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Appeal denied in Deiss murders

In a brief decision filed last week, a district court rejected an appeal by a man found guilty of two brutal Pierce County murders.

Arthur Foster, acting as his own attorney, had filed a motion in October 2009 asking to withdraw the no-contest plea that led to his conviction for the December 1994 shooting deaths of Donald Deiss, 69, and Kathleen Deiss, 68.

The couple, long-time residents of Pierce County's Big River area, were found shot to death in their town of Trimbelle home the evening of Dec. 4, 1994.

According to court documents, Foster and two juveniles went to the Deiss home, claiming car trouble and asking to use the phone. Once inside, Foster shot Mr. Deiss twice in the head and shot Mrs. Deiss in the back of the head with a rifle.

Foster and the juveniles then stole about $600 from the home.

Three days later, Foster, who lived in Ellsworth, was charged with two counts of first degree intentional homicide, two counts of armed robbery and one count each of robbery with threat of force, felon in possession of a firearm, possession of a firearm silencer and burglary.

Following a plea agreement, Foster was found guilty of the two homicide charges, the other charges were dismissed, and he was sentenced to life in prison.

He is now an inmate at Waupun Correctional Institution and will be eligible for parole in 2050.

Foster later appealed his conviction, claiming the trial judge erred by denying a motion to suppress statements Foster made to a family friend, Meloney Raebel. That appeal was denied in September 1996.

In the October 2009 appeal, Foster claimed he had been coerced into entering an Alford plea, a plea under which a defendant does not admit guilt but admits there's enough evidence for conviction.

Foster also claimed the state broke the plea agreement, the judge erred by considering certain evidence during sentencing and that the judge was biased against him.

The county court denied Foster's 2009 motion without a hearing, and he appealed to the District III Court of Appeals.

After a review of briefs and the record, the three-judge panel summarily rejected this appeal, saying Foster "...offered no reason, much less a sufficient reason, for failing to properly raise his claims" in the first appeal. The appellate court agreed that the county judge had properly denied the motion without holding an evidentiary hearing.

One of the juveniles involved in the crime, Ryan Robert Beckler, who was 16 at the time, was charged four months after the killings, found guilty of two counts of felony murder and sentenced to prison for 25 years on each count.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Corrections Records Office, Beckler is an inmate at Oshkosh Correctional Institution and is eligible for parole consideration June 17, 2011. His mandatory release date is May 17, 2028.

Judy Wiff

Judy Wiff has been regional editor for RiverTown’s Wisconsin newspapers since 1996. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and sociology from UW-River Falls. She has worked as a reporter for several weekly newspapers in Wisconsin.