Mike Longaecker is a regional/enterprise reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage includes St. Croix County government, higher education and state politics in Wisconsin.
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There is a special place in Washington, D.C., dedicated to law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty, but you won't find Lee Murphy's name there. Not yet, anyway. But after more than six decades since his death, the necessary combination of perseverance and influence was achieved to include the late St. Croix County highway patrolman's name on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial wall.
Authorities said alcohol was a factor in a crash that injured a motorist Sunday, Dec. 9, in rural Pierce County. The Pierce County Sheriff's Office said the crash, reported at 6:33 p.m. at County Road BB and 370th Street in the town of El Paso, involved a single-vehicle rollover. The vehicle, a 2005 Chevy Malibu driven by Spring Valley resident Julie A. Samlaska, was found on its roof. Samlaska, 57, was arrested at the scene on suspicion of OWI. She was taken by Ellsworth ambulance to Western Wisconsin Health in Baldwin for her injuries, the extent of which was not released.
Support for legislation that took powers away from Wisconsin’s incoming governor and attorney general last week was generally split along party lines. Lawmakers representing St. Croix and Pierce counties were no exception. For Sen. Patty Schachtner, the lame-duck session represented a reality check.
A convicted Minnesota sex offender was back in custody this week after allegations surfaced that he sexually assaulted a woman in St. Croix County. Chisago (Minn.) County authorities said Tyler J. Tillman, 28, was being held without bond pending a Dec. 10 probation violation hearing in that county. Tillman, a Wyoming, Minn., resident, is charged in St. Croix County Circuit Court with one count of second-degree sexual assault stemming from a Nov. 20 incident in the town of Kinnickinnic.
A Menomonie woman was killed Monday in a two-car crash that involved a Plum City driver. The Wisconsin State Patrol said the crash, reported at 6:45 a.m. Dec. 3 on Highway 25 near 420th Street in Dunn County, left 44-year-old Amy L. Kahl dead. According to troopers, Kahl's southbound Ford Mustang crossed into oncoming traffic and was struck by a northbound pickup truck driven by 33-year-old Jessica M. Bauer of Plum City. Bauer was not injured.
A North Carolina man was ordered to post $5,000 cash bond last week after allegedly arranging a sexual encounter in New Richmond with a teenager who turned out to be an undercover sheriff's deputy. St. Croix County prosecutors on Nov. 28 charged 52-year-old Steven B. Bettinger with attempted second-degree child sexual assault, attempted child enticement and using a computer to facilitate a sex crime. Bettinger posted bond Monday, Dec. 3. According to a criminal complaint:
Gov. Scott Walker's office announced last week that the longest-serving judge in St. Croix County is resigning. Circuit Court Judge Eric Lundell is resigning his Branch I post on Jan. 1. A copy of Lundell's one-sentence resignation letter provided by Walker's office did not elaborate on his reasons. Lundell's judicial assistant said Monday, Dec. 3 he is not holding court and will not be returning to the bench before his resignation goes through. Attempts to reach Lundell by phone at his town of Hudson home were unsuccessful.
A Baldwin man accused of defrauding his customers of more than $1.1 million was indicted by a federal grand jury on Wednesday in Madison. The U.S. Attorney's Office said 41-year-old Jamie Smith faces 23 counts including wire fraud, mail fraud and making a false statement on a loan application. Each of the 22 fraud-related charges carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison, while the allegations related to the loan application pack a 30-year maximum penalty.
Rep. Shannon Zimmerman was tapped Wednesday to serve on the Legislature's budget-writing committee. The River Falls Republican was appointed to the Joint Committee on Finance by John Nygren, the Assembly member who co-chairs the committee. The 16-member panel serves a key role in the legislative budget process by approving all state appropriations and revenues. The process calls for the budget to be submitted by the governor, which for the first time since 2010 will be a Democrat after Tony Evers defeated Gov. Scott Walker.
A warrant was issued this month for a St. Croix County man who authorities allege made good on a threat to burn down a friend's living quarters last spring. St. Croix County prosecutors charged 35-year-old Nathan T. Richter with one count of arson, a felony that carries a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison. The Emerald man also faces one count of manufacturing or delivering narcotics stemming from a separate St. Croix County incident.