State News Roundup: Appleton family questions the Army's findings about Reservist's deathWisconsin News
-- The family of an Appleton Army Reservist takes issue with the military’s finding that the soldier killed himself in Afghanistan.
The family of an Appleton Army Reservist takes issue with the military’s finding that the soldier killed himself in Afghanistan. The Army’s Criminal Investigation Command said this week that 25-year-old Staff Sergeant Garrick Eppinger died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound last September 17th. In an e-mail to the Appleton Post-Crescent, the Eppinger family said it has “not been privy” to the Army’s full report of its six-month investigation. That report has not been released yet, but the family said quote, “We are not in agreement with the military’s investigative findings and fully reject their conclusion.” They did not say anything about pursuing the matter further, and they asked for privacy. Eppinger was a member of the Army Reserve’s 395th Ordnance Company based in Appleton. The family said it was told that Eppinger was shot while working at a desk job as a supply specialist in a munitions’ post.
A Madison woman has been ordered to stand trial for a drunk driving crash that killed a moped operator last fall. 27-year-old Ekaterina Topolkaraeva is charged with homicide by drunk driving, and homicide by negligent driving. She’s scheduled to enter pleas at her next court hearing. Prosecutors said the woman was driving in the wrong lane on a frontage road near Madison’s Belt-line last October, when she struck-and-killed 37-year-old moped driver Jeffrey Droster of Madison. Officer Kelly Powers testified that the woman was not arrested immediately, because she passed most of her sobriety tests at the crash scene. A blood analysis two hours later showed that her alcohol content was half the legal limit. But a State Crime Lab analyst said her alcohol level at the time the crash happened would have been about twice as high. The defendant also had morphine in her system, but the crime lab analyst said it might not have been enough to cause her to be impaired.
Health care for a family-of-four will cost more than 20-thousand-dollars this year. And that’s a first, according to the annual Milliman Medical Index. Scott Weltz, an actuary with Milliman’s office in Milwaukee, says most people have no idea what their true health care costs are. That’s because employers still pay almost two-thirds of the total tab. The Milliman survey shows that companies will pay an average of 12-thousand dollars toward a family’s health coverage this year – while the family itself pays 85-hundred for insurance, deductibles, and co-pays. It all adds up to an average of 20-thousand-728-dollars to keep a family-of-four healthy. That’s up almost seven-percent from last year – and it’s 70-percent more than the 12-thousand dollars it cost to insure the same family back in 2005. Milliman says the monthly health bill is now higher than the typical mortgage. The average health tab is 17-hundred-27-dollars a month, while the average mortgage is 16-hundred-71-dollars.
Jurors in Appleton will hear a second day of testimony in a civil fraud trial against the Green Bay Catholic Diocese. Former pastor John Feeney spent eight years in prison for molesting Todd-and-Troy Merryfield in 1978, when Feeney served at a church in Freedom in Outagamie County. Now, the Merryfields contend that the late Bishop Aloysius Wycislo committed fraud, by not telling parishioners about Feeney’s history of sexual assaults. In yesterday’s opening arguments, Troy’s lawyer John Peterson said the evidence would show that Feeney was a known risk to children at the Merryfields’ former parish. But church attorney Patrick Brennan said showing risk is not enough proof. He said the plaintiffs must prove that the late bishop knew that Feeney had molested others before the Merryfields were assaulted. And Brennan said there’s not enough evidence to back up what he called an “outlandish claim.” Yesterday’s first witnesses were several priests who served in the Green Bay Diocese during Feeney’s time – and they testified about sexual misconduct allegations which followed the priest. The trial is expected to last about two weeks.
The Wisconsin State Polka Festival begins on Friday – and it will be held in a different location this year. It normally takes place at a converted turkey barn in Concord. But the event’s organizers said the facility double-booked itself, so the polka festival will move to the Olympia Resort in nearby Oconomowoc. Chairman John Pinter said they needed a larger dance hall anyway, because a couple thousand people have filled the barn at Concord in recent years. Ten polka bands will perform during the festival, which takes place from Friday night through Sunday. There will also be a Friday fish fry and a Sunday polka mass. The Wisconsin Polka Boosters sponsor the festival.