Morning State News Briefs: Man wanted for bank robbery and bomb threat arrestedWisconsin News
-- A man wanted for a bank robbery in Calumet County and a bomb threat to a nearby school was arrested yesterday. Sheriff Mark Ott said 45-year-old Jeffrey Lowery of Chilton was taken into custody without incident at a hotel in Milwaukee.
MILWAUKEE - A man wanted for a bank robbery in Calumet County and a bomb threat to a nearby school was arrested yesterday. Sheriff Mark Ott said 45-year-old Jeffrey Lowery of Chilton was taken into custody without incident at a hotel in Milwaukee.
Officials said they determined Lowery’s where-abouts yesterday afternoon, and the FBI has been among those helping with the investigation. Ott said his department would ask prosecutors to file charges of robbery and making a bomb threat. A second suspect, 50-year-old Ricky Rutkowski of New Holstein, was arrested last weekend. Authorities said Lowery apparently claimed to have a gun when he entered the Calumet County Bank in Sherwood last Friday. He reportedly asked for money, and told bank personnel he placed bombs at a local school. That resulted in a lockdown and a search at the school – and no bombs were found. Rutkowski is suspected of being the getaway driver in the bank holdup. The investigation continues.
A Janesville man failed today to convince an appeals court that he was improperly convicted of killing a neighbor woman and her two teenagers. James Koepp is serving three life prison terms with no chance for a supervised release, after being convicted of stabbing-and-strangling Danyetta Lentz. Her daughter Nicole and son Scott were also killed in their Janesville mobile home in 2007. Koepp said his trial judge refused to let the jury hear that others might have had a motive to kill them. He said Lentz had a late-night argument with an unknown man after she refused to have sex with him. Koepp also said an ex-boyfriend was bothering Lentz. But the Fourth District Appellate Court in Madison said there’s no proof that any violence resulted from the argument – and there’s no indication that Lentz’ boyfriend had threatened her. Prosecutors said Koepp killed Lentz so she wouldn’t talk about her affair with him – and he killed the kids because they witnessed their mother’s murder.
A task force aimed at making the UW System more efficient is learning how hard that mission could be. The panel heard yesterday from students, faculty, and staff members. And they expressed concerns that ever-rising tuition could lock more Wisconsin students out of a higher education – and the quality of faculty members is going down because the UW does not pay competitive salaries. The task force is expected to tell state lawmakers this summer how to make campuses more flexible and efficient, in the wake of lower state funding. The current two-year state budget cut a quarter-billion-dollars in state funds to the university system. And another 46-million was cut this year due to a budget shortfall. UW-Superior professor Nick Sloboda said the quality of applicants for faculty jobs has gone down. UW-Milwaukee professor Mark Schwartz said schools used to promote good fringe benefits to make up for lower salaries – but that went out the window when Republicans forced state employees to pay more for their health care and retirement. Some speakers said the UW might have to rely more on private foundations and philanthropists for support. Dylan Jambrek of the United Council of UW Students said lower state funding won’t help if it prices Wisconsin students out of a college education – and the state economy won’t get as many educated workers as a result.
A dozen Democratic state legislators have asked their colleagues to investigate the DNR’s handling of violations for the spreading of waste on farm fields. The agency’s Number-three official, ex-lawmaker Scott Gunderson, arranged to have local prosecutors seek punishment for Herr Environmental of Oconomowoc instead of referring the case to the state Justice Department. And the Wisconsin State Journal said the result was a minimum 43-hundred dollar fine, instead of a state penalty that could have been 10 times larger for a firm that gave Gunderson $750 in campaign donations when he was in the Assembly. Madison Assembly Democrat Brett Hulsey said that if the Legislature’s Natural Resources committees don’t hold hearings, Democrats will try to make DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp to answer their questions. DNR spokesman Bill Cosh said the hearings would be a waste of time. He said the agency had checked with the Government Accountability Board about possible ethics violations – and the agency said there were none. Stevens Point Assembly Democrat Lou Molepske said their inquiry was not about politics, but about nearby landowners to the waste spreading who could had their water threatened, and were open to potential illnesses.
Dane County investigators are trying to find out if illegal drugs contributed to a incident in which a two-year-old girl was killed, and her four-year-old brother got sick. Authorities have said the youngsters entered a neighbor’s car and drank gasoline from a can near the back seat. It happened last weekend in the Dane County town of Medina. The Wisconsin State Journal said it examined search warrant requests filed with a court, and found that the surviving boy had cocaine in his system. Police were reportedly looking for evidence of child neglect, while seeking blood-and-urine samples from the 34-year-old mother of the two kids. She has not been arrested or charged with any crimes. The boy has been placed in foster care. Autopsy results on the girl are still pending.
A Marquette University student is getting better, after he fell from the balcony of an off-campus apartment building. The 21-year-old man has been taken off the critical list, and is now in satisfactory condition at Milwaukee’s Froedtert Hospital. Authorities said the student was leaning on a railing when it gave way. It happened early last Friday morning. Milwaukee authorities, Marquette officials, and the building’s landlord are all investigating.
A cheese-maker in Monroe will drop the name “Gruyere” from one of its products. The Swiss parent firm of Emmi Roth USA was not happy that the Monroe plant called one of cheeses a Grand Chu Gruyere. The Swiss Gruyere industry also took exception – so Emmi says it will simply call the product Grand Chu. Executive Steve Millard says the change indicates that the cheese is not made in Switzerland’s Gruyere region. That country grants legal protections to the names of its regional foods, but the U.S. has no such restrictions. Swiss industry officials said they wanted the name protected in part to avoid counterfeiting. Monroe plant executive Jim Natzke said his Grand Chu Gruyere and the Emmi’s Swiss product made in Switzerland are from the same family of cheeses – even though they taste different.
A 12th person has been granted immunity in the John Doe investigation into Governor Scott Walker’s aides during his time as the Milwaukee County executive. Court records show that former Milwaukee Municipal Judge David Halbrooks requested-and-received immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony in the secret Doe proceeding. Cullen Werwie, Walker’s chief spokesman as governor, is among the 11 who were previously granted immunity since June of 2010. Five Walker aides and associates have been charged as a result of the John Doe probe with offenses ranging embezzlement from a veterans’ event to illegal campaigning on taxpayers’ time. One ex-aide has pleaded guilty. Walker has insisted he’s not the target of the probe, and he’s been cooperating with investigators. But Barrett and other critics point to Walker’s legal defense fund – which by state law is allowed only for office-holders under investigation for ethics and campaign law violations. Walker’s campaign recently transferred $60,000 in donations to that fund.
A former public works supervisor in Beloit has been sentenced to three years in a federal prison, for using city tax dollars to buy large items for himself and his business. Federal Judge William Conley of Madison ordered Tim Kosier yesterday to pay almost $855,000 in restitution. Kosier used to be a maintenance supervisor in Beloit’s water resource department. He admitted charging thousands-of-dollars on city credit lines for things like water heaters and furnaces for himself, and for his heating-and-cooling business. Prosecutors said he approved payments for false invoices submitted by a city contractor. Kosier had a Hawaiian vacation cut short last August, when federal agents arrested him in Maui where he rented a vacation home.
Wisconsin eighth-graders scored higher than the national average on a science test – but both scores were only up slightly from two years before. Wisconsin youngsters had an average score of 159-out-of-a-possible-300 last year in the science part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress. That’s eight points higher than the national average – but both the state and national scores were up by just two points from 2009. About 2,100 Wisconsin eighth graders took the exam just over a year ago. And the difference in scores between black-and-white students was larger in Wisconsin than the 38 other states in which similar data was available. White students scored 166 on the national science test, and blacks scored 45 points lower. Blacks and Asians in Wisconsin had lower scores than the nation. Hispanics scored about the same as their U.S. counterparts. And low-income students and those with disabilities scored higher than elsewhere.
There will be a double-digit increase in new home construction in five Wisconsin metro areas. MTD Marketing Services said today that building permits for new one-and-two-family homes jumped 15-percent last month, from the same time a year ago. Over 286 building permits were issued by local officials in Metro Milwaukee, Madison-and-Dane County, Racine-Kenosha, the Fox Valley, and the Green Bay-Door County region. For the year as a whole, total building permits are 11-percent from the same period in 2011. Dominic Collar of MTD credits the big increase to quote, “great weather, low interest rates, and larger builders starting more spec homes.”