Thursday State News Roundup: Polk County man pleads innocent to intentional homicideWisconsin News
-- A northwest Wisconsin man has pleaded innocent in the brutal beating death of his fiancé.
BALSAM LAKE - A northwest Wisconsin man has pleaded innocent in the brutal beating death of his fiancé.
45-year-old Scott Youngmark of Milltown entered the plea yesterday to a Polk County charge of first-degree intentional homicide. The defense said it was working on a request to move Youngmark’s possible trial, citing excessive pre-trial publicity. A judge will hold a hearing on that request April 16th. Authorities said Youngmark was freed on a reduced bond for bail jumping just 15 days before he allegedly stabbed and beat 47-year-old Kari Roberts. She was found dead in her apartment on December first. Prosecutors said Youngmark was awaiting sentencing at the time for a 2011 incident in which he stabbed a man just below the neck, and hit another man in the jaw with his knee. After he was arrested in that case, officials said he asked family members to encourage witnesses not to testify against him. He ended up striking a plea deal. Authorities said Youngmark has also had numerous convictions in neighboring Minnesota from 1996-through-2008.
If Armin Wand goes on trial, his jury will not hear some of what he told police during three days of questioning. Wand is the Argyle man accused of killing three of his kids and an unborn child last September by burning the family’s house down. Yesterday, Judge Thomas Vale agreed to suppress some of what Wand told police on the second day of the interrogation. The judge said the statements were not voluntary, because detectives promised leniency if he cooperated. But attorneys on both sides say it might not have any effect on the possible verdict. Wand is scheduled to go on trial a week from tomorrow in Lafayette County – and his jury would be picked in Marathon County due to heavy pre-trial publicity about the case in southern Wisconsin. Prosecutors said Wand wanted to get insurance money from the fire so he could start a new life. His younger brother Jeremy is also charged in the incident. Wand’s wife Sharon filed for divorce in January. The next court hearing in that case is set for tomorrow.
If you still want to vote absentee in Tuesday’s primaries, you don’t have much time. Today is the deadline to ask local government clerks to send absentee ballots by mail. And tomorrow is the deadline to cast those votes in person at the clerk’s offices. State officials expect less than 10-percent of Wisconsin’s eligible voters to cast ballots on Tuesday. The field of candidates for a State Supreme Court seat will be reduced from three-to-two – and there will be primaries for a host of local government and school board races. Those planning to vote on Election Day will not have to show photo ID’s. The ID mandate is still tied up in the courts.
A couple from southwest Wisconsin has been named one of four national Outstanding Young Farmers. Brian and Stephanie Perkins of Richland Center received the honor at a recent program in Albuquerque New Mexico. The Perkins run a three-thousand acre farm that makes both conventional and organic grains. They were among 10 finalists chosen from winners of state events. The U.S. Jaycees runs the Outstanding Young Farmer program, with help from the Outstanding-Farmers-of-America fraternity, John Deere, and the National Association of County Agriculture Agents. The other national winners include a couple from neighboring Minnesota – Nick and Tara Meyer, who run a 200-cow dairy farm at Sauk Centre. The other winners were from California and Florida.
A one-year-old girl was killed early today in Madison, when a wheelchair she was riding in rolled down an embankment and was hit by a vehicle. Police said the girl’s mother was using the wheelchair as a stroller when it rolled away from her. It happened about 3:30 this morning on one of Madison’s main streets, East Washington Avenue which is Highway 151. Police said the driver stayed at the scene, and is cooperating with officers. The girl was taken to a hospital, where she died. Her name was not immediately released.
Autopsies have confirmed the identities of two people killed early yesterday in a house fire in far northern Wisconsin. Oneida County sheriff’s deputies said the victims were 55-year-old Mark Juel of Harshaw and his 53-year-old wife Kaye – who was the county’s jail administrator. Both were found in their home after it was destroyed about 17 miles northwest of Rhinelander. The house was engulfed in flames when the first of five fire departments arrived. The cause is still not known. State and local investigators are still looking into it.
Nine months after student teacher Katie Benning was killed in a head-on crash as she was turning into her school’s parking, there is a plan to make that stretch of highway safer. There just isn’t any funding. Students and staff at the Wisconsin Heights School District say they have to deal with the dangerous stretch of state Highway 14 every day and they’re hoping for changes to make it safer. School officials say there have been five fatalities and 140 accidents on that stretch of road over the last 11 years. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation has drawn up three plans. The $3.2 million dollar option would add left turn lanes. An option costing five million dollars would straighten a crash-causing curve in the road. And, the third option to build an entirely new Highway 14 farther from the school would cost $8.4 million. Right now, the DOT says it doesn’t have to money for any of those projects. Overhead signs with flashing lights are going up next spring.
The new head of Wisconsin’s prison system will not respond to questions from the state’s largest employees union, because the group is no longer legally recognized. Marty Beil of the Wisconsin State Employees Union wrote to Corrections’ Secretary Ed Wall, asking when prison workers will be ordered to work overtime – and when seniority-based pay will begin. But the union chose not to be recertified two years ago, after the governor and Legislature adopted the law which virtually ended most public union bargaining. And corrections’ spokeswoman Jackie Guthrie said that because the union is not certified, Wall does not have to answer its questions. Beil said the questions came from Wall’s prison employees – and the department prefers to quote, “stonewall rather than answer some simple questions.” And he said it’s unfortunate, noting that his group had a 60-year relationship with the corrections’ agency which began before the state even had a collective bargaining law. Beil wrote his letter about a week after he told state lawmakers that Wisconsin prisons have become less safe since the union law. He said it led to the assaults of seven guards since Christmas Eve alone.
The domestic partner of a former Milwaukee County Walker aide was fined $2,100 today, on a charge that cropped up during a John Doe investigation. 49-year-old Brian Pierick pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, after he was accused of meeting a 17-year-old Waukesha boy for sex. Pierick’s attorney said the boy claimed he was 19, and his client never intended to have sex with the youngster. He was originally charged in Waukesha County with exposure and child enticement, but those counts were dropped in a plea bargain. Besides the fine, Pierick must perform 50 hours of community service. Pierick is the partner of Tim Russell, Governor Scott Walker’s chief-of-staff when Walker was the Milwaukee County executive. Pierick’s charges were not related to the John Doe probe of the ex-Walker aides – but evidence against him turned up during the investigation.