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STATE NEWS ROUNDUP: Judge to decide if Kuester is mentally competent to stand trial

A judge could decide today whether Jaren Kuester is mentally competent to stand trial for the killings of three elderly relatives in southwest Wisconsin. In July, a plea deal was reached that would have found the 31-year-old Waukesha man innocent-by-insanity in the deaths of Gary, Dean, and Chloe Thoreson at their family's farm-house in Lafayette County in April. The plea deal would have sent Kuester to a mental institution for life. It was scrapped after Kuester was unresponsive during the court hearing in which the plea bargain was being considered. Now, Dane County Circuit Court judge William Foust will hear testimony in Madison this morning about whether Kuester is currently competent to help with his defense. He was ruled competent once before. Kuester's family said he should have been sent to a mental hospital, after he threatened animal shelter employees in Waukesha two days before the murders. Authorities said he drove across southern Wisconsin after being told he could not see his pet dog, which actually died two weeks earlier. Officials said Kuester broke into a farmhouse and killed the Thoresons with a fireplace poker after they arrived there. He then allegedly stole a victim’s pickup truck to see his dad in Waukesha, where he was arrested the next day.


Your weekend will be one hour longer. Daylight savings time ends at two a-m on Sunday, when the clock goes back to one a-m for second time. Wisconsin officials remind folks to turn back their clocks one hour before going to bed on Saturday night. They also suggest that you check your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors -- and to change those batteries when you change your clocks. In Milwaukee, fire-fighters hand out new smoke detectors to neighbors when there's a fatal house fire. The U-S Consumer Product Safety Commission says about 16-million homes around the country have smoke detectors which don't work -- due mainly to dead and missing batteries.


A December trial has been delayed for a Merrill woman accused of killing two of her friends and injuring another while driving drunk. At a hearing yesterday, lawyers for 25-year-old Ashley Baumann said they would need more time to review a lengthy list of the state's witnesses. Lincoln County prosecutors said some key witnesses would not be available in mid-December, when the week-long trial is currently scheduled. Baumann is charged with nine felonies for a crash in June of 2012 that killed two of her passengers, 33-year-old Jessica Hartwig and 31-year-old Misty Glisch, both of Merrill. A 29-year-old woman survived. Prosecutors said Baumann's car was going almost 100-miles-an-hour when it rolled over several times. Almost 40 pre-trial requests were heard yesterday. They involved things like advance questionnaires for potential jurors, and which people would be sequestered during the trial. All parties in the case will meet on December 19th, when a new trial date could be set.


Going to Monday night's Packer game? Bring an old cell-phone if you still have one. The team will collect old phones, batteries, chargers, and related accessories, to be given to survivors of domestic violence. Verizon Wireless will refurbish the phones that can be saved. The company will donate the phones, plus air-time, to domestic violence victims and survivors. Also, Verizon will donate 10-dollars for each phone collected to the Golden House, a Green Bay organization that helps those affected by domestic violence. The Packers will host the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football. Volunteers will be at the gates starting at 5:30. Those not going can still drop their items off at Verizon stores.


Japan has ended a ban on Wisconsin poultry products. It was imposed in July, after birds at a Jefferson County poultry farm showed signs of exposure to the bird-flu. A routine inspection this summer showed that some birds had antibodies to a low-pathogen avian flu. State Veterinarian Paul McGraw said over 110 flocks in the area were tested in early August. Everything turned up negative, but McGraw said it takes time to work through the numerous channels involved in international business. McGraw said there was never any risk to food safety or public health. The state agriculture department says Japan will start accepting poultry products from eggs laid and birds killed after yesterday, when the country's ban was officially ended. China and Russia still have similar bans on Wisconsin poultry. McGraw says his agency has been working with federal officials to get those bans lifted as well.


How would you like to go on a “beer-cation?” Four Stevens Point area breweries in the Stevens Point area are having a drawing for an all-expenses-paid trip to central Wisconsin to tour the breweries. The purpose is to show off the wide variety of craft beers being made in the area. Julie Birrenkott of the Point Brewery says the craft-beer industry is re-defining the way people think about beer in Wisconsin. She says they’re making brews with more flavors, more hops, more malts, and great tastes. Mark Buttera of the O’so Brewery said beer tourism is no longer a fad. He said folks are really serious about seeing all the different breweries, and hear their stories. He says it helps that the Stevens Point Brewery is part of the campaign, with its 156-year tradition that’s a part of Wisconsin history. The Central Waters and Kozy Yak breweries are also sponsoring the contest. Beer-lovers can sign up for the weekend tour prize through next month, by logging onto the Stevens Point Convention and Visitors Bureau’s Web site or Facebook page.


A worker killed when a residential garage collapsed in Fox Point is identified as 38-year-old Sean Held of Slinger. Police said Held was working for M-D-M Builders, which had two workers shoring up the garage when it collapsed. The other employee was working just outside the garage. That person escaped injury. Held was inside the building, and got trapped in the rubble. The homeowner was away at the time of the incident, around 9 yesterday morning. Officials are still trying to find out why the collapse occurred.


A 90-year-old woman was killed last night in a house fire in suburban Milwaukee. North Shore fire-fighters were called around nine o'clock to a burning house in Shorewood. T-V reports said the blaze started in a kitchen, and rescuers pulled the victim from the house. There was no immediate word on what caused the fire. The victim's name was withheld, pending notification of relatives.  

Jason Schulte

Jason Schulte is a reporter for the New Richmond News since February 2015. Prior to that he spent eight years at the Pierce County Herald in Ellsworth. His duties with the News will include covering news out of Hammond and Roberts along with action from St. Croix County court system. He lives in Roberts. 

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