Friday State News Briefs: Shawano construction worker resuced after accidentWisconsin News
-- A construction worker from Shawano was rescued yesterday, after a large concrete block fell from a dam where he was working in Dodge County.
HUSTISFORD - A construction worker from Shawano was rescued yesterday, after a large concrete block fell from a dam where he was working in Dodge County.
Authorities said 53-year-old Jody Grimm was helping remove parts of the Lake Sinissippi Dam on the Rock River in Hustisford when a section fell and trapped him. Rescuers and police officers helped free Grimm. Hustisford fire chief Matt Pieper said Grimm was taken to a hospital where’s doing okay. Reports said he was walking under his own power after he was rescued. State DNR experts checked out the dam, and they say there’s no danger of a breach.
Wisconsin health officials confirmed yesterday that two elderly women died, after they had probable cases of the West Nile virus. The victims were a 78-year-old Greenfield woman from Milwaukee County, and a 71-year-old woman from Waukesha County. More tests are needed before federal officials can confirm that West Nile caused the deaths. If that’s the case, they would be Wisconsin’s first deaths from the mosquito-borne West Nile virus since 2008. As of Wednesday, the state had one confirmed case and 12 probable cases – the most since 2007. West Nile has also been known to kill birds and horses. Nationally, 87 human deaths have been reported this summer – and almost two-thousand people have fallen ill. The Centers for Disease Control says there is no licensed vaccine for West Nile. When the illness first surfaced a decade ago, common bug sprays advertised themselves as a good way to avoid the virus. Less than one-percent of West Nile patients get seriously ill. Paul Biedrzycki of the Milwaukee Health Department says he expects more cases in what he calls an “unusual year” for West Nile. He says residents should make sure they don’t have stagnant water near their homes, so they don’t create breeding grounds for the mosquitoes that carry the virus.
One of Scott Walker’s former Milwaukee County aides denies that he pocketed $42,000 dollars from an annual county event that salutes Wisconsin veterans. After a pretrial court hearing today, defense lawyer Christopher Hartley said that Kevin Kavanaugh used the money to make cash donations needy veterans – including those who are homeless. Hartley has said the 62-year-old Kavanaugh contended all along that he distributed the $42,000 to veterans, rather than keeping it for himself. Kavanaugh is scheduled to go on trial October eighth on five felony charges connected with the alleged embezzlement. During today’s hearing, lawyers on both sides finalized some routine issues in advance of the scheduled trial. It’s expected to run for a week or more, if Kavanaugh does not strike a plea deal between now-and-then. The charges resulted from a two-year-old John Doe investigation that resulted in charges against five former associates of Walker when he was the Milwaukee County executive, just before he was elected governor in 2010.
A judge in Fond du Lac ordered a $100,000 cash bond today for a man accused of letting a pit bull attack an 18-year-old, as punishment for stealing the man’s gold coins. 58-year-old Richard Lisko of Campbellsport was charged this morning, along with the victim’s 43-year-old father – who’s accused of watching and helping with the attacks. The judge ordered a $50,000 dollar bond for the father, Joel Kennedy of New Berlin. He and Lisko are both scheduled to return to court a week from tomorrow, when a judge will decide if there’s enough evidence to order a trial. According to prosecutors, Lisko thought the 18-year-old stole his gold coins last week – so he allegedly had his pit bull attack the teen three times, once while the youngster was hanging upside down. Officials said Kennedy looked on and helped with the last two attacks. They occurred last Friday in the Fond du Lac County town of Osceola. The teen suffered numerous dog bites throughout his body. Lisko and Kennedy are both charged with false imprisonment, substantial battery, causing injury by negligence, and obstructing police. Kennedy is also charged with failing to aid a crime victim, and Lisko is charged with bail jumping in connection with an unrelated earlier pit bull attack on a woman.
U.S. Senate candidate Tammy Baldwin says her election opponent doesn’t really know Wisconsin anymore. The Madison congresswoman told the Democratic National Convention last night that former Governor Tommy Thompson and other Republicans like Paul Ryan are not in sync with what she referred to several times as “the Wisconsin I know.” Baldwin said her 14 years in the House were a hallmark for fairness. She cited efforts to fight discrimination, help manufacturers, and pass financial reforms that benefit the middle class. In contrast, she said the state’s leading Republicans support tax cuts for the wealthy, and sacrifices by the needy. And Baldwin said they favor an economic plan from Mitt Romney that would quote, “only bust our budget.” In November, Baldwin faces a political icon in Thompson, who ran the Badger State for 14 years before serving four years as President George W. Bush’s health secretary. Baldwin said Thompson then stayed in Washington and quote, “cashed in on his special interest connections and never really came back” to Wisconsin. But he remains one of the state’s most popular political figures. Recent polls showed him leading Baldwin by up to nine points – and that Baldwin is still trying to get voters outside her Madison House district to get to know her. She hoped last night’s speech would help in that regard. Baldwin appeared with other prominent women at the Charlotte convention in support of President Obama. He elaborated on the stark choices that voters face.
Former Governor Jim Doyle says the nation would have gone into a “deep, deep, deep, deep depression” had his fellow Democrat Barack Obama not been elected president in 2008. Doyle left office almost two years ago, but he’s still part of the 131-member Wisconsin delegation at the Democratic National Convention which ends tonight in Charlotte. He said the nation was “obviously” better off after four years of an Obama White House. And Doyle said the Republican Party would quote, “rather have the economy go down the tubes than see (Obama) re-elected president.” Doyle said Obama has persevered in a positive way against a quote, “We’ll do anything to stop you” mentality. Doyle served eight years as Wisconsin’s governor – and he has made almost no public comments about his Republican successor Scott Walker. But at the convention, Doyle told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel quote, “I think in hard economic times, it’s easy to push buttons and pit people against each other … It’s a lot harder to work through tough economic times and bring people together.” This fall, Doyle will become a resident fellow at Harvard’s Institute of Politics. He’ll lead study groups each week on a host of issues.
Janesville Republican Paul Ryan will debate Vice President Joe Biden next month – and the Democrat who’s running for Ryan’s U.S. House seat wants a debate as well. Ryan is on the ballot for both vice president and the First District House that he’s held for the last 14 years. Former Kenosha County Supervisor Rob Zerban is running as a Democrat for Ryan’s House seat. He says several groups have offered to sponsor two debates – and he’s considered that Ryan has not responded to either event. Ryan’s camp has not commented. If Ryan wins both posts, a special election will be held for his congressional seat.
Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan of Janesville has been vilified at this week’s Democratic National Convention for his plans to reform Medicare. But a new report from the Institute of Medicine says deep Medicare spending cuts are possible without rationing care -- and the quality of care could actually improve. An 18-member panel of doctors, business leaders, and public officials estimates $750-billion-dollars are wasted each year in the health care system through waste, fraud, unnecessary care, and huge piles of paperwork. That covers 30-cents of every health care dollar. The report did not recommend specific ways to reform Medicare and Medicaid. Ryan has proposed a lower cost voucher system, in which seniors would get federal money to buy private coverage for their Medicare. President Obama and other Democrats favor a powerful board that cuts Medicare reimbursements to service providers, while focusing on the quality of care instead of just volume. Both parties accuse the other of putting seniors at risk by putting Medicare on a diet. The Institute of Medicine called for a more rational, honest dialogue of what Americans are getting for their money.
Milwaukee Police have arrested a man who allegedly killed a motorcyclist with his car and kept going. The hit-and-run crash killed 27-year-old Javier Ortiz of Milwaukee. Police said he was going east on his motorcycle when a southbound car pulled into his path. Ortiz was thrown from the bike when he tried to stop, and his body hit the car’s rear bumper. Police said the car never stopped. Officials said a witness called police after recognizing the hit-and-run vehicle that was modeled on a TV newscast. Investigators later found the vehicle and arrested the driver. Charges are pending.
Sentry Insurance of Stevens Point says it will eliminate 27 local office jobs, and lay off 144 agents who work from their homes in 10 states. Sentry said it’s re-structuring its lines for personal auto and homeowners’ insurance. And it’s reducing the number of agents outside the Stevens Point region who sell the personal lines exclusively. Sentry decided on the re-structuring after reviewing the costs of using home-based agents. Policy-holders in central Wisconsin will be served through a newly-created independent agency set up by Sentry. The Point Insurance Agency will also continue to offer products from other companies as well as Sentry. The firm said its specialty motorcycle and auto insurance lines would not be affected. They’ll still be sold through independent agents throughout the country.
Fort McCoy will open its first permanent barracks’ structure later this month. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held yesterday at the Army base near Sparta for a $6.8 million dollar housing facility. The new brick building is the first of many that will replace smaller, temporary barracks built 70 years ago during World War Two. The new building will house up to 168 soldiers, way more than the 50 in each of the current barracks. Liane Haun, the fort’s chief of master planning, says it will provide a better quality-of-life for the soldiers, while saving taxpayers’ money by being energy efficient. Among other things, the new barracks have modern bathrooms with individual showers, an Internet café, an activity room, and facilities that can separate groups of personnel by units or gender. And those who train at McCoy in the summer will have something their barracks have never had before – air conditioning.
A Fond du Lac County man who was reported missing on Wednesday night returned home early this morning. 64-year-old Joseph Ditter had not been seen since walking away from his parents’ house in Dotyville. His mother called sheriff’s deputies around 12:35 this morning to say that Ditter returned home safely. Officials said he did not have any known medical issues – and he did not make any unusual comments before leaving. Other details of the disappearance and discovery were not immediately released.
Hunger was a smaller problem in Wisconsin than in other states over the last three years. The USDA said just over 11-percent of Badger State residents did not have enough money or resources to get fresh food at some point from 2009-through-’11. The state’s food insecurity rate was smaller than the national average of 14-point-nine percent for last year alone. The annual U.S. rate has held about steady since 2008, when the Great Recession began in earnest. The government said a three-year average provided a more accurate reflection of food insecurity at the state level, even though it includes 2009 when the recession hit the hardest. The government said about 50 million Americans – or about one of every six – were food insecure at some time last year. Eleven-million households coped by eating less varied diets, getting emergency food from pantries, or taking part in federal food assistance programs. Almost seven-million other households disrupted or reduced their food intake because of a lack of money.
A body found yesterday in a suburban Milwaukee park appears to be that of a 71-year-old man missing since Monday. But the medical examiner’s office says it needs to positively identify the body, which is apparently that of James Pauli. His family had not seen him since Monday, and police began searching around the area of a senior citizen center in Cudahy. Pauli’s body was found early yesterday afternoon in a wooded area of Warnimont Park in Cudahy, close to the Kelly Senior Center. The cause of death must still be determined, but police say they do not suspect foul play.
A judge in Fond du Lac has ruled that a Hilbert man is mentally-competent to stand trial for allegedly hitting 10 oncoming motorcycles with his car, killing two of those riders. But a public defender for Clinton Lovelace noted that his mental exam showed that he has amnesia – and it backed up his contention that he doesn’t remember what happened in the crash. Mary Wolfe asked Fond du Lac County Circuit Judge Gary Sharpe to order a neurological exam, to determine if the 25-year-old Lovelace could get a fair trial with his lack of memory. The judge did not immediately rule on the request. The crash happened on May 31st just northeast of Fond du Lac on Highway 151. Authorities said Lovelace was driving south when he crossed the center line of the two-lane road, and hit 10 oncoming motorcycles. Douglas Yonkers and Daniel Winsemius were killed and eight others were hurt, as they were heading home to Muskegon Michigan. One of the eight, Eric Vandam, was released from a hospital yesterday after losing a leg in the mishap. Two other bikers escaped injury.
A 53-year-old female pedestrian was killed overnight after she was struck by two vehicles in Oshkosh. The driver of the first vehicle, a 45-year-old woman, was arrested. Police said the first driver dragged the pedestrian for a block – and then she was hit by a second vehicle which never stopped. Investigators said it was clear that the second driver knew he-or-she struck a person. Police say they’re looking for a white Ford Explorer or Expedition. Officials said the impact from the first driver is what killed the woman, whose name was not immediately released.
Governor Scott Walker quietly spent 30 hours in Kosovo this week, visiting two National Guard units from West Bend. The governor’s office disclosed the trip yesterday, saying security concerns prevented any release of information before then. Spokeswoman Jocelyn Webster said the Republican Walker left on Tuesday, and he was expected back in Wisconsin this morning. She said the governor met with soldiers from the 238th Aviation Regiment and the 248th Aviation Support Battalion. Those troops have spent almost a year in Kosovo, providing support for a NATO peace-keeping mission. Webster said the two units are scheduled to return home next week.
Prosecutors said a man killed a woman in a Milwaukee city park because he thought she was after him – and he believed she had a gun in her purse. 32-year-old James Donegan was charged yesterday with homicide and armed robbery in the death of 45-year-old Teresa Boone. She was stabbed and strangled on Sunday night at Kilbourn Reservoir Park on Milwaukee’s north side. A state Justice Department lawyer is prosecuting the case to avoid possible conflicts-of-interest by the district attorney’s office. That’s because James Donegan is the son of Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Thomas Donegan. Police quoted the defendant as saying that Boone was following him so quote, “he took her down” and stole her purse. Boone is a mother of three who was pursuing a new career in education, and was a student at UW-Milwaukee. Judge Donegan said his son has mental health problems, and he has not taken his medications lately. One of the victim’s relatives, Janice Quinn-Mixon, said her family is not ready to believe that mental problems drove Donegan to kill Boone. She said the suspect had the presence of mind to hide Boone’s purse and the murder weapon. And the family wants to know more about Donegan’s mental illness, and why he was not taking his medications.
The body of a 15-year-old Port Washington boy was found today in Lake Michigan, close to where he went under last Sunday. Fire department divers said they recovered the body of Tyler Buczek around noon. He was about 200 yards from the shore, in 10-to-12 feet of water. Authorities said Buczek was swimming with friends near Port Washington’s sewage treatment plant when he went missing. He would have been a freshman at Port Washington High School when classes opened this week.
A 31 year old Milwaukee police officer is in the hospital in critical condition after he was involved in a car accident while off-duty. The officer had just gotten off work and was headed home when his car was hit by a wrong-way driver on Interstate 94. The other driver was a woman who was driving without her headlines on, going west in the eastbound lanes of I-94 near North 30th Street. That portion of I-94 was shutdown for about four hours, starting a little after midnight. The drunken driver who caused the accident was also in critical condition.
A sting from a bee or wasp has killed a 46 year old man in Mequon. Vladimir Novak was sitting outside in his yard last Monday when he was stung. His mother-in-law says he fell to the ground almost immediately. A doctor who lived nearby rushed over tried to save him. Novak was pronounced dead at Columbia-St. Mary’s Hospital in Ozaukee. The county coroner says the cause of death was anaphylactic shock in reaction to the sting of an insect. Family members describe Novak as a “big, healthy guy” who had been stung before without any severe reaction.
Traffic deaths for the first eight months of the year in Wisconsin are still over 10-percent more than in 2011, even though they went down in August. The state DOT said today that 55 people were killed in Wisconsin traffic crashes last month. That’s 14 fewer than the previous August – and it’s 13 fewer than the average for the past five years. That made last month the second-safest August in the Badger State since World War Two. The DOT said 397 people were killed in state crashes from January through August. That’s 11-percent more than a year ago. And it’s blamed on a large increase in motorcycle deaths, due to a longer biking season caused by an earlier-than-normal spring. Seventy-seven motorists were killed in Wisconsin with one-third of the year left to go. That’s just eight fewer deaths than in all of 2011. The State Patrol's Sandra Huxtable says car-and-truck drivers need to keep watching carefully for motorcyclists this fall – and bikers need to ride sober, avoid speeding, and keep control by riding to the limits of their abilities.
Officials said a dog breeder near Wisconsin Dells violated a state-imposed quarantine. The state Agriculture Department said seven puppies were released from William Myers’ breeding facility in Adams County, after other dogs there tested positive for a fertility disease. The quarantine was imposed on June 28th when the dogs were found to have brucella canis, which can cause infertility in dogs. Officials said the disease can be treated – but if it’s left unchecked, humans can suffer brucellosis through contact with the infected pets and their fluids. State officials are urging people who bought dogs from Myers’ facility since June 28th to contact Jeff Hare of the state’s Animal Health Division – and to have veterinarians test the dogs for brucella canis.
The military vehicle business is picking up at the Oshkosh Corporation – at least a little bit. Today, the company announced a $67-million order from the Marine Corps for 260 all-terrain trucks. Production is scheduled to begin next April at the Oshkosh plant, and the order is due to be finished in September of 2014. Workers have been filling orders for over 11-thousand similar all-terrain trucks that have been used in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Also, Oshkosh is in the process of building a possible prototype for the next generation of combat vehicles to replace the Humvee. In July, Oshkosh was one of three firms selected for the project. It’s making 22 joint light tactical vehicles over the next year. The Pentagon will test the models from all three firms, and then choose a final contractor.
Two victims of sexual abuse by a former priest in the Fox Valley will try again next spring to make the Green Bay Catholic Diocese liable for fraud. A two-week trial is scheduled to begin May sixth in Outagamie County Circuit Court in Appleton. Todd and Troy Merryfield thought they won their case in May, when a jury found that the church committed fraud by not telling parishioners in Freedom that their new pastor had a pedophile past. That pastor, John Feeney, went on to molest the Merryfield brothers in 1978 – and the jury awarded $700,000. But the diocese learned that a juror was biased against the church, and never said a thing about it during the jury selection. And Circuit Judge Nancy Krueger ordered a new trial on that basis. The Merryfields asked a state appeals court to consider reversing Krueger’s finding, and to uphold the fraud conviction. But the appellate judges refused yesterday to take up the case – and the circuit court trial was then scheduled.