Morning State News Briefs: Relatives sure they know who died in Mt. Pleasant home fireWisconsin News
-- Authorities are checking DNA and dental records to identify a woman found dead in burned-out home in Racine County three days ago. But relatives are certain that she’s 21-year-old Bianca Vite of Pleasant Prairie. In fact, they’re so sure that they’ve arranged a funeral Mass for Monday.
RACINE - Authorities are checking DNA and dental records to identify a woman found dead in burned-out home in Racine County three days ago. But relatives are certain that she’s 21-year-old Bianca Vite of Pleasant Prairie. In fact, they’re so sure that they’ve arranged a funeral Mass for Monday.
Vite’s parents and younger sister told the Racine Journal-Times that her ex-boyfriend was apparently staying in the fire-damaged home, located in Mount Pleasant. And police told them they found Bianca’s car in front of that house. Mount Pleasant Police are confirming none of this – at least until the body is positively identified. Officials say they’ve interviewed a person-of-interest, and no charges have been sought. Over 700 people are following a Facebook page, where family and friends have left words of praise for Vite. The funeral will take place Monday morning in her home town of Kenosha.
A Mexican restaurant in eastern Wisconsin was damaged by fire late last night. Units were called around 11 p.m. to Las Brasas in Omro. A police officer saw smoke from the building while driving by. Officials said the fire was quickly extinguished, but the entire building had smoke damage – and there was fire damage where the blaze started in the basement. The cause was not immediately determined. There were no reports of injuries.
Civil lawsuits are piling up against a Hilbert man accused of hitting 10 motorcyclists while driving drunk near Fond du Lac in May. 26-year-old Clinton Lovelace is also facing 13 criminal charges connected with the incident – in which two bikers from Michigan were killed and eight others were injured. A Neenah hospital has filed a 407-thousand-dollar lien against Lovelace and his aunt, who owned the vehicle he was driving. The lien was filed on behalf of Eric Van-Dam of Muskegon Michigan, who spent over three months in the hospital. Van Dam severed his left leg. Two other hospital liens totaling 270-thousand dollars were filed on behalf of two others – including one of the fatal victims, Douglas Yonkers. Two insurance companies have also filed civil actions against Lovelace. And his criminal case resumes January seventh, when a judge will consider defense requests not to let a jury know about some of the evidence. She said Lovelace has amnesia, and does not remember what happened before or after the crash. But a judge still ruled in October that Lovelace was mentally competent to help with his own defense. Lovelace faces two counts of drunken homicide, as well as charges of causing injury by drunk driving, reckless endangerment, illegally possessing a controlled substance, and bail jumping.
If you’re in the market for a used car, state officials urge you to shop more carefully in the New Year. The Transportation Department says vehicles damaged by Hurricane Sandy will start showing up at used-car lots around the country, as their previous owners get their insurance settlements. The DOT said tens-of-thousands of vehicles had water damage from Sandy – and it makes the electrical systems suspect. Officials say that buyers should look for tell-tale signs like musty interiors, water spots on the upholstery, dirt on the tail-lights, painted or discolored hood insulations, silt around the air-filters, and rust in places you wouldn’t normally expect. Also, the DOT says buyers can check a vehicle’s history by putting its ID number on the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System’s Web site. Insurers are required to tell the system about any vehicles that are deemed to be total losses.
A suburban Milwaukee man is due back in court a week from today, after being charged in the stabbing death of his mother’s boyfriend. Prosecutors said 25-year-old Daymeon McCune of Cudahy was drunk during an argument in which he stabbed 52-year-old Brian Zurfluh to death. It happened early last Saturday. A 200-thousand-dollar bond was ordered this week on a Milwaukee County charge of first-degree reckless homicide.
Recall fever went far beyond Wisconsin in 2012. Josh Spivak of Wagner College in New York analyzes recall elections – and he said at least 168 public officials faced recall votes this year in 20 states and Washington D.C. That’s 17 more than the year before. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch were the only statewide officials to be targeted – and both survived. Of the 168 recall targets, 82 were sent packing by the voters, including Wisconsin Senate Republican Van Wanggaard of Racine. Twenty-six others resigned before their recall elections could take place. Wausau Senate Republican Pam Galloway was in that group. Spivak says his research is not totally inclusive – and he might have missed some recalls around the country.
A distributor of medicines to long-term care providers will close a facility in Waukesha. Omni-care is consolidating the plant with a location in nearby Milwaukee. The firm told state officials that 78 jobs will be eliminated – including 61 hourly posts. The layoffs will begin February 22nd, and will continue until the Waukesha plant is shut down in March. Omni-care delivers medicines to places like hospitals and nursing homes.
Two million-dollar lottery winners in Wisconsin have come forward to claim their prizes. David Landgraf of Milwaukee won a million on December 18th, when he matched all the numbers but the Mega Ball to win the second prize in the Mega Millions’ game. Then the next night, Kathryn McGowan of Wausau matched all the numbers but the Powerball to win the million-dollar second prize in that game. Both winners took home $672,500 after taxes. The retailers who sold the winning tickets will each get commissions of $20,000 each – The Store on Mountain Road in Wausau, and a Pick-N-Save on Milwaukee’s south side.
State corrections’ officials said they fired a probation agent from Wausau, two days before she was charged with stealing painkillers from offenders. Kim Hoenisch was charged last Friday with five counts including felony drug possession, burglary, and misconduct. She was supposed to make her first court appearance today. But Marathon County Circuit Judge Greg Grau withdrew from the case, and Reserve Judge Ann Knox-Bauer from Taylor County has been assigned. Hoenisch is tentatively scheduled to appear in her courtroom in Medford on January 28th. She’s accused of stealing Vicodin from offenders on probation while they were taking urine tests. And prosecutors said she took Vicodin from the homes of a probationer and her cousin. Corrections’ officials said they fired Hoenisch December 19th for what they called a failure to exercise good judgment. Department Secretary Ed Wall said they asked the Justice Department to investigate Hoenisch as soon as they learned about her alleged conduct.
An 89-year-old man died after he fell through the ice while plowing snow on a pond on his property. It happened north of Appleton in the Outagamie County town of Center. Sheriff’s deputies said the man was apparently getting his pond ready for recreational use, when his all-terrain vehicle fell through. The man was last seen on Wednesday, and authorities are not sure exactly when he fell in. Rescuers were called about 2:30 yesterday afternoon. They found the man’s body about 25-feet from a shoreline – and they pulled out the ATV. The incident remains under investigation. The victim’s name was not immediately released.