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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Kuester sentenced to insane asylum for life

DARLINGTON -  Waukesha man was ordered today to spend the rest of his life in a mental institution for brutally killing three retired members of a family in rural Lafayette County.  

Jaren Kuester turns 32 tomorrow.  He pleaded guilty in December to the beating-and-stabbing deaths of Gary, Chloe, and Dean Thoreson.  They were attacked with a fireplace poker last April when they entered their family's farmhouse near South Wayne, in which Kuester had earlier broken into. District Attorney Kate Findley said the crimes were among the most vicious ever committed in Lafayette County.  She said folks there remain frightened, knowing that Kuester had chosen his victims at random.  Kuester told visiting Judge William Foust that he had lost touch with reality -- and he never imagined anything like this happening.  Authorities said a series of incidents was triggered when Kuester went to a Waukesha animal shelter to see his pet, and he threatened employees who told him the pet died two weeks earlier.  Officials said he later drove to Green County where he abandoned an SUV, ran through a wooded area, broke into the Thoreson house, killed the Thoresons when they returned, and then drove a victim's pick-up truck to his father's home in Waukesha -- where he was arrested.


A documentary is being filmed, showing how Oak Creek responded to the Sikh Temple shootings in that Milwaukee suburb almost a year-and-a-half ago.  The film will be part of the PBS series "Not in Our Town," which highlights the efforts of various communities to fight hatred -- especially after they went through a hateful incident.  It will have a premiere in Oak Creek in February or March.  The Working Group of Oakland has been producing the series since 1995.  Over 100 documentaries can been seen on the "Not in Our Town" Web site.  Most are no longer than 10 minutes, but some The first one chronicled a series of hate crimes in Billings Montana, and how residents condemned the defacing of a Native American family's house by skinheads -- and how 10-thousand people in Billings placed menorah memorials in their windows after a vandal broke a window at the home of a Jewish family.  Producers have been filming in Oak Creek on an occasional basis since the Sikh Temple shootings, in which six worshippers were killed by a gunman who then killed himself. 


At least three people have died in separate traffic accidents throughout Wisconsin in the past two days -- and they've now been identified.  In Winnebago County, 27-year-old Gerardo Medina Junior of Fond du Lac was killed late last night.  Authorities said his car slid on Highway 45, crossed a center line, and slammed into an oncoming SUV.  Two people in that SUV were injured.  In northwest Wisconsin, 85-year-old Josephine Stewart of Solon Springs died Wednesday in a two-vehicle crash on Highway 53 in Douglas County.  Officials said she was the crossing the northbound lanes of 53 when she collided with a vehicle on the highway.  The second driver was not hurt.  Earlier today, authorities identified a Dodge County traffic victim as 46-year-old Paul Wilder of Beaver Dam.  Investigators said his pick-up truck collided with an oncoming SUV on Highway 33 near Juneau yesterday afternoon.


An armed robbery suspect killed by a police officer in Milwaukee was identified today as 19-year-old Cornelius Turner.  Officials said he had just robbed two beer delivery men when a Milwaukee officer chased him down and got into a scuffle.  As Turner was reaching for his semi-automatic weapon, officials said the patrolman pulled his service weapon and shot the suspect.  Police Chief Ed Flynn said the shooting couldn't be helped, but Milwaukee police officials are investigating the officer's conduct anyway.  The nine-year veteran of the city's police force is on administrative duty for now.  


With all the snow we have, you'd think that Wisconsin has perfect trails for snowmobiling -- but that's not always true.  Travel says the northern half of the state has good-to-excellent trails.  In the south, where there's a lot less snow, most trails are fair-to-good -- the ones that are open, anyway.  Green County only has part of its snowmobile trails open.  The same is true for Sauk, La Crosse, and Trempealeau counties.  Snow depths in the north are great for all types of winter recreation -- 33 inches at Phelps, 30 at Whitehall, and 23 at Medford.  Madison only has a six-inch snow cover -- and the same is true at Prairie du Chien and at Genoa in Vernon County.  Southern Wisconsin is expected to get the brunt of the snow from the next storm system that's supposed to move through tomorrow.  Grant and Kenosha counties, in the far southern corners of the state, are expecting around five-inches.  One-to-three inches are possible further north.


Almost 300 more Wisconsin families will get compensated, after losing their homes to foreclosure from 2008-2011.  State Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen announced the payments today.  They're part of the ongoing National Mortgage Settlement, in which five large banks agreed to compensate homeowners victimized by deceptive lending practices during the Great Recession.  The settlement has paid over $51-billion to U.S. homeowners.  Recently, Wisconsin reached a settlement with another lender, totaling just over two-billion dollars.  Van Hollen said the new payments will average just under 15-hundred dollars for each affected resident or family.


The start of the New Year has more parents seeing double at Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire.  Three sets of twins were born there in the past four days.  A fourth set of twins was born at the same place earlier this month.  WQOW-TV says Sacred Heart normally produces only 9-or-10 sets of twins per year.  This week's arrivals included one set of twin boys.  The other two sets each had a boy-and-a-girl.


The only Republican candidate for Wisconsin attorney general has $172,000 in his campaign fund.  Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel reports today that he raised almost $177,000 between July and December of 2013.  As it stands now, Schimel would face the winner of a three-way Democratic primary this fall.  Assembly Democrat Jon Richards said earlier this week he has $92,000 on hand.  Dane County DA Ismael Ozanne had not released his financial totals as of late morning.  Jefferson County DA Susan Happ does not have to file a finance report until July, because she did not form her campaign committee until earlier this month.  The other candidates had until the end of today to submit their finance data to the state.  The attorney general's job is open, after Republican J.B. Van Hollen said he would step down after eight years in office.


Governor Scott Walker raised three times as much campaign money as his main challenger during the final half of 2013.  Walker's camp reported raising $5.1 million dollars from July through December, while Democrat Mary Burke raised $1.4 million and added $400,000 of her money.  Burke did not officially become a candidate for governor until Oct. 7, but she considered the possibility for months beforehand.  Her campaign spokesman, Joe Zepecki, said Walker is politically vulnerable in spite of his financial advantage.  Zepecki said Walker's policies are not helping the middle class.  Today is the deadline for this year's election candidates to submit reports of their campaign finances through the end of December. 


A Milwaukee County jailer has resigned, after he allegedly placed a hidden camera in a clothes-changing area for his female co-workers.  The man faces possible criminal charges, which are now being considered by the district attorney's office.  Sheriff's officials were alerted after the man was seen walking out of the women's locker room at the Milwaukee County Jail.  Investigators later found recording equipment in the man's locker -- and it was picking up images from a wireless camera planted in the women's changing area.  The man was first put on administrative leave.  Officials said today that he resigned.  


A Beaver Dam man who was killed in a head-on traffic crash was identified today as 46-year-old Paul Wilder.  Dodge County authorities said his pick-up truck veered into the opposite lane, and collided with an oncoming SUV.  It happened early yesterday afternoon on Highway 33 near Juneau.  The SUV driver and a passenger both suffered non-life-threatening injuries.  Meanwhile, authorities to continue to investigate another traffic death -- this one in Winnebago County around 10 last night.  Sheriff's deputies said a car slid on a snow-covered Highway 45, crossed the center line, and slammed into an oncoming SUV.  The car driver was killed, and two people in the SUV were hurt.  


 A woman from Superior who's accused of getting into a scuffle with a police officer might have her felony charge reduced to a misdemeanor.  28-year-old Natasha Lancour has a preliminary hearing scheduled this afternoon on a felony count of battery to a police officer.  However, defense lawyer Rick Gondik tells the Duluth News-Tribune the charge will be reduced to a misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest.  She also faces a second misdemeanor in Douglas County for disorderly conduct.  For now at least, that won't change.  Prosecutors have not confirmed the reduction of Lancour's felony count.  Both charges are connected with a January 5th incident outside the Keyport Lounge in Superior.  Video from a squad car showed that officer George Gothner punched her in the face.  The officer said Lancour had scratched him, and was resisting arrest at the time.  The State Justice Department is investigating the officer's conduct.  Defense lawyer Gondik said he hopes the investigation will be finished before an expected hearing on the status of the woman's court case.  He expects that proceeding in April.


The idea of using drones to help deliver beer to ice-fishing shanties has been shot down by the federal government.  Lakemaid Beer of Stevens Point came up with the idea of letting thirsty anglers order 12-packs to an un-manned aircraft using GPS coordinates.  The company would have then used its GPS receiver to identify the customers' locations, and deliver the beer.  Lakemaid president Jack Supple tested the idea on Lake Waconia in Minnesota.  He then posted a video on his company's Facebook page.  That's where the FAA caught wind of the idea and shot it down.  The government says the commercial use of unmanned drones is not permitted.