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Wisconsin roundup: River Falls man reportedly attacked, tortured during Costa Rican vacation; more state news stories

RIVER FALLS — Family members say they will work with the American embassy and Costa Rican government officials to return an injured man to River Falls.  Ryan Messerschmidt was abducted from a resort, then beaten, stabbed and tortured, according to local officials. The family received photos of the injured man from Costa Rican authorities after reporting him missing. The River Falls man says he doesn't know why he was attacked and no one seems to know who's responsible. He was injured badly, but is expected to survive.


House Fire Results In Evacuation Of Sparta Neighborhood

SPARTA — Sparta authorities were rousting people out of a neighborhood Wednesday at about 7:00 p-m due to a dangerous house fire.  Sparta Area Fire District Chief Mike Arnold says the fire started in a garage, then spread to the house.  There were two vehicles in that garage, along with 50-60 tires.  Arnold says that fuel load meant it was a very hot fire when crews arrived.  There were some reports of explosions, making the evacuations necessary.  Exterior heat damage was done to nearby buildings.  No injuries were reported and neighbors were allowed to return to their homes after a little over one hour.


ATV Breaks Through Ice, Makes Rescue Necessary

MIDDLETON — Middleton fire officials say an ice fisherman riding an ATV broke through the ice on Lake Mendota Wednesday night, making a rescue necessary.  The man got lost trying to return to shore in the fog, running into an ice heave near some homes.  The ATV sunk through the ice and left him stranded.  Luckily, a woman living nearby heard his shouts for help.  The man was surrounded by water and couldn't get off his vehicle.  Firefighters responded to the lake and pulled him and the ATV to the shore.  The victim's name hasn't been released.


Just Another Case Of "No Good Deed Goes Unpunished"

MADISON — An 81-year-old Madison woman tries to do a good deed and becomes a crime victim.  She says she met a homeless woman and wanted to help by buying her some food at a Madison KFC restaurant.  When she went to the counter to get the food she left her purse on the table.  She says the suspect left before she realized some cash and her checkbook had been stolen.  Her name hasn't been released.  Police were called and a restaurant employee went outside to confront 36-year-old Stacy M. Andruss.  She was arrested for theft, carrying a knife, possession of drug paraphernalia and violating parole.


Man, Ex-Wife Charged With Defrauding Woman Out Of $100K-Plus

CHIPPEWA FALLS — A Chippewa Falls woman tells investigators a man and his ex-wife conned her out of more than 119-thousand dollars.  The victim says she met Andrew Conklin on Facebook last summer.  Investigators say Conklin convinced the woman to buy one dozen cell phones and a tablet computer, while taking out loans for five vehicles, jewelry and other items.  Conklin promised to sell them and give her the proceeds.  Brandi Schofield is accused of using credit cards the victim had opened — with no intention of paying her back.  Conklin and Schofield are charged with felony theft by false representation.  The victim's name hasn't been released.


Driver Headed To Prison For Causing Triple-Fatal Accident While High

SHAWANO — A Shawano County judge is sending a man to prison for 15 years for causing a triple-fatal accident while he was on drugs.  Twenty-year-old Ryan Swadner has to write a letter of apology to the families of the victims and can have no alcohol or drugs for 30 years after he gets out of prison.  Three passengers — 18-year-old Tyler Welch, 17-year-old Cody Borsche and 15-year-old Paige Brunette — died in the 2014 crash in Belle Plaine.  Swadner entered a no contest plea to three counts of homicide while driving under the influence of a controlled substance during an October hearing.


2 Traffic Stops In 3 Days Lead To Drug Arrests

WHITEHALL — Trempealeau County traffic stops have led to two drug arrests over a three-day period.  Thirty-five grams of meth was found when Jeremy Mayo was stopped Monday in Independence.  A police dog found the drugs in the 24-year-old Black River Falls man's vehicle.  Two days later two people from Minnesota were taken into custody when a Trempealeau County police dog sniffed out meth again.  Forty-year-old Jeremy Brandes and 30-year-old Ashley Thelen are from Rushford.  They are being held in the county jail, along with Mayo, with all of them waiting on court appearances.


Kenosha Schools Settle With Transgender Student For $800K

KENOSHA —  The Kenosha Unified School District has ended its petition to the U.S. Supreme Court, challenging lower court rulings over bathroom use.  That step was taken after the district reached a settlement agreement in a discrimination lawsuit.  At the center of all the legal activity was a transgender high school student, Ash Whitaker, who wanted to use the boys' restrooms at  Tremper High School.  Whitaker gets $800,000 from the district.  Staff at the high school monitored his bathroom use and made him wear a special bracelet, singling him out from other students.


Wisconsin Police Fatal Shootings On The Rise

MADISON —  The reasons behind a growing number of fatal shootings by Wisconsin police officers are being debated. 

There were 24 last year, three times as many as Minnesota.  Two of the fatal shootings are still being investigated and the officers were cleared in 22.  The Wisconsin Professional Police Association points out that there were twice as many assaults on police officers in this state as there were in Minnesota — and Wisconsin's crime rate is significantly higher than the bordering state.  The American Civil Liberties Union says it just wants to make sure every case is investigated properly and nobody gets a free pass.