weber's exact case due to medical privacy laws. But he told the Press-Gazette that people forfeit some of their privileges when they're in jail.
Milwaukee's police chief raises the question of whether mandatory arrests are the best way to deal with non-felony domestic abuse. That's after an updated study shows that more abuse victims are likely to die when their attackers are arrested by police, rather than warned. The University of Maryland followed up on a Milwaukee study from the late 1980's, after Wisconsin started requiring mandatory arrests for domestic abuse calls. It showed that 64-percent of the city's abuse victims were more likely to die early from all causes if their partners get arrests instead of warnings. Among African-Americans, the early deaths rise by 98-percent. Police Chief Ed Flynn plans to join the study's main researcher -- Lawrence Sherman -- at a policing conference in London tomorrow to present the new findings. Advocates for abuse victims say the arrests hold abusers accountable, and they question the methods in obtaining the new findings. They say society has changed since the 1980's, and Flynn agrees. He says there's now a much wider array of public-and-private services to address domestic violence, besides just the criminal justice system.
Wisconsin shoppers are having a tough time finding their normal spring bargains for beef. A long-running drought in much of the West has created the nation's smallest cattle herd since 1951. With supplies down, prices have shot up for everything from basic burgers to rib-eye steaks. Chip Bunzel, who co-owns a meat market in Milwaukee, said consumer beef prices often drop after the holidays -- but that didn't happen this year. Prices normally fall because Americans normally don't eat as much beef from New Year's until the start of the summer grilling season around Memorial Day. Meanwhile, the USDA says the foreign demand for beef and other proteins has grown rapidly. UW-Madison associate professor Jeff Sindelar says it's due to the growth of the middle class in developing countries where more folks can finally afford a good steak. He says the higher worldwide demand has caused meat prices to jump up to 50-percent over the past 5-to-7 years. That's put even more pressure on U.S. producers -- where many in the drought-stricken West have sold animals they can no longer afford to feed. As grassy pastures dry up, John Freitag of the Wisconsin Beef Council says the animals quote, "can't eat wind, water, and scenery."
Wisconsin motorists are paying 27-cents more for a gallon of gasoline than they did a month ago, and experts say it should be no surprise. Gregg Laskoski of Gas-Buddy.com says higher crude oil prices get some of the blame. So does the federal requirement to switch to summer-grade fuels by April first. Laskoski says the March increases are quote, "like clockwork." Today, the Triple-"A" said regular unleaded averaged about $3.52-a-gallon in Wisconsin -- up from $3.42 last Monday, and $3.25 a month ago. Still, Badger State motorists are paying an average of 22-cents less than at this time a year ago. The statewide average at that time was $3.74.
Wisconsin's largest commercial printer says it will expand its automated mail-sorting equipment plant, to try-and-keep postal costs down for its customers. Quad-Graphics of Sussex said it would spend millions of dollars to improve what its calls its "Commingling Center" in Westampton, New Jersey. Quad cautioned, however, that it would not produce enough savings to off-set the most recent postal rate increases. Quad opened the New Jersey facility last year. It has a similar plant in the Milwaukee suburb of New Berlin. They pre-sort magazines and catalogs and add bar-codes -- all of which allow Quad-Graphics to get discounts on its bulk mailings. Quad prints about $13-billion pieces of mail each year -- everything from Sports Illustrated and Time magazines to catalogs and other advertising mailers. The Postal Service raised postage an average of six-percent in late January.
Wisconsin's tourism agency unveiled its newest TV commercials today. Badger State natives David-and-Jerry Zucker and Jim Abrahams made the new ads, based on their 1980 comedy film "Airplane." Actor Robert Hays and former Milwaukee Bucks' center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar star in the ads, which include aerial footage of Wisconsin plus scenes from the movie's original cockpit. They made ads that will promote Wisconsin this summer, fall, and winter. The ads will debut May 12th on TV stations and movie screens throughout Wisconsin -- and in the Chicago, Twin Cities, and Cedar Rapids Iowa markets. The Quad Cities' market will start showing the new ads around the start of July. The commercials were presented at the Governor's Conference on Tourism in Lake Geneva.
A suburban Milwaukee native will send his Oscar trophy home to his Wisconsin parents. John Ridley Junior tells Vanity Fair quote, "They deserve it. I wouldn't be here without them." Ridley won the Academy Award for the Best Adapted Screenplay for the film "Twelve Years a Slave," which was also named the Best Picture. It was the story of an African-American who was kidnapped, and sold into pre-Civil War slavery in the South. Ridley's parents still live in the Milwaukee area. John Ridley Senior tells the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that the movie will apparently have useful life once it runs its commercial course. He said the American School Boards Association is interested in distributing "Twelve Years a Slave" to high schools. The elder Ridley says it's been a quote, "wonderful experience for our entire family, with the promise of more to come."