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Footprints in snow are new tool for cops; Racine woman reaches goal: One act of kindness for every year she’s lived; More state news

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Police say the new snow in Wisconsin this week has been a great investigative tool.

On Tuesday officers in Rhinelander followed snow tracks to catch a burglar at a cellphone store.

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Yesterday Sheboygan police followed footprints in the snow to locate a man who drove his car into a storm-water retention pond. Authorities were called around 3 a.m. Thanksgiving to check out reports of a car that crashed upside down in three feet of water. Rescuers broke open the front passenger door as divers looked for a body which wasn't there.

Sheboygan police then found footprints that led to a house, and with the help of his family, officers tracked down the 49-year-old man who was driving the vehicle. No one else was in it.

Police said icy roads and alcohol might have been contributing factors in the mishap. They're still investigating.

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Racine woman reaches goal: One act of kindness for every year she’s lived

Thanksgiving marked the end of a month-long mission for Abby Grahn.

The Racine County woman celebrated her 49th birthday yesterday by completing 49 random acts of kindness.

Grahn, of Mount Pleasant, said she was dreading her birthday because it always means the start of winter. She told the Racine Journal Times she was lying in bed one night when she got inspired to start giving back to people and stop feeling down.

On Halloween Grahn posted her promise on Facebook to do 49 wonderful things for others. They included helping a disabled woman get shopping bags in her car, giving a man $6 for gasoline after his tank hit empty and helping rake an older person’s leaves.

Some of Grahn’s Facebook friends helped out. One provided 10 McDonald’s gift certificates for her to give out.

Grahn said her theme was “Live, Laugh and Love.”

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Toddler in mom’s arms killed by rental truck

A toddler killed by a hit-and-run driver in Milwaukee has been identified as 18-month-old Ariana Matosek.

Police had a 26-year-old man in custody, but they later learned he was not driving the rental truck that hit the girl and her mother. Officials said 21-year-old Cheyenne Jackson was holding Ariana in her arms when they were hit by a truck that had just turned onto the street they were crossing. It happened late Wednesday afternoon on Milwaukee’s south side.

Police Lt. Mark Stanmeyer said officers have identified another suspect. That person was still at large as of mid-day on Thanksgiving.

Jackson was still hospitalized at last word with non-life-threatening injuries.

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Milwaukee courthouse fire cleanup costs top $10 million

Cleanup costs have surpassed $10 million from an electrical fire at the Milwaukee County Courthouse July 6.

Universal Restoration Services of Menomonee Falls has billed the county $10.2 million, mainly for cleanup work and providing temporary electricity to the courthouse and the adjacent Safety and Criminal Justice buildings.

The Journal Sentinel says more bills are on the way, including more than $1 million to design and install new electrical components. County administrative services director Don Tyler could not say what the final damages and repair costs might be. He believes they'll be covered by a state insurance fund for local government properties.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation. Arson has been ruled out. Tyler said other possible causes are being looked into, including faulty electrical installations and poor maintenance.

If flaws are found, Tyler said insurers would most likely seek reimbursements from contractors involved in the original work. Back in February, a county report said the courthouse electrical system needed major improvements. The last upgrades were made 48 years ago.

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Transplanted squirrel now back in Utah

A squirrel that was taken from Utah to Wisconsin is back home.

It all started when a truck driver lured the rodent into a box trap at a rest stop on I-80 near Utah's border with Wyoming. After she arrived in Madison, the squirrel was given to a family as a pet, but she was too wild for those people, and they turned the squirrel over to a wildlife sanctuary two months later.

The rodent was a Uinta ground squirrel. Sanctuary officials later learned that the species thrives in Utah and Wyoming, and they were afraid the squirrel would not survive in Wisconsin.

They were planning to fly the rodent back to Utah, but a former assistant agreed to drive the squirrel back since he was going on a backpacking trip there anyway.

The critter is now at the Northern Utah Wildlife Rehab Center in Ogden, where they're getting the squirrel back on a proper diet. Meanwhile, the center is coming up with a name and is taking votes on its Facebook page. They're trying to choose between Amelia and Madison.

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Madison conference focuses on Obamacare implementation

A conference will be held in Madison next month to examine the start-up of the Affordable Care Act.

Kathleen Falk, the regional director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is expected to be at the Dec. 10 forum. State Health Services Deputy Secretary Kevin Moore is also scheduled to be on hand, along with other government officials and numerous health care industry leaders.

The Wisconsin Health News is putting on the forum just over three weeks before the start of the so-called "individual mandate" in which people must buy health insurance or face fines.

Repairs are still being made to the Website for the federal purchasing exchange for individuals. On Wednesday the White House said it would delay until next November the start of an online portal where small businesses can get insurance.

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Wisconsin man charged with cross-country sex trafficking

A La Crosse man has pleaded not guilty to nine federal sex trafficking charges in Utah.

Prosecutors said Ontario Lowery, 34, and a 22-year-old female accomplice forced two women to travel between Wisconsin and California to engage in prostitution in July 2011. Officials said the activity occurred in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska and Nevada as well as in Wisconsin, California and Utah.

An indictment in the case was unsealed this week in Salt Lake City. It indicated that the 22-year-old La Crosse accomplice was also charged. She was not in custody at last word.

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Wife, second woman suspects in death of man missing for month

Fond du Lac Police say they've found a body believed to be that of a man missing for four weeks.

An autopsy is expected to confirm the man's identity, which is said to be Timothy Nance.

His wife Eve and Tina Ewell were taken into custody as possible suspects. Both had bond hearings Wednesday, pending the filing of charges. Circuit Judge Richard Nuss set bond at $100,000 for Eve Nance and $50,000 for Ewell.

Officials have not given more details about the case, including the spot where the body was found. Police and the district attorney's office plan to say more at a news conference set for Tuesday.

Nance and Ewell are due back in court Wednesday when they could face charges for the first time.

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New trend in thefts: catalytic converters

Two Chicago men are due back in court next week for allegedly stealing catalytic converters from vehicles near Appleton.

Converter thefts were recently said to be on the rise in the Fox Valley as thieves sell them to scrap dealers for the precious metals they contained.

Quintohn Holmes, 29, and Reese Bell, 25, were charged in Outagamie County this week with eight felony counts of property damage and seven charges of misdemeanor theft. Bell was also charged with obstructing police for giving them a fake name.

Authorities said the case was cracked last week. A witness told police he saw a man trying to steal his catalytic converter, and suspect left in a white van that a detective tracked down with a GPS monitor. Officers then received reports of other catalytic converter thefts. The van was later found in Fond du Lac with eight stolen converters inside.

Both defendants were in jail at last word under $10,000 bonds. Bell is due back in court next Wednesday. Holmes has a preliminary hearing set for next Thursday.

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Assembly speaker wants limits on Web court records

The Wisconsin Assembly Speaker is the latest to support limits of what you can see on the state’s computerized court records.

Republican Robin Vos told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that baseless criminal charges and long-resolved lawsuits should not be “scarlet letters that unfairly dog citizens through life.”

The online court system is extremely popular. Over 7.5 million viewers checked out a 500 million court files during the year ending in August. Landlords and journalists are common users. So are people checking out criminal histories of those who want to date them.

Vos said he doesn’t want to stop that activity. But he does say that records of those not found guilty should be removed after a period of time.

Freshman Assembly Republican Mary Czaja of Irma is drafting a bill on the subject, but it’s not known what it would include.

Democrats have a bill to let the general public only see cases in which people were convicted. It’s the only bill that has reached the public hearing stage, but it’s not likely to pass since no majority Republicans have expressed support.

Another, more limited proposal would remove financial judgments from debtor’s online records eight years after they’re paid off. A third bill would let prostitution crimes be removed if the defendants are minors and victims of human trafficking.

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Jews celebrate two holidays: Hanukkah and Turkey Day

Jewish Wisconsinites took a rare opportunity for an extended observance of Hanukkah because the day fell on Thanksgiving when most people didn't have to work.

In Madison about a dozen members of the city's Jewish Federation got together at a house last night for a Hanukkah and Thanksgiving potluck dinner. It was the first time since the 19th century that Hanukkah fell on Turkey Day, and it's not supposed to happen again for another 70,000 years.

Eliza Gepner told the Wisconsin State Journal she didn't have to cram a celebration between the end of the school day and bedtime for her three kids. This year her family took their time to exchange gifts and light candles before having their Thanksgiving turkey.

La Crosse rabbi Saul Prombaum said many non-Jewish people have asked him whether Jews celebrate Thanksgiving, apparently because Hanukkah can be so close to the secular holiday. Prombaum told the State Journal the convergence gave Jews a chance to show others “We celebrate most all holidays.”

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