WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Milwaukee man charged with threatening Governor's son
MILWAUKEE - Milwaukee man charged with threatening one of Governor Scott Walker's sons could find out next week when his trial date will be.
Thirty-one Robert Peffer has pleaded innocent to four misdemeanor counts of making threats on a computer. Authorities said Walker's son Matthew started getting threatening messages on Twitter June 30th, when he turned 20. According to prosecutors, Peffer said he came across Matthew's Twitter handle when the governor tweeted him a happy birthday wish -- and the defendant later sent him 35 other messages. Matthew goes to Marquette University, and he's the head of the Wisconsin Federation of College Republicans. In court records, Peffer said his only beef against Matthew Walker is that he's the governor's son -- and Peffer had been involved in Walker's failed recall effort in 2012. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel said Peffer was also investigated for making threats against President Obama last year, and for comments and images related to the 2012 shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.
A man who's facing a homicide trial this fall in central Wisconsin is now charged in the shooting death of his wife 30 years ago. Fifty-five year old Joseph Reinwand of Wisconsin Rapids is due in Portage County Circuit Court tomorrow afternoon. That's after a new charge was filed late last week for the shooting death of Pamela Reinwand in May of 1984 in Plover. The charge is first-degree murder, which was in place when Pamela's death occurred. Joseph Reinwand was charged a year ago in the 2008 shooting of 35-year-old Dale Meister of Wisconsin Rapids. A two-week trial in that case is set to begin October 17th with jury selection. Until now, Reinwand was never charged in his wife's killing. Sheriff John Charewicz re-opened the probe soon after the Meister death, when new information cropped up. At the time of Pamela's death, Reinwand told officers his wife died from a suicide. Charewicz said his investigators didn't believe that, but they could not prove otherwise until the new evidence emerged.
A central Wisconsin man claims he was insane when he allegedly killed his step-father with a baseball bat. Andrew Pray of Plover pleaded innocent by reason of mental disease yesterday to a Portage County charge of first-degree intentional homicide. Pray, who turned 33 last Friday, will now get a mental competency exam. A judge will review it at a conference on Oct. 6. Pray is accused of striking 77-year-old Christopher Bonnstetter three-or-four times with the bat, as the victim was resting on his living room floor May 26th. Authorities said Pray's mother tried calling for help, and she was forced to go to a neighbor to get assistance. Pray was arrested a short time later.
A motorcyclist shot at another vehicle during Milwaukee's morning rush hour Monday. It happened around 7:30 on the Highway 41 expressway near the Miller Park baseball stadium close to Interstate-94. Authorities said the gunshots did not strike the intended driver, but media reports said some other people were hurt -- including a man with a bloody face. An official of Milwaukee's fire department said a privately-owned ambulance handled the matter. Media reports said the biker was taken into custody, the gun was recovered, and the motorcycle was among the pieces of evidence taken away. Two lanes of southbound Highway 41 were closed for a couple hours. They re-opened around 10 o'clock.
A 47-year-old woman has died in an SUV crash in Manitowoc County. The State Patrol said the driver was going east on Highway 10 near Reedsville when she crossed traffic lanes, veered into the left ditch, and rolled over. The crash happened about 6:45 last night. The woman was ejected from her SUV. She was taken to a Manitowoc hospital where she died. The victim's name and hometown were not immediately released.
Western Wisconsin authorities continue to investigate a traffic crash that killed three people in Trempealeau County. Sheriff Richard Anderson said an eastbound SUV veered into the opposite lane, where it collided head-on with a mini-van -- and the van caught fire. It happened about 7:30 yesterday morning on Highway 95 between Arcadia and Blair. The SUV driver died at a hospital in Whitehall. She was the only one in her vehicle. The mini-van driver and a passenger were killed. Two other people in the van were taken to area hospitals. Their conditions were not disclosed. Deputies are still trying to figure out what caused the crash. The victims' names were not immediately released.
A pro-family group has revoked its endorsement of a Republican candidate for the state Assembly. Wisconsin Family Action says Ashton Kirsch of Baraboo has views on marriage that are too different than the group's traditional support for one-man, one-woman marriage. The group's director refused to tell the AP if that means Kirsch favors same-sex marriage. Kirsch has not commented. Family Action is the group that promoted the state's constitutional amendment against gay marriage, when voters approved it in 2006. That amendment is now being challenged in a federal appeals court. Kirsch received 71-percent of the vote last week in a three-way Republican primary for the state Assembly seat that's being given up by Democrat Fred Clark. Kirsch faces Democrat Dave Considine in November. Considine also won a three-way primary in his party last Tuesday.
Paul Ryan's new book is being released today. In it, the former vice presidential candidate from Janesville said the GOP is doomed to future election defeats, unless it can expand its base beyond older white voters. Ryan's book is called "The Way Forward, Renewing the American Idea." The U.S. House of Representatives Budget Committee Chairman is speculated to be a 2016 White House hopeful -- and a book is normally what candidates put out a couple years in advance. Governor Scott Walker did the same thing earlier this year. In calling for more inclusion, Ryan is following the lead of Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus from Kenosha -- who commissioned a study which reached the same conclusions. Ryan's book cites his own previous rhetoric as part of the problem. He repudiated his previous claim that America is made up of "makers and takers" -- the takers being those who get more from the government than they put in. Ryan said a constituent called him on it at the Rock County Fair, asking if a taker is the person who lost a job and is on unemployment -- or a veteran who served in Iraq and now gets his care through the VA. Ryan's book also discloses that his father had an alcohol problem before he died.
Two undisclosed plaintiffs have asked a federal appeals court to cancel a scheduled release of 34 documents tomorrow, concerning the John Doe probe into the state's recall elections. The plaintiffs say the documents include four affidavits with numerous names and addresses of people who were searched and-or subpoenaed in the Doe probe. The two parties say the Seventh Circuit Appellate Court should respect the secrecy of the John Doe process -- in which prosecutors can gather evidence behind closed doors to help them decide whether to file charges. Prosecutors in the current Doe probe say the need for secrecy has essentially been eliminated, after a federal judge temporarily halted the investigation. The Wisconsin Club for Growth had argued that its free speech rights were violated by the probe. It was looking into alleged illegal campaign coordination between Governor Scott Walker, other GOP recall candidates, and a dozen outside conservative groups in 2011-and-'12. The Republican Walker insists he has done nothing wrong.
The local "wheel tax" is making a comeback. At least a couple places in Wisconsin are considering their own tax for each vehicle registered within their boundaries, to help pay for road maintenance and repairs. The Chippewa County Board discussed the idea of a wheel tax last week, in part to keep the roads clear of snow. The county highway department in Chippewa Falls said snow removal is already a half-million dollars over its budget for this year, due mainly to the long-and-hard winter. Appleton's finance committee endorsed a 20-dollar-a-year wheel tax last week, and it goes to the Common Council. The Appleton tax would not apply to larger trucks and semis -- and it would partially eliminate special assessments for major street work. The cities of Milwaukee, Janesville, and Beloit collect annual wheel taxes, along with Saint Croix County. They cost an average of $20 per car.
Central Wisconsin was pounded by rain yesterday and last night. Wisconsin Rapids had three-point-six inches -- almost twice as much as the city's old record rainfall for the date, set in 1990. The National Weather Service said Rapids also had marble-sized hail and 54-mile-an-hour winds. In nearby Nekoosa, trees and power lines fell. They also had street floods and dime-sized hail. New London had almost three inches of rain yesterday. Necedah had two-and-a-half inches of rain extending into the overnight, plus with small hail. Plover had three-quarters-inch of rain in just 10 minutes. Hail of an inch or less fell at Eau Claire, Barron, Rosendale, Adams, and Appleton. Rush hour motorists in Oshkosh had flooded streets downtown late yesterday. Storms also hit far southern Wisconsin, where 12-hundred We Energies' customers were without power this morning. More than 200 Wisconsin Public Service customers were in the dark in the Green Bay area. All told, around 15-hundred outages were reported by the state's five largest utilities. More showers and isolated storms are in the forecast today. There's a chance of rain in the statewide forecast every day into the weekend.
August and September are when we start seeing humans get the West Nile virus in Wisconsin -- but it hasn't happened yet. State health officials report no confirmed human cases this summer, and just one probable case -- which cropped up before the Fourth of July in Saint Croix County. Fifteen birds have come down with the mosquito-borne West Nile this year. The state has reported its first case of a horse getting the virus. State Veterinarian Paul McGraw said a four-and-a-half year old mare became ill in Saint Croix County, and is now recovering. That agency encourages horse owners to vaccinate their animals for both West Nile and Eastern Equine Encephalitis. Officials say West Nile kills about a third of the horses it infects, while the encephalitis kills 90-percent of affected horses. State agriculture officials also advise everyone to eliminate places where infected mosquitoes can breed -- like buckets and old tires. They also suggest keeping birdbaths clean and outdoor pools chlorinated.
The Waupaca Foundry is being sold. The private investment firm of KPS Capital Partners said this morning it has agreed to sell the company to Hitachi Metals for one-point-three billion dollars. Waupaca is the world's largest iron foundry. According to KPS, it's North America's top supplier of iron castings for the auto-and-commercial vehicle industry, agriculture, and the construction and industrial markets. The sale to Hitachi is expected to be finalized before the end of the year.
UW-Milwaukee is one of the nation's 50 friendliest colleges for lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender students. The Campus Pride blog listed the 50 schools in alphabetical order. It said the list highlights positive efforts to improve safety and academic life for LGBT students. Shane Windmeyer, who created the index, said more colleges than ever want to be viewed as LGBT friendly and a welcoming place for all students. He said it has a direct impact on colleges' recruiting efforts. Campus Pride said it has seen an increase in the numbers of schools promoting themselves as LGBT-friendly. As a result, the blog increased its list of top schools from 25 to 50. Milwaukee is the only Wisconsin school on the list.
Wisconsin Realtors sold fewer homes in July than the same month a year ago -- but the average resale prices kept going up. The Realtors' Association said today that its members sold 7,200 existing houses last month -- about 175 fewer homes than in June. The median selling price was $158,700 dollars, almost two-and-a-half percent higher than the previous July. Realtors' home sales were down four-point-two percent for the first seven months of the year, while median prices rose by almost three-percent. Steve Lane, who chairs the board of the Wisconsin Realtors Association, said the market remains solid -- noting that last year was extremely strong for home sales. Home sales dropped the most in south central Wisconsin, at six-and-two-thirds percent -- but the region also had the largest selling price increase, at just over five-and-a-half percent. Association CEO Mike Theo said Midwest housing markets do not tend to "overheat" like other parts of the nation -- and therefore prices remain "on a more even keel."
Two people killed at a weekend party near Milwaukee's Marquette University were identified today as 20-year-old Keenan Harris and 22-year-old Stevan Owens. The two Milwaukee men said two men started fighting in an apartment before the shooting around three Saturday morning. The shots hit both men, and they died at the scene. Milwaukee Police took several people into custody, but only one was still being held today. Charges against that person were still pending.
Milwaukee's loss is Wisconsin's gain. That's what justice officials are saying about Miriam Falk, who has joined the state Justice Department after 23 years as the top sex crimes' prosecutor for the Milwaukee County DA's office. Instead of sending sex offenders to jail, Falk plans to teach other prosecutors how to be effective in winning cases. She's now an assistant attorney general in the Justice Department's training-and-standards bureau. Milwaukee DA John Chisholm noted that Falk worked most weekends, with a relatively heavy case-load of up to 20 trials a year. He said Falk would continue working on some Milwaukee County cases -- and while she'll travel more, Falk should be able to manage her time better in her new post. Chisholm called Falk's move a "devastating blow," and she's earned the right to explore other opportunities.
The nation's cranberry growers expect a four-percent drop in their total harvest from a year ago -- and Wisconsin's decrease could be two-and-a-half times that much. According to new projections from the USDA, Wisconsin is expected to harvest almost 5.4 million barrels of cranberries this fall. That's down ten-and-a-half percent from last year's harvest of just over six-million barrels. That was a record harvest, after Wisconsin made four-point-eight million barrels in 2012. Cranberries are the state's No. 1 fruit. State officials say it adds about $300-million to the Wisconsin economy each year, while generating about 3,400 jobs. Despite the projected drop in the harvest, the Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association notes there's still an oversupply of berries -- and the group says it will continue a focus on expanding the market, and seeking government relief.
A trial is underway in central Wisconsin, in which a couple blames stray electric voltage for losing their dairy farm. Steven and Annette Weyerts are the plaintiffs in a jury trial that was moved from Portage County to neighboring Wood County. They're suing the Wisconsin Power-and-Light utility and several other parties, claiming they were misled about the voltage levels on their Junction City area farm. The Weyerts claimed that stray voltage killed and injured their cows, and forced them to sell their operation five years ago. Utility spokeswoman Annemarie Newman said the farm's electric service met state regulatory standards. The Weyerts didn't buy Power-and-Light's explanation that there were no issues. They're suing for the fair-market value of their herd, lost milk production, injuries to their former dairy animals, and the loss of their farm. The trial is expected to run through August 29th.
A Door County business is putting new limits on kayak rentals, after three people rented one of its boats and drifted for 14 miles in high winds on Green Bay. Nicolet Beach Rentals is now limiting customers on where they can go, based on the numbers of adults and children renting their kayaks. The limits are designed to make sure there are enough people to get the boats back to shore if need be -- and if not, the store now has a jet ski to tow customers in. Douglas Smrz of Nicolet Beach tells WLUK-TV they want to keep kayakers "close and safe." That's after a vacationing mother and two kids were planning to be out for just over an hour in a small bay in western Door County. Instead, they got caught in windy waves of up to two-feet -- and search crews kept trying to find the family until a Canadian air force jet found them 15 hours after they left the bay. The family could not contact anyone for help, so the rental shop now provides free water-tight cell-phone carriers for its kayaking customers. Also, Peninsula State Park is working on rule changes for kayak rentals. Those are due out later this week.
Want to share your bucket list? A Wausau-based funeral home chain is giving folks in central Wisconsin the chance to share what they want to do before they pass on. The Peterson-Kraemer Funeral Home has a customized trailer with chalkboards on its sides. It travels between five central Wisconsin communities, giving folks a chance to write down their bucket lists. It was inspired by an international movement called "Before I Die." Artist Candy Chang was the first to put up a chalkboard on an abandoned building in New Orleans, and asked everyone to share their aspirations if they wish. Now, dozens of countries have more than 525 similar walls. The Wausau Daily Herald says the local "Before I Die" lists are part of the 100th anniversary of the Peterson-Kraemer Funeral Home. Some of the desires include "go to Canada and fly a kite," "visit Paris," and "love and be loved completely."