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Hudson teens suspected of vandalism

The vandalism that was discovered at five Big Rivers Conference schools last week, including Hudson High School, appears to be the work of Hudson students.

According to the Hudson Police Department, 17 students were involved in the vandalism itself with as many as 26 playing a part in the planning of the crimes. The other schools hit around midnight on June 3 were New Richmond, Menomonie, Eau Claire North and Eau Claire Memorial.

Investigators believe the suspects divided into two groups with one group dispatched to New Richmond and Hudson and a second group to Eau Claire and Menomonie.

According to the Hudson Police Department, some of the students involved have been cooperating with their investigation.

New Richmond Police Department Lt. Jerry Cody told a New Richmond News reporter that the seven Hudson suspects who are believed to have done the damage to New Richmond High School and HHS have sought legal advice. Cody said things are on hold while they wait for the students and parents to consult their attorneys. Authorities hope the suspects will then turn themselves in.

"We're confident that we have the people involved," said Cody. "Investigators have had contact with all seven of these individuals. We are hoping to have a successful conclusion to the investigation soon."

The damage was mainly graffiti that included several positive references to the River Falls Wildcats along with some profanity and phallic symbols. Police speculate that the suspects hoped to implicate River Falls students in the vandalism. The vandals also used grass killer to write on athletic fields at the schools, damage that was not apparent until later last week. Hudson Police Lt. Paul Larson said the exact cost of damages at HHS and the other schools is still being assessed.

According to a spokesman for New Richmond High School, the spray paint the vandals used on the running track cannot be removed, and the school is still deciding how to deal with that damage. Spray paint on bleachers has been removed but it cannot be removed from several benches the vandals damaged. The suspects also poured grass killer on approximately 50 yards of the football field -- some areas as wide as four feet -- which will have to be re-landscaped.

According to HPD Detective Jeff Knopps, parking lot surveillance tapes at HHS showed seven suspects involved in the vandalism. They appear to have driven onto the campus in a medium size dark-colored pickup truck and spread out quickly in several directions. They carried large pails that contained their "supplies." It took them less than 10 minutes to do the damage at HHS. Surveillance tapes at New Richmond High School put the same group there about 30 minutes before they turned up on the parking lot cameras at HHS.

Larson said HPD has been cooperating with the other police departments involved in the investigation and that they hope to arrange a joint press conference here in Hudson to release their findings and identify the suspects, maybe by the end of this week.

Hudson School Superintendent Mary Bowen-Eggebraaten said Tuesday that because the investigation is ongoing, she would not make any formal statement about the incident or the involvement of HHS students.

"It is very important that we wait until all the information from the investigation is available. We don't want to do anything that would interfere with that. We are very concerned about the incident and deeply regret the damage that was done at the other schools as well as at our own. We will have a statement later but for now it is in the hands of the police."

Hudson High School has offered a $450 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those involved in the vandalism. Anyone with information on the case should contact the HPD at (715) 386-4771.

Meg Heaton

Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

(715) 808-8604