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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Snowstorm limited to northern part of state

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news Ellsworth, 54011

Ellsworth Wisconsin 126 S. Chestnut St. 54011

Forecasters now say a major snowstorm should be limited to about the northern third of Wisconsin.  The National Weather Service has issued warnings and advisories from Wausau northward.  

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Places along Lake Superior could be hit the hardest, with 8-to-12 inches in the forecast between now and tomorrow night.  Other parts of the north and northwest can expect 3-to-6 inches.  In the northeast, freezing rain could be mixed in, with 2-to-4 inches of snow expected.  The Weather Service said a low pressure system that's building in the Plains brought up to four-inches of snow yesterday in parts of far northern Wisconsin -- and the same system can be blamed for the snow that's supposed to fall through tomorrow.  Phelps in Vilas County had just over four-inches by last evening.  Three-inches fell at Lake Tomahawk.  In southern Wisconsin, rain is in the forecast today, possibly mixed with a little snow tomorrow.  It's all supposed to clear out by Thursday.  A good share of this snow could melt by then, with warmer highs expected statewide in the 30's and 40's.

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A Fitchburg woman killed on an Interstate off-ramp near Janesville was identified as 36-year-old Shondra Morbley.  The State Patrol said she was a passenger in a car that was leaving northbound Interstate-90 when it lost control on a curve at the off-ramp on Highway 14.  The vehicle overturned and landed on one of its sides.  The crash happened around 2:45 a-m yesterday.  A 31-year-old Madison woman who drove the vehicle had non-life-threatening injuries, along with a 33-year-old Madison woman.  Three others in the car were not hurt.

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It's hard to remove ice fishing shanties from Wisconsin's frozen lakes -- but one thing you cannot do is burn them down and walk away.  Two men learned that lesson this past weekend, when the DNR cited them for violating burning rules near Merrill on Copper Bay.  Witnesses saw the flames and called authorities on Saturday night.  Officials said the suspects' truck got stuck on the ice, so it wasn't hard for rangers to find them.  Yesterday was the last in a series of deadlines to remove ice fishing shanties in various parts of Wisconsin.  They must all be gone by now.  Last month, the DNR said it recognized the problems that anglers had in removing shanties that were stuck to the frozen ice during this brutal winter -- and they urged people to call the agency if they couldn't remove them on time.

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If you haven't seen the majestic Lake Superior ice caves by now, you're too late.  The National Park Service closed the long ice walkway to the frozen Apostle Islands' sea caves near Bayfield early yesterday.  Officials decided that the ice was no longer stable enough for visitors to walk on.  This was the first time in five years the ice caves were open to hikers.  The Park Service said about 138-thousand people saw them during the past two months -- compared to over 12,000 the last time they were open in 2009.  It was a different world back then, because social media like Facebook were not as immensely popular as they are now.  Those sites let folks spread the news about the ice caves -- and then the traditional news media from the U.S. and abroad chronicled the phenomenon. Because of that, the Park Service expects more kayakers to paddle to the sea caves this summer.  There's also a rough hiking path atop the caves from Meyers Beach, where the ice cave hike began.

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A long-time religion teacher and soccer coach in Wausau was in jail at last word, accused of possessing child pornography.  Newman Catholic High School has put 50-year-old Michael Switalski on administrative leave.  He appeared in court yesterday on eight felony charges of possessing child porn.  A $75,000 bond was ordered.  Switalski is due back in Marathon County Circuit Court a week from tomorrow for a preliminary hearing.  Authorities said they were tipped off after a Canadian business was shut down for selling child porn videos, and Switalski was found to be on its customer list.  Investigators later seized almost 100 photos and a dozen DVD's.  Newman said none of the images were of any students at the school, where Switalski has coached the boys' soccer team for 20 years.  His attorney asked for a signature bond, calling Switalski "a pillar of the community."  Circuit Judge Jill Falstad noted that he lives alone with no family in the area -- and a high bond was necessary to prevent him from missing future court appearances.

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Prosecutors said a Rice Lake woman arranged for her lover and another man to kill her ex-husband -- and the two men tried killing him six times before they finally succeeded.  Twenty-nine-year-old Trista Raven-Hrabak was charged yesterday in Barron County with being a party to first-degree intentional homicide.  The same charge was filed against the boyfriend, 34-year-old Ian Skjerly of Rice Lake -- and an alleged hired hit-man, 37-year-old Robert McBain of Cameron.  All three are charged in last Monday's shooting death of 33-year-old Daniel Raven at his home near Barron.  According to prosecutors, Skjerly said the woman wanted her ex-husband dead because she had disputes with him over child support.  Officials said McBain was offered up to $800 to help Skjerly pull off the murder, and they had tried several times since last November.  Deputies said Raven was shot twice through a window with a deer rifle last Monday night.  All three suspects are being held under bonds of a quarter-million dollars each.  They're due back in court next Monday for preliminary hearings.

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A Wausau woman will spend just over three months in a state prison and nine months in the Marathon County Jail after she tortured and killed her ex-boyfriend's dog.  22-year-old Sean Janas was sentenced yesterday to one-and-a-half years in a state lock-up.  But the term was reduced by the 447 days she spent in jail, while her internationally-reported court case was going through the system.  She'll be under extended supervision for two years once she gets out.  Janas blamed heroin abuse for destroying her life, but a prosecutor said it had nothing to do with the diary Janas wrote.  She said she enjoyed torturing and poisoning Mary, her ex-boyfriend's four-year-old Labrador and German shepherd mix.  Mary died in 2012 after she was repeatedly stabbed, beaten, and poisoned with drain cleaner and bleach.  On social media, animal lovers from numerous countries demanded the maximum prosecution for Janas.  Her jail time resulted from the thefts in other counties, plus a charge dropped in a plea deal that was considered for sentencing purposes.

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A northern Wisconsin man now claims he was insane when he allegedly stabbed his pregnant girlfriend, and left her in a car to die.  28-year-old Andrew Rosner of Eagle River pleaded innocent by reason of mental disease during his arraignment yesterday in Vilas County.  Mental health professionals will evaluate Rosner before his case moves forward.  Authorities said the stabbing victim, 21-year-old Morgan Maney, managed to drive herself to a hospital soon after the incident occurred in February.  In previous testimony, doctors said Maney probably saved her own life, as well as the couple's unborn child.  A pre-trial conference in Rosner's case is set for April 29th.  He's charged with attempted homicide, and the attempted homicide of an unborn child.

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Another busy day is in store at the State Capitol, as lawmakers scramble to act on numerous bills in their second-to-last meetings of the two-year session.  The state Assembly is scheduled to take final action on Governor Scott Walker's half-billion-dollar tax cut package.  The lower house will also act on a bill to end the 180-day mandate for Wisconsin public schools, allowing for fewer-and-longer days to hold their required classroom hours.  Other bills up in the Assembly today would compensate Robert Stinson of Milwaukee up to $136,000 for his wrongful murder conviction -- impose surcharges of up to $10,000 for illegally poaching trophy deer -- and exempt shooting ranges from any new local ordinances.  The Senate also has a full calendar as well.  It includes initial votes on two more bills to battle the state's growing problem with heroin abuse.

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Family members could no longer help felons hide from the police, under a bill to be considered by the Wisconsin Senate today.  The state Assembly voted in February to end the long-time privilege that shields family members from charges of aiding and harboring felons -- thus allowing them to throw off police investigators and hide evidence.  Lawmakers say the bill applies only to the most serious crimes, like murder.  Also today, senators will vote on two more measures to fight heroin abuse.  One calls for quick sanctions for heroin abusers who violate probation-or-parole.  The other bill would create opiate treatment centers in places without them.  The Senate is also due to act on a watered-down plan to create a system in which prosecutors throughout the state can share information on domestic abuse suspects.  The bill no longer requires police to explain themselves if they don't make arrests during domestic abuse calls.  The state Senate is also due to take up a drunk driving crackdown which requires at least a 30-day jail for someone who causes an injury while under the influence.  The upper house will also act on bills against human trafficking, and making it easier for small egg growers to sell their wares at farmers' markets without a license.

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A bill to make Wisconsin health insurers cover expensive chemotherapy pills has hit another roadblock.  According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, state Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Burlington) transferred the bill from the Health Committee to the insurance panel.  It now needs a two-thirds majority to pass, since the bill has not been in its present committee for 21 days.  The Assembly only has two more meetings in the current session -- today and Thursday.  Vos's action -- coupled with a delay last week from state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) -- appears to put another death knell into the chemo insurance bill.  Majorities in both houses say they support the measure.  It would help cancer patients get medication at home with pills, instead of going to hospitals to get IV's.  It's not known why the leaders are holding it up.  State Assembly Finance chair John Nygren of Marinette says the bill is not needed, because Obamacare limits individual out-of-pocket costs to $6,350 this year -- and cancer patients would pay at least that much for their chemo medicines anyway.  Governor Scott Walker told reporters yesterday he would not be surprised if lawmakers vote on the bill this week.  Walker says he does not know enough about the issue to take a stand.

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Small-town school leaders say a state task force probably won't go far enough to meet their most critical needs -- like keeping their best teachers.  The panel is expected to announce its recommendations in the next month.  Chairman Rob Swearingen says he knows that funding is a severe problem -- especially in places where voters keep refusing to raise taxes beyond state-mandated revenue limits.  But Swearingen, an Assembly Republican from Rhinelander, says special funding for rural schools is not in the cards for now.  He says the group will most likely recommend things like higher state aid for rural busing costs, more access to high-speed Internet service, and incentives like forgiving loans so good teachers can afford to stay in small towns.  Recent media reports said the Act-10 collective bargaining limits have created a system in which smaller school districts set smaller teacher salaries.  Royall Superintendent Mark Gruen says it drives away the best-and-brightest to bigger cities that can afford to pay more.  He said the governor and Legislature need to create uniform salaries statewide.  Swearingen expects more substantive action in next year's legislative session.  

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Milwaukee is among 30 U.S. cities where fast-food workers plan to protest today against what they call "wage theft."  Organizers are targeting McDonald's, which was sued in three states last week.  The accusations including docking paychecks for the cost of employee uniforms -- and making workers wait to clock-in, so restaurants can maintain a ratio of labor costs to their revenues.  McDonald's says it's investigating the allegations, and will take appropriate action.  Democrats and unions are among those supporting numerous worker protests over the past year -- part of a campaign for a 15-dollar-an-hour minimum wage.  President Obama and Wisconsin Democrats are trying to pass bills to jack up the state-and-federal minimum wages from 7.25-an-hour to 10.10.  The Wisconsin bill would phase-in the increase over two years -- but from all indications, it will die next month when the state legislative session officially ends.

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It was the type of arrival fit for a Hollywood celebrity.  A couple of hundred media members and onlookers greeted the Milwaukee Brewers' dog Hank this morning, before he was scheduled to greet fans at the Team Store at Miller Park.  Hank was expected to make a one-hour visit starting at seven, for those buying T-shirts and other items that feature the "ballpark pup."  Fans were also asked to bring basic pet items like treats and litter to help local animal-rescue groups.  Twenty-percent of all proceeds from today's purchases is being donated to the Wisconsin Humane Society.  Hank showed up as a stray at the Brewers' spring training camp in Arizona -- where he became an instant hit among players and fans.  He'll stay with a team official's family in Milwaukee this year, when he's not making numerous appearances at Miller Park.

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