Third visit from Obama, innocent plea in camera shop deaths, three killed after car slams into trees, backlog causes late unemployment checks; more briefsWisconsin News
MADISON -- Wisconsin’s presidential race heats up, as both major candidates and their running mates plan separate appearances over the next six days.
Wisconsin’s presidential race heats up
MADISON -- Wisconsin’s presidential race heats up, as both major candidates and their running mates plan separate appearances over the next six days.
The campaigning reflects the extremely tight race between President Obama and Republican Mitt Romney for Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes.
Vice President Joe Biden is due in first. He’ll appear at UW Oshkosh this morning, before moving on to UW Parkside near Kenosha. It’s Biden’s fourth trip to Wisconsin since Labor Day.
On Monday, Romney will campaign in the Milwaukee area - but the details are not set yet. Romney has not been in the state since the day after he introduced Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan as his running mate.
On Tuesday, President Obama will make his third state visit in recent weeks. He plans to visit Green Bay on Tuesday as part of a two-day swing in three battleground states
And finally, Ryan will make several campaign stops throughout his home state on Wednesday, before trick-or-treating with his three kids in his home town of Janesville.
Final debate for Thompson and Baldwin tonightMADISON -- The two main candidates for Wisconsin’s open Senate seat will hold their third and final debate tonight. Republican Tommy Thompson and Democrat Tammy Baldwin will square off at 8 p.m. on ABC TV stations that carry the “Upfront” program hosted by tonight’s moderator, Mike Gousha.
Viewers can expect the two to keep sparring over health care reform, after Baldwin said she would she not push for a 100 percent government-funded health system like she did during her 14 years in the U.S. House. Baldwin said she would try to make sure the Obama health reform law fits the needs of Wisconsin.
Thompson’s campaign accused Baldwin of “trying to cover up an extremist past” by highlighting her support for the Obama plan. As governor, Thompson occasionally ran into trouble for speaking off the cuff. In the last debate Thompson went after Baldwin for taking campaign money from a group that opposes U.S. sanctions against Iran. But he got one word incorrect in identifying the group, and Baldwin dodged the issue by saying she never heard of that organization.
Lawmakers want Badger car ferry stopped
MILWAUKEE -- Two Democratic state lawmakers have asked the federal EPA not to let the SS Badger car ferry keep dumping coal-ash into Lake Michigan after its permit expires in December.
The ferry which runs from Manitowoc to Ludington Michigan has been looking for a cleaner way to handle its emissions but until then it’s seeking an extension of its dumping permit beyond Dec. 19.
Milwaukee Assembly Democrat Jon Richards and South Milwaukee Senator Chris Larson say it’s “unacceptable” to let the Badger continue what they call polluting Lake Michigan, and they said all ferries should play by the same rules.
The Badger is in direct competition with the Lake Express car ferry, which crosses Lake Michigan between Milwaukee and Muskegon.
Lake Express owner Sheldon Lubar criticized Gov. Scott Walker for asking the EPA for an extension. The governor’s office said it wanted the Badger to keep operating in a manner that safeguards Lake Michigan.
Terri Brown of the company which owns the SS Badger said her group was disappointed that, “Mister Lubar used his considerable wealth and power to criticize Gov. Walker for trying to help save the Badger.” An EPA ruling is expected this fall.
Man, 76, jailed for taking gun to ex-wife’s after being found in contempt of divorce settlement
WAUKESHA -- A 76-year-old man is jailed under a $500,000 bond, for taking a gun to his ex-wife’s house right after a judge found him in contempt for violating his divorce settlement.
Authorities said Richard Petarius of Sussex exchanged gunfire with Waukesha police officers during the incident late Tuesday afternoon at his ex’s condominium in Waukesha.
Prosecutors said the man stormed inside, pushed his 75-year-old ex-wife to the floor, and broke her arm. Later while she was talking to a police officer Petarius allegedly appeared with a shotgun and pointed it to the officer.
Two patrolmen exchanged gunshots with Petarius, but the bullets never hit anyone. The woman was led out of the condo as police called for backup. Over two dozen squad cars and rescue vehicles from various agencies in the Milwaukee area showed up.
Petarius made an initial court appearance yesterday on ten charges that include attempted homicide, reckless endangerment, false imprisonment, burglary, and possessing a gun in violation of a restraining order.
A judge placed a four-year restraining order on Petarius in 2010. He’s due back in court next Thursday.
Three people died overnight after car slams into trees
MADISON -- Three people were killed overnight after a car slammed into a pair of trees around 2:30 a.m. Friday, Oct. 26. It happened on Highway 51 south of Madison in the town of Dunn.
According to sheriff’s deputies, the car was going south when it veered into the right ditch, crossed into the left ditch, and went down an embankment before it hit the trees. Two men were ejected, and a woman was trapped in the back seat. All three died at the scene. They were the only ones in the vehicle. Highway 51 was closed until around 6:20 a.m..
Record rains in northern half of state, impact on drought remains to be seen
SULLIVAN -- The northern half of Wisconsin was hit with record rains yesterday, but it remains to be seen if they’ll alleviate a drought that’s still being called moderate-to-severe by the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Wausau had just over 2.33 inches of rain, breaking a record for the date that was set in 1899. Marshfield had almost 2.25 inches, and Rhinelander had just over 2 inches – both are new records.
Rest Lake in Vilas County had 2.50 of rain. The rains were part of a storm system with winds of up to 60-mph that damaged several rural structures near Colby. Close to 6,000 electric customers lost their power in northern and central Wisconsin. Wisconsin Public Service utility reports only a few dozen customers still in the dark – mostly in the Rhinelander area as of this morning.
Some mid-afternoon thunderstorms brought hail to a couple spots in northeast Wisconsin, but the storms cleared out once a cold front went through that sent temperatures plunging. Madison, where the overnight low was 60-degrees on Wednesday -- had a reading of 35 at 6 a.m. this morning. Antigo, Tomahawk, and Medford had 30-degrees.
The National Weather Service says high temperatures will not get out of the 40’s for at least the next few days. And there’s no mention of rain in the forecast at least through Tuesday.
Outside agency to review 2011 standoff with spa gunman
BROWN DEER -- The head of Brown Deer’s police commission says an outside agency will review a 2011 standoff in which Brookfield spa gunman Radcliffe Haughton was not arrested…
The head of Brown Deer’s police commission says an outside agency will review a 2011 standoff in which Brookfield spa gunman Radcliffe Haughton was not arrested. Jim Jiracek said the police department ordered the review, but the commission itself has no plans to take up the matter, or consider any type of action. He said the panel might do something later. But for now, at least, he’s confident that Police Chief Steve Rinzel and his officers did nothing wrong.
Some national police experts have criticized Brown Deer Police for not arresting Haughton 22 months ago, when officers saw him point what appeared to be a gun at his wife Zina. Rinzel said the officers could never determine that the apparent weapon was a gun. Prosecutors later filed a disorderly conduct charge, but it was dropped after an officer failed to testify.
Media reports said Brown Deer Police were called to Haughton’s home 20 times over the last decade, before he shot and killed his estranged wife and two others last Sunday at the spa where his wife worked. Haughton also wounded four other women before turning the gun on himself.
Amherst man pleads innocent to charges he concealed mother’s death for three decades
AMHERST -- A central Wisconsin man has pleaded innocent to charges that he concealed his mother’s death for three decades, and cashed her Social Security checks that kept coming.
Yesterday, a Portage County judge ordered 66-year-old Charles Jost of Amherst to stand trial on felony charges of theft, forgery, mail fraud, and illegally using somebody else’s personal documents.
Jost, his sister Delores Disher, and his brother-in-law Ronald Disher are all charged in the alleged scheme. The Dishers have both pleaded innocent, and Jost was earlier found to be mentally competent to stand trial in the case. All three are accused of hiding the death of Marie Jost, who would be 100 today.
There’s no indication that she’s still alive, and authorities have been searching the Jost property after dogs found a scent of human remains.
Charles Jost and the Dishers were arrested Sept. 5. Ronald Disher faces additional charges, for allegedly attacking a sheriff’s deputy who searched his home near Almond. All three defendants are due back in court Dec. 10, when trial dates could be set.
Backlog causes over 9,300 unemployed to wait weeks for checks
MADISON -- Over 9,300 unemployed Wisconsinites have been waiting for several weeks to get benefit checks. There’s been a large increase in the numbers of ongoing claims that have to be processed manually.
Department of Workforce Development says the backlog might not be cleared up until next March. Georgia Maxwell, the department’s executive secretary, says the backlog is inexcusable, and she’s arranging for more people to get things caught up as fast as possible.
Spokesman John Dipko said many claims must be reviewed manually because recipients were overpaid after they underreported their incomes - either by mistake or on purpose. Other claims are reviewed to make sure that a person has exhausted the state’s jobless benefits before getting a federal extension.
Dipko said the number of manually-reviewed claims jumped from 1,500 a week to around 5,100 in early July, and the most complicated cases take hours to review. He said applicants will eventually get the benefits to which they’re entitled, even though they won’t be paid until the processing is done.
Charles Thompson, Wisconsin’s longest-serving transportation secretary, has died
WISCONSIN DELLS -- The man who ran Wisconsin’s transportation system longer than anyone else has died. 76-year-old Charles Thompson passed away at his Wisconsin Dells home this week.
His oldest daughter, Julie Johnson, said he died from the Cruetzfeldt-Jacob degenerative brain disease which he had for almost a month-and-a-half.
He was involved in a number of Wisconsin Dells businesses before he was appointed in 1992 as the DOT secretary by former Governor Tommy Thompson - who was no relation.
Charles Thompson stayed in that post until he retired in 2000. Tommy Thompson told the Portage Daily Register that Charles Thompson was his best friend and “an outstanding, caring, very intelligent, compassionate individual.”
Thompson’s funeral will be on Sunday in Wisconsin Dells.
State appeals court asked to bring back limits on most public union bargaining
MADISON -- A state appeals court was asked yesterday to bring back the limits on most public union bargaining -- at least until the court can review a judge’s ruling that struck down much of the bargaining law.
Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen asked the appellate court to put Judge Juan Colas’ ruling on hold, after Colas refused to delay it himself.
Colas said the state failed to show that it would suffer irreparable harm if the delay was not granted. The Dane County judge ruled in mid-September that it was unconstitutional to allow bargaining only for wages at-or-below inflation, because non-union workers don’t have the same limits.
The ruling only applies to local government and public school unions. State employees were not included in the lawsuit which the ruling stemmed from, and therefore, the full bargaining limits still apply to them.
Competency ruling next week on man who started house fire that killed three nephews
ARGYLE -- A judge could decide next week whether an Argyle man is mentally competent to stand trial for helping start a house fire that killed his three nephews.
18-year-old Jeremy Wand is due in court next Thursday for a competency hearing before Lafayette County Circuit William Johnston. He’s charged with three counts of first-degree intentional homicide, two counts of attempted homicide, and one count of arson.
Prosecutors said Jeremy Wand helped burn down his uncle Armin’s house on Sept. 7, killing Armin’s three young sons. Armin’s wife and their two-year-old daughter survived the blaze, but the woman’s unborn child was killed.
Armin Wand III is facing numerous charges in the blaze. State prosecutors have not charged either defendant in the death of the unborn child.
House incumbents have financial edge
MADISON -- Most of Wisconsin’s U.S. House incumbents have a large financial advantage going into the final 11 days of their re-election campaigns.
The latest federal reports were due last night. First-term Republican Sean Duffy of Weston has $650,000 in the bank as he tries to win a tight contest against former state Senate Democrat Pat Kreitlow. Duffy has raised almost $2.5 million since the Jan. 1. Kritelow’s numbers were not immediately available.
The other Wisconsin House rookie from two years ago, Sherwood Republican Reid Ribble, has $475,000 in his fund, compared to $130,000 for his Democratic challenger Jamie Wall.
Wisconsin’s only open House seat is being contested in the Madison area where State Assembly Democrat Mark Pocan has raised well over a $1,000,000 this year. His newest report was not available, but he had $135,000 in the bank at the end of September, while his GOP opponent Chad Lee has $8,500 available now. Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan of Janesville has $3,000,000 in the bank for his congressional re-election bid. His opponent, Democrat Rob Zerban, has $666,000 on hand.
Republican incumbents Jim Sensenbrenner and Tom Petri, and Democrats Ron Kind and Gwen Moore, all have large financial edges over their opponents.
Innocent pleas for man accused in camera shop murders
LA CROSSE -- Innocent pleas were entered yesterday for a Minnesota man accused of killing a La Crosse man and his son, and robbing the father’s downtown camera shop. 39-year-old Jeffrey Lepsch of Dakota stood mute during his arraignment in La Crosse County Circuit Court.
Judge Ramona Gonzalez entered innocent pleas to two counts of homicide, armed robbery by force, and possessing a firearm as a convicted felon. The next proceeding will be held in about a month, when a trial date could be set. Lepsch remains in jail under a $2,000,000 bond. Authorities said he shot-and-killed 56-year-old Paul Petras and 19-year-old A.J. Petras on Sept. 15 at May’s Photo in La Crosse. Officials said he got away $16,000 in stolen camera equipment. Police recovered 14 items from the shop when they searched the Lepsch home on Oct. 10. He has denied being involved in the deaths.
Man shot outside of church still unidentified
MILWAUKEE -- It’s been three-and-a-half weeks since a man was shot-to-death outside a Milwaukee Jesuit church, and authorities still don’t know who he is.
Two prayer groups were meeting at Saint Hyacinth Church when they heard the gunfire outside on October 2. The victim’s body was found on an edge of the church parking lot.
Associate pastor John Montag says it’s scary that nobody seems to know who the victim is, or why the shooting occurred.
The body remains unclaimed at the Milwaukee County medical examiner’s office. Yesterday police asked for the public’s help in determining his identity.
He’s a Hispanic man thought to be in his early 40’s, around 5 ft. 5 inches, and 175 pounds.
Montag says the victim must mean something to somebody and the fact that he remains unidentified makes it that much more tragic.
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