WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Warmer weather finally seeping into state
It wasn't shirt-sleeve weather -- but it sure felt like it in southeast Wisconsin this afternoon. It was 46-degrees in Kenosha at 2 p.m.-- downright hot compared to the sub-zero temperatures and wind chills that much of the region had since December.
The far north was not as fortunate. The mercury had still not hit 30 by mid-afternoon in Rhinelander and Eagle River. The warmer weather brought new problems -- freezing rain in Buffalo and Trempealeau counties in western Wisconsin. Authorities said roads were iced over in both counties at mid-morning, and several traffic crashes were reported. Southeast Wisconsin could get sprinkles or snow flurries tonight, as a weak cold front leaves the Badger State. Drier and cooler weather is in the forecast for tomorrow, with highs in the 20's predicted. Southwest winds return Sunday -- and by Monday, most of the state could see 40-plus readings.
Wisconsin has recorded 18 snowmobile deaths during this snowy winter. The latest fatality was reported last night in Vernon County in the southwest part of the state. Authorities said 31-year-old Joshua McCauley died after his machine lost control on a public trail and hit a tree. It happened in the town of Stark. Officials said McCauley was wearing a helmet at the time -- and speed and alcohol appear to be possible factors. The D-N-R continues to investigate.
A Fitchburg man will spend seven years in prison for supplying the heroin that killed a 17-year-old boy in 2012. Milton Moore pleaded no contest to a first-degree reckless homicide charge in the death of Jacob Adler of Lodi (low-die). A Columbia County judge also told the 23-year-old Moore to spend seven years under extended supervision once he leaves prison. A second defendant, 20-year-old Lars Atkinson of Lodi, was sentenced last fall to five-and-a-half years behind bars, with the same amount of time for extended supervision. Prosecutors said Adler and Atkinson bought the heroin in Madison and gave Moore 75-dollars for a half-gram.
More of Milwaukee's business areas will have police surveillance cameras. Officials announced a pilot program today to place cameras outside of business areas on the east, north, and southwest sides of Wisconsin's largest city. About a quarter-million dollars in federal funds will cover half the cost. The rest will be funded by a local block grant, and $150,000 in money confiscated by police in criminal arrests. Authorities are not sure how many cameras will be installed this year. Mayor Tom Barrett says he'd like to have surveillance in all parts of the city at some point. Several dozen police cameras have been credited for reducing crime on Milwaukee's south side. Alderman Bob Donovan pushed that effort through. Officials say they hope to attract enough funding to install 500 surveillance cameras throughout Milwaukee sometime down the road.
A judge has altered a previous secret order in the John Doe investigation into alleged campaign funding abuses during the state's recall elections. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel said the change was uncovered in a new filing which involves one of four court challenges to the John Doe probe. The charges, the original ruling, and the change order are all sealed for now. The investigation is being run by the Milwaukee County district attorney's office and special prosecutor Francis Schmitz. It's privately gathering evidence concerning allegations that Republican candidates in the recall votes of 2011-and-'12 illegally worked together with special interest groups on the campaigns.
The state Department of Safety and Professional Services has investigated a mishap at a Wisconsin Dells resort in which a man fell from a roller coaster. The agency said two inspectors checked out the Opa ride today at Mount Olympus. That's where a 64-year-old man was injured late yesterday, when he fell 15-to-20 feet from the ride. There was no immediate word on the victim's condition. The roller coaster is closed, but the indoor amusement park at Mount Olympus remains open. A report on the state's investigation is due out next week, after the ride's manufacturer completes its own review of the mishap.
A psychiatrist who testified in some of the country's most notorious trials might speak up for the man accused of killing a Purdue student from Wisconsin. Doctor Phillip Resnick is on a list of possible defense witnesses for the April 22nd trial of Cody Cousins. The 23-year-old Cousins has pleaded innocent to a murder charge in the January shooting-and-stabbing death of a fellow engineering student, 21-year-old Andrew Boldt of West Bend. In 2012, Resnick testified at the Ohio trial of a teen convicted of killing three school students near Cleveland. He has also testified in the trials of Andrea Yates, Brian Mitchell, and Unabomber Ted Kaczynski.
UW-Whitewater will hold a candlelight vigil on Sunday night to remember a freshman killed in a two-vehicle crash this week. Authorities said 19-year-old Teagan Nolan of Milton died Wednesday afternoon, after her vehicle slid into a ditch as it was rounding a curve on Highway 59 near Whitewater. An oncoming van collided with Nolan's vehicle. She died at the scene. The van's driver, a 56-year-old Whitewater man, was hospitalized in serious condition at last word. The van's passenger had minor injuries.
The Milwaukee Brewers are about to lose their most popular character at Spring Training -- Hank the dog. The stray pet has been a mascot for the Brewers ever since he showed up at the team's Maryvale spring complex at Phoenix on February 17th. Now, the Brewers say they've found a home for Hank. They won't say where he's going. He'll make one more big splash with the Brewers when they host a pet adoption day at Maryvale tomorrow. A group of pets will be available for adoption, and the team will take donations for the Arizona Humane Society. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel says Brewers' fans back home have taken a real liking to Hank -- who was named by the team after former Brewers' and Braves' slugger Hank Aaron. One fan said the pet looks just like their Bichon Frise dog, who's named after former Brewers' star Cecil Cooper.
Wisconsin Republicans were not able to stop more than three-thousand public workers from getting both pensions and paychecks in the last half of 2013. Gannett Wisconsin Media found that 3,025 retirees from state and local governments and public schools went back on the public payroll from July through December. As part of the current state budget, the Republican majority prohibited retirees from working over 27 hours a week for a tax-funded employer without losing their pensions. Sixty-percent of the retirees had been school teachers -- many of whom bolted in 2011, fearing that Governor Scott Walker would take away their pensions. He didn't -- and those who quit slowly started going back to other public jobs. Gannett, which runs ten Wisconsin daily newspapers, found that the UW took back the most public retirees with 345. Various state agencies took over 330. It became a hot-button issue in 2011 when UW-Green Bay pre-arranged a vice chancellor to return, after he retired in protest of Walker's public union bargaining limits. Employers say it's cheaper to hire public retirees because they bring experience without having to pay into the pension system. Critics call it double-dipping.
The debate over Wisconsin jobs is playing out on your TV screen. Governor Scott Walker put out his first ad today, to start making the case that voters should re-elect him eight months from now. The Republican Walker accused his Democratic challenger Mary Burke of mis-characterizing his record on jobs during her first ad of the campaign this week. Burke, a former state commerce secretary and Trek Bicycle executive, said unemployment is up under Walker -- and Wisconsin had 72,000 more jobs when Burke was in the administration from 2005-through-'07. Walker's new ad counters unemployment is the lowest since 2008, at six-point-three percent. That's one-and-a-half percent lower than when he took office in 2011. Walker also said the state added over 100-thousand private sector jobs during that stretch. The ad did not mention Walker's key promise of his 2010 campaign -- that he'd create a quarter-million jobs during his four-year term. A recent Marquette poll said about a third of Wisconsin voters forgive Walker for that, recognizing that the Great Recession may have had something to do with it -- something neither candidate highlights.
Racine Police have arrested a suspect wanted for a murder near Chicago. 19-year-old Rachard Butler of Racine was being sought on a first-degree murder charge. He's accused of shooting 20-year-old Kenneth Groves to death last November at a house party in the Chicago suburb of Kankakee. Racine Police said they saw Butler entering a vehicle -- and they stopped him and took him into custody. A second person suffered non-life-threatening injuries in the shooting incident. It remains under investigation.