Several Wisconsin residents were sentenced in 2013 for decades-old crimes, while new slayings left residents horrified. A fire raged in the state’s northwest corner, and a bridge in Green Bay had to be closed after it developed a dangerous dip. While politics accounted for plenty of state headlines, as usual, here are some of Wisconsin’s other top news stories from The AP:
TODDLER’S 1957 DEATH
A 77-year-old Sheboygan woman was convicted in February of killing her toddler more than 50 years earlier. Prosecutors said Ruby Klokow threw her 6-month-old daughter roughly against a sofa, causing her to bounce to the floor. Klokow, who was charged after her adult son came forward in 2008 with stories of horrific child abuse, received a maximum sentence in May of 10 years in prison.
Three children locked in a bedroom while their mom went to work died in an April house fire in West Allis. Their mother, 25-year-old Angelica Belen, was sentenced in September to 18 years in prison and 18 years of extended supervision for their deaths. Belen’s family and city officials criticized child welfare workers for failing to remove the children from her care even after she ignored warnings and repeatedly left them alone. A state investigation led to the overhaul of the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare’s in-home services program.
Jaren Kuester, of Waukesha, was charged in May with killing a retired farmer, the farmer’s wife and the farmer’s brother at a home near Wiota a month earlier. Kuester’s father told journalists that the family had warned authorities that Kuester could be dangerous and tried to get him help. A judge ordered Kuester confined to a mental institution in October.
Sparks from logging equipment ignited a massive wildlife in Douglas County in May. The fire consumed about 7,400 acres, destroyed 17 homes and forced dozens to flee. Firefighters needed three days to contain it. The blaze was the largest fire in Wisconsin in 33 years.
POLICE STRIP-SEARCH SCANDAL
A Milwaukee police officer was convicted of conducting illegal body-cavity searches on male residents, under the pretense of looking for drugs that were never found. Michael Vagnini was sentenced in June to 26 months in prison, and three other officers were convicted of lesser offenses for allegedly watching Vagnini and failing to intervene. At least 20 people have filed lawsuits against the police department over the strip searches.
The Archdiocese of Milwaukee released 6,000 pages of documents in July that included personnel files for 42 priests with substantiated allegations of child sexual abuse against them. The documents showed New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan came up with a plan to pay some abusers to leave the priesthood while Dolan was archbishop of Milwaukee. The cardinal implemented the plan after Vatican officials failed to act on his pleas to defrock problem priests.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld the second-degree reckless homicide conviction of a central Wisconsin couple who had prayed rather than seek medical attention for their 11-year-old daughter, who died of untreated diabetes in 2008. Dale and Leilani Neumann, of Weston, argued on appeal that state laws weren’t clear on when someone becomes criminally liable for engaging in prayer. The justices rejected that argument 6-1 in July, saying the statute on child abuse was sufficiently clear.
The federal government in August approved the Menominee Nation’s plans for an off-reservation casino in Kenosha, but Republican Gov. Scott Walker must still sign off on the project. Walker has said his approval hinges on three criteria. The project must have community support, it can’t lead to a net increase in gambling and the state’s other 10 tribes must allow it. The Ho-Chunk Nation and the Forest County Potawatomi oppose the casino. It’s unclear when the governor may make a decision.
POLICE KILLER RELEASED
A man who pleaded insanity after killing two Waukesha County police officers in 1975 was released from a mental hospital in September after doctors testified he may have been sane all along. Alan Randall’s good behavior had earned him privileges and limited freedoms in the hospital, and prosecutors said if he’d shown the same behavior in prison he’d have been paroled as early as 1992. Instead, he remained institutionalized for 21 more years, in part because the judge was concerned about whether Randall’s initial homicidal trigger persisted.
Transportation officials rushed to shut down the Leo Frigo bridge over the Fox River in Green Bay in September after a concrete support pier settled by a little more than 2 feet, creating a long, deep dip in the pavement. The bridge, the second-longest in Wisconsin, sank almost another inch by mid-October. An estimated $7.7 million in repairs could be completed by mid-January.
Associated Press writer Todd Richmond in Madison, Wis., contributed to this report.