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Wisconsin roundup: GOP lawmaker joins request for audit of veterans home's surplus; Catholic mass planned to recognize nuns killed in Mississippi; and 10 more state news stories

MADISON--  The Republican lawmaker who represents the state Veterans' Home at King in Waupaca County joins Democrats who want a state audit of the facility. Luther Olsen says he also wants to know if another agency should take over the home from state Veterans' Affairs department -- and that's after the Madison Capital Times said employees and residents were among those who say staffing shortages and cost cutting have hurt some of the home's most vulnerable veterans.

The Walker administration and the vets' agency deny it, pointing to high federal rankings for being a model for top quality care -- but the employees and others say the government does not check the data for accuracy. The Capital Times cites Legislative Fiscal Bureau numbers showing a $39 million surplus in federal revenues for King, after deficits in the previous decade -- and the report says some of the money is reinvested at the home, while some goes to other veterans' programs. Olsen wants to know if enough is invested at King to maintain a high caliber of care.

Catholic mass planned to recognize nuns killed in Mississippi

LEXINGTON, Miss.  --  A Catholic Mass is planned Monday in Jackson, Miss.,to honor the two nuns stabbed to death last week.

More than 300 people attended a church vigil in Lexington Sunday for Sisters Margaret Held and Paula Merrill. Held was from Slinger in southeast Wisconsin -- and both she and Merrill led Bible studies at the church.

The Reverend Gregory Plata said the work of both nuns was far reaching, and both would be missed. Held and Merrill were both 68, and were found dead at their home in Durant, Miss., about 10 miles from where they worked at a Lexington clinic.

On Friday night, 46-year-old Rodney Sanders was arrested for the killings -- but it's not known when he'll appear in court as the case remains under investigation.


No ruling by Appeals Court means Wisconsin Voter ID Law is likely set for November

CHICAGO  --  The refusal by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider two rulings on Wisconsin's voter ID law means it's likely no changes will be made before the election in November.  

The federal appeals court decided unanimously Friday not to have the full panel of judges hear the appeals. The only way any changes will be made to the Wisconsin law is if the U.S. Supreme Court agrees to intervene.  

The way it stands now, Wisconsin voters will have to show an acceptable ID to cast a ballot, but they will be able to get a temporary ID at a DMV office before the election.


Increase in participation means decrease in Wisconsin ACT scores

MADISON  --  Wisconsin students taking the ACT earned an average score of 20.5, slightly below the national average.  

A state law which went into effect last year requires all 11th graders to take the test. That resulted in a drop in the average score from last year's 22.2. The ACT includes English, Reading, Science Reasoning and Math sections, with an optional writing exam.  

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has said requiring all high school juniors to take it will lead more students to consider higher education.


Insanity plea possible in toddler's death

SHEBOYGAN  --  A Sheboygan Falls woman might plead insanity Monday afternoon, when she's arraigned for allegedly killing her 2-year-old son and hiding his body.

Police say they used a Taser stun gun to subdue 27-year-old Katlyn Kinateder when they first arrived at her home earlier this month -- and they later found her toddler without a pulse in a cardboard box wrapped in a blanket.

At her preliminary hearing, a police detective said Kinateder admitted that she "lost her mind," and voices told her that her toddler could not be alive anymore. Police say she used a plastic shopping bag to suffocate the youngster. Prosecutors expect Kinateder to enter a plea of not guilty by reason of mental disease.

(Raymond Neupert, WHBL, Sheboygan)


Two teens killed in Milwaukee crash identified

MILWAUKEE  --  Two teens killed in a car that split in half in Milwaukee have been identified as Demetrius Batchelor, Jr. and Latrey Hale. Both were 15, and both were said to be in the back seat of a car that slammed into a tree at high speeds Friday night.

The county medical examiner says a 17-year-old driver and another passenger in the front seat are both expected to survive, but they're hospitalized for now. The medical examiner said all four people in the car were thrown out as it hit the tree -- and the driver apparently tried avoiding the crash, as investigators say there were 60 feet of skid marks.


Case continues to stall in alleged Milwaukee terrorist plot

MILWAUKEE  --  A man accused of plotting a terrorist attack at Milwaukee's downtown Masonic center is still in jail while his case keeps stalling.

Twenty-four-year-old Samy Hamzeh is charged with five counts of possessing machine guns and a silencer he allegedly bought from undercover FBI agents. The charges were filed in January, but the case has gone nowhere as the defense receives and translates numerous government recordings made in Arabic.

At a federal court hearing on Friday, prosecutor Paul Kanter said he gave 116 compact discs to the defense -- and lawyer Craig Albee will get eight more weeks to prepare various pretrial requests including one to release Hamzeh on bond, and the next hearing is set for Oct. 28. His case does not include terrorism charges, but prosecutors say Hamzeh tried protecting Islam by hoping to kill 30 Masonic members.


Report: State employees get $9.7 million in bonuses, payments

MADISON  --  About one of every seven state government employees received a merit pay increase or catch up payment during the fiscal year ending in July.

The Wisconsin State Journal says the payments went to 4,600 agency workers, or about 15 percent of that workforce. The payments totaled $9.7 million. That's about 2.5 times what was paid out the previous year, when a number of payments were held up due to budget issues.

Most of this year's payments went to workers in the departments of Natural Resources, Corrections, and Transportation.


New Jersey woman sues Brewers for batting practice injuries

MILWAUKEE -- A New Jersey woman has sued the Milwaukee Brewers, claiming she might suffer permanent eye injuries after being hit by a foul ball at batting practice.

Dana Morelli says it happened while sitting down at her seat near third base before a game in 2014. The 47-year-old Morelli and her lawyer Michael Sperling accuse the Brewers of violating Wisconsin's "safe place law" that requires property owners to do what's reasonably necessary to protect visitors and employees.

Major League teams extended their protective netting this year after a number of fan injuries at Milwaukee and other parks -- and throughout the Majors, judges have sided with teams that include fine print warnings on tickets about the risk of injuries.

But Sperling says the warnings are not enough to meet Wisconsin law, and baseball should do more to protect fans at batting practice when players hit from cages and fans think they're safer. The suit seeks unspecified damages and the Brewers did not comment since the case is in litigation.


Two killed in 13 Hours in Brown County traffic crashes

LAWRENCE  --  Investigators in northeast Wisconsin are still looking into a pair of highway crashes that killed two people in Brown County 13 hours apart.

Hobart Lawrence Police say alcohol was an apparent factor when a 36-year-old Oneida man drove the wrong way on Interstate 41 and hit two vehicles about 2:30 Sunday morning. The wrong way motorist was killed, and the other two drivers had non-life threatening injuries.

Thirteen hours later, Brown County deputies said a 19-year-old passenger died when a vehicle left County Trunk Double N in the town of Glenmore and rolled -- and the 23-year-old driver had non-life threatening injuries.

Officials say alcohol did not appear to be a factor in the second death, and victims' names from both crashes were not immediately released.


Delayed UW-Whitewater dorm is finally approved

WHITEWATER  --  UW-Whitewater was hoping to open a new dormitory this fall to help boost its enrollment. But a contract for the 400-bed structure slowly moved through the state administration's approval process up until earlier this month, when Gov. Scott Walker approved it. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on the delay this past week after it was mentioned at a recent UW Board of Regents' meeting -- but the administration says the regents' comments had nothing to do with the timing of the contract approval.

Whitewater now plans to build four new dorms, each with 400 beds, which will eventually replace an aging Wells Hall which has twin towers and rooms for 1,200 students. Design work is about to start on the first structure, and it's now due to open in the fall of 2019.


Elderly woman charged in highway worker's death

MERRILL  --  An 85-year-old Antigo woman is free on a signature bond, after being charged in the death of a highway worker in north central Wisconsin.

Mary Robinson faces one felony count of homicide by negligent driving in the death of 50-year-old Marcus Wydeven.

At her initial court appearance Friday in Lincoln County, Robinson waived the state's time limit for a preliminary hearing. She's due back in court Sept. 15 to determine how and when the case will proceed.

Officials say Wydeven was directing traffic through a construction zone on Highway 17 near Merrill when he was struck and killed in July of last year.

Sarah Nigbor

Sarah J. Nigbor serves as a regional editor for RiverTown Multimedia, a position she began in April 2017. She joined RiverTown Multimedia in October 2013 as a news reporter for the New Richmond News, before being appointed editor of the Pierce County Herald in February 2015. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Spanish and French in 2001. She completed a minor in journalism in 2004. 

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