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WISCONSIN STATE NEWS BRIEFS: Indianhead murder suspect may have acted in self-defense

STONE LAKE - Authorities in northwest Wisconsin indicate that a murder suspect might have acted in self-defense after the victim entered the suspect’s apartment.

The victim was identified today as 26-year-old James Hamilton of Stone Lake. He was killed late Wednesday night on the Lac Courte Oreilles  Indian reservation in Sawyer County. Tribal, state, and local officers continue to investigate. In a statement, Sawyer County sheriff’s officials said the 29-year-old shooting suspect called 911 to report the incident, and said Hamilton entered his apartment unwanted and assaulted him. A 25-year-old Hayward man allegedly entered the apartment with Hamilton, and was said to be involved in the assault. Lac Courte Oreilles Police arrested the third man yesterday for violating a previous probation. The suspect was treated at a hospital, was taken to jail, and was later released. 


Drought conditions have returned to northwest Wisconsin. The U.S Drought Monitor says most of the northwest quarter of the Badger State is abnormally dry – about 23-percent of the state’s total land area. It’s the least severe drought category, and it comes after an extremely wet winter-and-spring ended Wisconsin’s worst drought in decades. Things got much drier in most of the Badger State during July. Drought conditions returned to neighboring Minnesota a week ago, so it’s no surprise that they’ve spread eastward into Wisconsin. As of last Sunday, the USDA said 44-percent of farmers’ top-soil was either short or very short of moisture – and almost a third of sub-soils needed moisture. Forecasters say the next good chance of showers and thunderstorms is on Sunday. 


State Capitol rotunda singers faced another round of arrests and citations today. “Solidarity Sing-Along” protesters had been singing outside of the Capitol – but when several of them moved into the rotunda, some were arrested and cited for not having a permit. One organizer says three people were arrested and cited today, bringing the total number of citations issued to around 190 since July 24. Protesters continue to refuse obtaining a permit, saying they’re exercising rights to free speech.


A Wisconsin Department of Transportation executive has been fired for allegedly making an insensitive remark about immigrants on a Facebook post. Assistant Deputy Secretary Steven Krieser was let go from his position on Thursday, according to a WisDOT spokesman. Governor Scott Walker’s office calls the remarks “repugnant”, “unacceptable” and does not represent the Governor’s views in any way.


A Wisconsin Senate Democrat wants to bring back a requirement that phone companies offer traditional land-line service in places with no other reliable options. Kathleen Vinehout of Alma said lawmakers overstepped their bounds when they de-regulated phone companies in 2011. As of three months ago, phone companies were given the authority to stop improving or providing copper-based landlines, regardless of whether customers had other options. Vinehout says she’s been working with the AARP, which says that more baby boomers are living alone – and they need reliable phone service to maintain their health-and-safety. Mike McDermott, who lobbies for Verizon Wireless, tells the Madison Capital Times that Vinehout’s legislation is not needed. He says Verizon now offers two products that provide wireless landline services – and they still provide dial tones to standard phones. Also, the state Telecommunications Association says its members will keep providing landline service regardless of the state’s current deregulation law.


Authorities in Southeast Wisconsin are investigating a Wednesday fire that killed a local business woman. The Waukesha County Sheriff’s office says 36-year-old Sarah Brucker, a makeup artist and former owner of a beauty salon in Milwaukee, was found dead in a condominium fire in Delafield – just east of Milwaukee. The State Fire Marshall’s office is also investigation the fire, saying they have not ruled out foul play. Two other families were also living at the complex, authorities say they made it out safely.


Almost six-thousand electric customers got their power back in the Fox Valley this morning, and around 26-hundred customers are still in the dark after Wednesday’s storms. All but 26 are We Energies’ customers in the Appleton and Waupaca areas. That’s as of 1:15 this afternoon. Utility officials said they might need the weekend to get everybody back on line. Five tornadoes touched down between New London and Maribel early Wednesday morning. A Marinette County town chairman was killed while clearing highway debris, and at least three others were injured in the storms.


It’s been a while since a Wisconsin Lottery player won the Powerball jackpot – but a Wisconsin native did get a one-third share of that 448-million dollar prize from Wednesday night. Paul White of Ham Lake Minnesota claimed his share of the jackpot yesterday. Two tickets sold in New Jersey will claim the other two-thirds of the prize. Media reports said White grew up in Rhinelander, and graduated from Rhinelander High School in 1986. He said he always imagined himself hitting it big in the lottery. The 45-year-old White chose the cash option – which means he’ll get his entire prize now, netting just over $58-million after taxes. 


Not everything was destroyed when a tornado ruined Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in New London. Pastor Bill Sutlief said three crosses were left unharmed from the F-One tornado early on Wednesday. Sutlief calls it a powerful sign that quote, “speaks volumes to us about the presence of Christ among us.” The twister tore the roof from the sanctuary and destroyed the church’s fellowship hall. Still, three large crosses remain standing – including one that supported a broken window at the fellowship hall. Last night, the congregation gathered for a service outside the destroyed building. That was after structural engineers and insurance adjusters inspected the site earlier in the day. The church building was only eight years old when the tornado hit. The twister was one of five which landed in eastern Wisconsin soon after midnight Wednesday. 


The main electric utility for central and northeast Wisconsin says it will need to build a new power plant by 2019. Wisconsin Public Service told investors in New York this week there are three potential sites for a new plant in-and-around Green Bay, where the utility has its headquarters. Officials say the new plant would be needed after WPS shuts down coal-fired plants which are getting older and causing more pollution than today’s more efficient facilities. Chief administrative officer Larry Borgard said his company would decide in the next year-or-two on a new overall plan for meeting the demands of its customers. Public Service says it has no plans to buy the Kewaunee Nuclear Plant, which closed earlier this year. Officials said the plant was closed because it could no longer compete with gas-fired plans for low production prices. WPS recently bought a gas-fired plant in Kaukauna to replace the power it was buying from Kewaunee. The utility reached a settlement with the federal E-P-A to either close or use cleaner energy for its oldest coal-fired boilers in the Wausau and Green Bay areas.


The morale just got better among the civilian employees at Fort McCoy in Sparta. They just learned that they’ll only have to take six unpaid furlough days off, instead of the 11 originally ordered under the automatic federal spending cuts. The Pentagon said it found about one-and-a-half billion dollars in other savings, so the civilian furloughs can end early. Spokeswoman Linda Fournier said most of the 15-hundred civilian workers at Fort McCoy will end their furloughs by next week. She called it “welcome news,” although it’s tempered by a concern that another budget sequester will occur in the next fiscal year which begins in October. About 700 National Guard employees were also affected by the recent furloughs – which they had to deal with while staying constantly at-the-ready for emergencies.


A North Carolina company that makes a host of paper products has opened its first plant in Wisconsin. Summer Industries has opened a one-and-a-half million dollar facility in Neenah. The firm says it will have 20 manufacturing jobs once it’s up-to-full-speed. Summer Industries makes paper tubes, cans, and cores from recycled paper-board. It has opened six plants in the last dozen years, including the one in Neenah. The plant’s customers are generally made up of other industries – including the makers of labels, strapping, paper, tapes, and films. 


A farming delegation from South Africa had quite an experience at the Wisconsin State Fair in West Allis recently. The group came to Milwaukee to learn more about Wisconsin agriculture. They were planning to spend an-hour-and-a-half at the State Fair last Friday – and they spent the whole time in the sheep barn, marveling over the way the young people were enjoying their projects. The next day, the South Africans discovered the same enthusiasm in the beef-and-hog barns. This week, the group met with state Agriculture Secretary Ben Brancel and Governor Scott Walker – and they learned more about the UW Extension and the state’s youth programs like 4-H and FFA. Brancel tells the Brownfield Ag News Service it was quite a revelation for the South Africans. For years, he said it was a punishment for young people to grow food in that country. Brancel says South Africa has a long way to go to turn that around, and Wisconsin is ready to help where it can.