Morning State News Briefs: Wisconsinites listed as supects in Boy Scouts' sex offender filesWisconsin News
-- Twenty-nine Wisconsin men were identified yesterday, when the long-sealed Boy Scout “perversion files” were released.
Twenty-nine Wisconsin men were identified yesterday, when the long-sealed Boy Scout “perversion files” were released.
The Oregon Supreme Court ordered that 14,500 pages of scout documents be released. They revealed that police, prosecutors, pastors, and even some Boy Scout leaders covered up cases in which scout-masters and others molested children. The cases were between 1960-1984. The reports spelled out allegations in 21 Wisconsin communities – Milwaukee, Shorewood, Waukesha, Pewaukee, Cedarburg, West Bend, Sheboygan, Elkhart Lake, Oshkosh, Appleton, Green Bay, Seymour, Marinette, Mosinee, Eau Claire, Menomonie, Mondovi, La Crosse, Monroe, Janesville, and Beloit. Scout executive Mark Logemann of Wisconsin’s Bay Lakes Council says he’s not familiar with any of the cases in his area – but he says the Boy Scouts are now doing a number of things to keep youngsters safe. The Boy Scouts of America has apologized to the victims and their families.
The recent rains wiped out most, but not all of Wisconsin’s majestic fall colors. State officials say about a-third of the 72 counties are still at 100-percent of their peaks, or close to it. Most counties in the southern third of the Badger State still have peak colors – along with Door County, the Green Bay and Manitowoc areas, and Bayfield, Oneida, and Lincoln counties in the north. But around two-thirds of counties, including Milwaukee, are past their peaks. Last weekend’s heavy rains in those places dropped most of the leaves to the ground. The lingering drought also caused an early start-and-finish to the fall color season, especially in the far southern part of the state where the color peaks normally don’t come until late October. Starting tomorrow, the weather should provide some good viewing for whatever colors are left. Rain and drizzle are clearing out this afternoon and evening. And clear, mild weather is expected tomorrow and Sunday, with highs in the 50’s-or-60’s each day. A chance of showers and thunderstorms returns to the Badger State on Monday.
Fewer kids are having kids in Wisconsin’s largest city. The teen birth rate in Milwaukee went down in 2011 for the fifth year in a row. City health officials said today that 33-point-four of every thousand girls age 15-to-17 had babies last year. That’s down by almost two-and-a-half points from 2010. It’s a smaller decrease than in the recent past, when Milwaukee’s teen birth rate plunged by 5-to-6 points a year. But Milwaukee’s teen birth rates have fallen faster than in other parts of the country. And Mayor Tom Barrett calls the results very encouraging. And Milwaukee remains on pace to drop its teen birth rate below 30-per-thousand by 2015. The city’s Health Department, United Way, and the Center for Urban Population Health set the goal back in 2007.
Prosecutors said a Racine County man was under the influence of prescription drugs when he allegedly caused a traffic crash that killed a 42-year-old woman. A 50-thousand-dollar bond was ordered for 38-year-old Daniel Hess of Caledonia, after he was charged with homicide by intoxicated driving. Authorities said Hess was driving home from work on April second when his vehicle crossed a center-line, sideswiped a car, and then collided with another vehicle head-on. That last driver, Michelle Schluechtermann of Caledonia, was killed. Officials said Hess tested positive for methadone, hydro-morphone, and oxycodone. A state Crime Lab analyst said Hess’s level of oxycodone would have been enough to impair him. He’s due back in court next Thursday, when a judge will decide if there’s enough evidence to put Hess on trial.
A Fond du Lac County man has been ordered to stand trial for allegedly killing two people in a drunk driving crash. 24-year-old Daniel Shea of Campbellsport waived his right to a preliminary hearing yesterday. He pleaded innocent to two counts of drunken homicide, and one count of causing injury by drunk driving. Prosecutors said Shea had seven drinks and two shots of whiskey at five taverns, in the hours before his car crossed a center and hit an oncoming auto. 73-year-old Paul Grahl and his 59-year-old wife Joanna, both of Eden, were killed in that second car. Their 13-year-old daughter Esther was seriously injured, and she’s back home after being treated at a Milwaukee hospital. The crash occurred September 13th on Highway 45 near the Fond du Lac-Washington County line. Prosecutors said Shea’s blood alcohol level was point-20, two-and-a-half times the legal limit of point-zero-eight. He wore a cast on his right arm when he appeared in court yesterday.
Wisconsin’s education agency is planning an in-depth review of the state’s online virtual schools. A state audit from two-and-a-half years ago recommended the review – but it’s been on the back burner until now. Earlier this year, Gannett Wisconsin Newspapers uncovered major achievement gaps between online students and their counterparts in brick-and-mortar schools. Gannett said virtual school students are five times more likely to repeat their grade-levels – and they had lower test results last year in every subject but reading. Patrick Gasper of the Department of Public Instruction says the new review is the result of the increasing number of school districts creating virtual schools – and growing numbers of questions about their operations. Wisconsin has 28 virtual schools this year, three more than a year ago. And their enrollments grew by a whopping 38-percent, to almost 68-hundred youngsters statewide. Gasper says the DPI will contact as many people as possible who are connected with virtual schools – and they hope to create guidance materials aimed at helping families get “high-quality educational opportunities” if they choose to use online schools. Gasper hopes to complete the review by next spring.
Milwaukee’s medical examiner opposes a city ordinance to require special procedures in investigating high-profile deaths – including suspects in police custody. The measure comes in the wake of robbery suspect Derek Williams’ death while he was held by Milwaukee Police last summer. A newly-released video showed Williams gasping and begging for help in a squad car for almost eight minutes before he collapsed. County medical examiner Brian Peterson says his office has already adopted the changes that Milwaukee aldermen are seeking. And if the ordinance is passed, he fears that the medical examiner’s office will lose up to two national accreditations, because political influence will have seeped into the decisions of death investigators. Peterson says those investigators must remain independent. The medical examiner recently changed the cause of Williams’ death from natural causes to homicide, without reviewing the findings which led to the original conclusion. The Milwaukee ordinance would require all reports to be reviewed in high-profile cases, a peer review of autopsy findings, and agreement by the chief medical examiner before a cause-of-death is determined. After Peterson’s objections, a Milwaukee committee voted 6-1 yesterday to further study the issue.
For the first time, local parishes are being targeted in the bankruptcy petition filed by the Milwaukee Catholic Archdiocese. At a court hearing yesterday, attorneys for almost 600 people sexually abused by priests said they would try to tap parish assets in order to compensate the victims. A committee for abuse victims and other creditors in the bankruptcy case said the assets and liabilities of parishes throughout the 10-county archdiocese should be consolidated. It would end the separate incorporations by the archdiocese and its churches – which were established over a century ago. Greendale pastor Alan Jurkus said the creditors’ strategy could backfire. He said Catholics have a fair amount of sympathy for the sex abuse victims – but that could change if the creditors start dragging the parishes into the case. The victims’ committee also said there’s still a chance that the church can use insurance to compensate victims. They said the courts struck down the use of one policy, but two others could be available. Bankruptcy Judge Susan Kelley said she was disappointed in the creditors’ new legal challenges. She said a negotiated settlement is still the best way to keep the church in business, while fairly compensating the sex abuse victims. The next hearing in the case is set for October 31st. The judge will decide whether the victims can sue to recover $35-million taken off the archdiocese books from a cemetery fund in 2005.
Thirty students were arrested yesterday in a brawl at Milwaukee’s combined middle school and high school in the Bay View neighborhood. Police are still trying to figure out what triggered the melee. Media reports said it might have started on a bus yesterday morning, before it spilled into the school cafeteria. Some witnesses said it was caused by a long-time dispute among certain students. Two 11-year-olds were taken to a Milwaukee police station and released to their parents. Twenty-eight other youngsters were given citations for disorderly conduct. At a news conference later in the day, Milwaukee Alderman Tony Zielinski called Bay View unsafe – and officials must work on an immediate plan to upgrade the school’s safety policies. School Board member Meagan Holman disagreed that Bay View is unsafe. But she said the incident took away some good work by school and neighborhood parents to improve the school’s low academic performance, and create a positive environment. State officials had declared Bay View as one of Wisconsin’s lowest-performing high schools – and the school received a federal grant and consultants to try and turn things around.
Wisconsin added an estimated 1,400 jobs last month, as the state’s unemployment rate fell two-tenths-of-a-point to seven-point-three percent. Preliminary data was released by state officials this afternoon, showing that 15-hundred new private-sector jobs were created statewide in September. And governments throughout the state chopped about 100 jobs from their payrolls. The numbers are based on a quick federal survey of three-and-a-half percent of employers – and the numbers are subject to heavy revisions. Today, state officials revised the number of private sector jobs added in August by 3,100, for a total of 7,400 jobs created. The government workforce was revised upward by about 100 jobs, for a total of 3,600 public jobs added in August. Wisconsin’s current jobless rate is about a half-point lower than the national rate of seven-point-eight-percent. All figures are adjusted for seasonal factors.
If Wisconsin officials have their way, U.S. Highway 41 would become Interstate-41. The state DOT has asked the federal government to designate the multi-lane stretch from Milwaukee to Green Bay as I-41. The Federal Highway Association will make the final decision, along with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. That’s expected to come down around mid-November. Until now, Wisconsin’s most recent Interstate highway was designated in 1996, when Highway 51 became I-39 from Portage to Wausau. It will cost about $12-million dollars to change all the signs on 41 to the familiar red-white-and-blue Interstate markers. For now, the change is set to happen early in 2014. Construction workers have been lengthening lanes and shoulders, and improving bridges to get the freeway up to Interstate status. That process has cost millions – and it also claimed the lives of two highway workers in accidents near Oshkosh and De Pere earlier this year.
A southern Wisconsin woman has claimed a one-million-dollar Powerball prize in Iowa. Kara Fitters of Evansville turned in her winning ticket yesterday at the Iowa Lottery office in Des Moines. She matched all five regular numbers, but not the Powerball, to win the game’s second-prize of a million dollars on September 26th. Fitters bought her ticket at Casey’s General Store in Williamsburg Iowa. That was the same drawing in which an Iowa couple claimed a $202-million Powerball jackpot. Brian and Mary Lohse decided to take the lump-sum cash option of almost $130-million.