WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Waukesha County authorities say a 15-year-old girl disappeared on her own
WAUKESHA - Waukesha County authorities said today that a 15-year-old girl disappeared on her own for three days last week, and she was not abducted.
Kathryn Stalbaum of the town of Genesee failed to show up at Kettle Moraine High School last Tuesday. Her bike was found abandoned the next day at a park-and-ride lot in Waukesha. Sheriff's deputies now say she hopped a bus to Chicago's O'Hare Airport and spent three days in the Windy City, buying meals with her own money as she spent most of her time walking around. Last Friday, she asked Chicago Police for help -- and it was soon reported that she turned up okay. Officials would not say why Stalbaum left in the first place. They called it a juvenile matter that could not be disclosed. Jennifer Wallschlaeger of the Waukesha County Sheriff's Department said the incident showed the importance of young people trusting law enforcement and asking for help. Wallschlaeger said the important thing to remember is that Stalbaum made it home safely. She said the girl made a poor decision to leave home but quote, "She did make a conscious decision to seek law enforcement help before this situation became more serious than it already was."
Governor Scott Walker asked Wisconsin legislators today to give 77,000 state-funded health care recipients three more months to sign up for Obamacare, before they get cut off from BadgerCare. Walker called a special legislative session to move up the deadline. He says he wants nobody to fall through the cracks due to the failures of the federal purchasing exchange to get people signed up. Only 877 Wisconsinites were able to sign up during the first month the exchange has been open. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said he would only support month-to-month extensions instead of a blanket three-month delay. Fitzgerald said he didn't want to quote, "bail out" Democrats for the failures of the Obamacare package they supported. Wisconsin Democrats wanted the state to go all-in on Obama-care, by taking millions more in Medicaid funds to cover more lower-income people. Instead of doing that, Walker cut off BadgerCare recipients making up to 138-percent of the state's poverty level, forcing them to use the federal exchange. With a three-month delay, Walker said the exchange's Web site should be ready for them by a new April deadline. Up to 700,000 Wisconsinites were expected to get their coverage through the exchanges. But that number will go down, because President Obama today granted an additional year for people to keep plans that don't meet the law's standards. Thousands of Wisconsinites had that coverage cut off since October.
One state lawmaker is pushing for a bill that would require the state to buy American-made products if available. Representative Andy Jorgensen, a Milton Democrat, says the bill will also allow the state to favorably hire contractors who use American products. Some Republicans are against the bill, saying it would likely upset some international trading partners and hurt the business of other contractors using imported goods. The bill was submitted to the Assembly floor last week.
The speaker of the Wisconsin State Assembly Robin Vos (R-Burlington) insisted today that a proposed constitutional amendment to change the way the state's chief judge is selected is not about removing the current chief, Shirley Abrahamson. The full Assembly was scheduled to vote today on the amendment, which would end the 124-year-old practice of having the justice with the most seniority be the chief. Instead, a majority of the court would elect the person every two years, and the chief could serve for as long as the majority wants. Conservatives hold the majority on the court, and their like-minded Republicans control both houses of the Legislature and the governor's office. However, Republicans have insisted that this is not about trying to put the justice system in the GOP's pocket. Some have said the change would eliminate political rancor and allow for more collaboration in the court's decision-making process. State Senate Democrat Jon Erpenbach of Middleton called it the "Shirley Bill," saying the amendment takes direct aim at the liberal Abrahamson, who's been the chief justice for 17 years. Vos denied that today, saying Abrahamson might not be on the court by the time the amendment gets final approval. The earliest it could be adopted is mid-2015.
A man wanted on a felony warrant was shot-and-wounded today in a hallway at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin in the Milwaukee suburb of Wauwatosa. The building was locked down just before noon. It remained locked down for about two hours. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel identified the suspect as 22-year-old Ashanti Hendricks. Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke said officers went to the hospital's seventh floor to arrest Hendricks, who was wanted for illegal gun possession as a convicted felon. They had learned the man was at the hospital. He was holding a baby when the officers approached him and said he was under arrest. Clarke said the suspect then fled down the hall and showed a handgun while officers were in pursuit. Officers wounded Hendricks, but Clarke would not say if the suspect shot first. Hendricks was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment. The sheriff said no hospital personnel, patients, visitors, or others were physically injured.
A registered sex offender is due in court tomorrow, after being arrested for making a dozen bomb threats to businesses and institutions in Waupun. A $1,000 reward was issued for information about the 31-year-old suspect, who's from Markesan. But the reward was not necessary. Deputy Waupun chief Scott Louden said police dug up cell-phone records that provided the evidence. The man was convicted of a federal sex crime in which he had to stay on a sex offender registry for the rest of his life. Officials said he violated the terms of the registry by officiating school sporting events in which minors were involved. The WIAA told WLUK-TV in Green Bay that the suspect was licensed as a referee in volleyball and basketball for two years ending this past May. The WIAA did background checks for the current year -- and when they found out he was a sex offender, they revoked his officiating license. No bombs were found in the bomb threats at stores, a public library, and a hospital in three Waupun area communities. Louden told KFIZ Radio in Fond du Lac that the threats happened on both sides of the Dodge-Fond du Lac county line, but all charges would be consolidated in Dodge County.
A former northeast Wisconsin fire-fighter has been sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for burning down a church and two taverns -- and he still faces state sentences for burning down three other buildings. 29-year-old Drew Christensen of Suring was given his federal sentence yesterday in Green Bay. He pleaded guilty to arson for buildings used in interstate commerce. That was connected with blazes which destroyed the Klondike Community Church, the Jaded Bar in Suring, and the Everbreeze Resort in Mountain, all between 2009-and-2011. Prosecutors called Christensen a "serial arsonist" who put his former Brazeau (brah'-zo) firefighters at risk in the 2009 church fire. His lawyer told Federal Judge William Griesbach that Christensen became depressed and started drinking heavily after his older brother died in a car crash in 2008, and after he broke up with his fiancée. The attorney said the arsons were the only way to let out his aggression -- but the judge said much of the guilt was probably over setting the fires. Christensen was facing a state sentence today for burning down Jessica Miller's home in rural Marinette County. Authorities said the two, plus 32-year-old Donald Halbur, burned down the home to collect insurance money. Halbur and Miller are due to be sentenced in January after settling their charges. Christensen also faces a Monday sentencing in Oconto County for burning down a mobile and a garage within a mile of his home in 2011 and 2012.
A La Crosse area woman has been sentenced to 366 days in federal prison, for ordering shipments of the painkiller Oxycodone hidden inside of Beanie Babies. Prosecutors said 24-year-old Erica Litsheim of Onalaska sent $30,000 in money orders to obtain the Oxycodone. Her 46-year-old boyfriend, Edward Riel of Onalaska, pleaded guilty distributing the drug. Authorities said Riel led the sales ring, and it netted over $350,000. Officials said he recruited Litsheim and a dozen other people to send money orders to the drug supplier, in return for Beanie Babies which were stuffed with the drug. 56-year-old Jan Dettman of Onalaska has also pleaded guilty to being a co-conspirator. Prosecutors said she sent more than $54,000 in money orders to the suppliers.
Electric customers in south central Wisconsin will pay two-percent more starting in January. The state Public Service Commission approved the increase today for Wisconsin Power-and-Light. Part of the rate hike was due to a change in wholesale suppliers for the electricity sold by WP&L, after the Kewaunee nuclear power plant closed in May. WP&L bought electricity from the plant, but the utility found it cheaper to create power from natural gas. It could not reach a renewed agreement with Kewaunee on a power-purchasing arrangement. Also, there were higher costs connected with pollution control equipment at WP&L's Columbia coal-fired plant near Portage.
The Wisconsin-based Kohl's Department Stores reported an 18-percent drop in its latest quarterly profits. The Menomonee Falls chain had a net income of $177 million from July-through-September, down from $215-million at the same time last year. Earnings fell from 91-cents a share to 81-cents -- a nickel below what outside analysts expected. Sales at Kohl's stores open for at least a year dropped one-point-six percent, after gaining just over one-percent the previous year. Kohl's announced a quarterly dividend of 35-cents a share, to be paid Christmas Eve to shareholders on record December 11th. Kohl's also said it was planning a couple of new ventures next fall, when the IZOD men's clothing line will be added to its stores -- along with Juicy Couture female clothing, accessories, and home items.
Investigators say a gruesome discovery at a Madison recycling plant was not a human hand, but a bear paw. Crews at Pellitteri Waste Systems discovered the paw on Wednesday and notified police. A forensic anthropologist confirmed it as a bear paw, citing the six fingers and no thumb is a dead giveaway. The state’s bear hunting season ended on October 8.