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Ex-con nabbed in 'Dells casino after 10-month flight; majority of Wisconsinites don't favor Walker presidential run; 9 more state stories

WISCONSIN DELLS -- Eric Hall, the man who allegedly stole an SUV and burglarized two River Falls businesses as part of a multi-county crime spree, has finally been captured.

Hall, who has been wanted for numerous crimes throughout Wisconsin since being released from prison last June was picked up about 11 p.m., Wednesday at the Ho-Chunk Casino near Wisconsin Dells.

The State Patrol and officers from Lake Delton and Baraboo helped Sauk County deputies with the arrest.

The 39-year-old Hall allegedly stole four vehicles in central and western Wisconsin just days after his prison release. Officials said he went on to steal numerous vehicles, assault a police officer, commit at least several burglaries, and engage officers in an unsuccessful high-speed chase.

Eric 'Buck' Hall

Hall was the subject of numerous crime alerts and a statewide manhunt. He was almost arrested last July at a home in Vesper in Wood County but a friend reportedly lied to sheriff's deputies about Hall's whereabouts -- while Hall stole the man's vehicle and sped away.

One of the stolen autos had a siren and emergency light belonging to a volunteer fire-fighter. Another had a shotgun and a rifle in it.

Authorities tied him to crimes from Darlington in southwest Wisconsin to Barron County in the northwest, to Oneida County in the far north central region, and many places in between.

The earliest portion of Hall's crime spree occurred in River Falls nearly a year ago. Read more about it here: http://www.riverfallsjournal.com/content/stolen-suv-business-burglaries-...

-- Craig Otto, Magnum Media, Tomah

No 'windfall' expected but Walker promises excess tax revenues to schools

APPLETON -- Gov. Scott Walker said Wisconsinites shouldn't expect a big windfall in state tax revenues, once the next projections come out in two weeks.

At an industrial ground-breaking ceremony near Appleton for a new Werner Electric facility Wednesday, Walker said any additional money should go to K-12 public schools.

It would go toward offsetting a $127 million cut in state school aid, which occurred by not renewing a previous special allocation in the first year of Walker's next two-year budget package.

The non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau is expected to release new state tax revenue projections the week of May 4. They'll take the recently-filed income tax returns into account, along sales tax revenues from an improved holiday shopping season from last December.

'Earth Day' observed with petitions protesting policy; Walker dodges climate-change question

MADISON -- Environmentalists observed Earth Day by delivering petitions with 100,000 signatures to Gov. Scott Walker's office.

They want Walker to condemn a recent decision by the state's Board of Commissioners of Public Lands, to prohibit its staffers from discussing climate change during work hours.

The agency is headed by Tia Nelson, daughter of Earth Day founder and former U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson. The Board manages school trust assets and gives grants to school libraries.

State Treasurer Matt Adamczyk, who sits on the public lands' board, has accused Tia Nelson of previously doing the business of a global warming task force on taxpayers' time, and still adding notes about it to the agency's reports.

Nelson has said her department does an excellent job of fulfilling its mission, but has not commented on the global warming matter.

On Wednesday, Walker was asked whether he believes global warming is caused by human activity. The potential 2016 White House candidate did not give a direct answer.

He said there should be a balance between a "sustainable economy and a sustainable environment" -- and the debate should focus on how to achieve both.

Vaccine under development; bird flu outbreak still pales against 1980's episode, chief vet says

The United States Department of Agriculture's chief veterinary officer says poultry infected with the bird flu do not live for very long after their symptoms appear. Doctor John Clifford told reporters yesterday it can only take hours for certain birds to become "very lethargic."

In Wisconsin, five flocks of chickens, egg hens, turkeys, and backyard birds have been hit by the H-5-N-2 virus, affecting over a million birds. Counties affected include Barron, Juneau, Jefferson and Chippewa. State agriculture officials said Wednesday the H-5-N-2 virus was found in a Jefferson County egg-laying operation with 800,000 hens. It marks the fifth case to be discovered in 10 days.

Branch medical officer Alicia Fry of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control said it's possible that the virus could be transferred from birds to humans but the possibility is very low.

Still, her agency is working on a human vaccine should it be needed. The avian flu virus is most likely transferred in colder weather.

Warmer temperatures are expected to stop the outbreaks at least until this fall when birds start flying south for the winter.

David Swayne of the U.S.D.A's Southeast Poultry Research Lab said more sun exposure in the spring and summer will kill off the virus because of the increased ultra-violet light in the warmer seasons.

The bird flu virus has killed millions of birds in the Midwest since early March but so far, chief veterinarian Clifford said it's not as bad as an avian flu outbreak in the Northeastern U.S. in the 1980's.

Prison officials must permit Navajo headband, venison meal request

A federal appeals court has ruled a Wisconsin prison must accommodate a Navajo Indian's request to wear a headband in his cell, and be served wild venison to celebrate a tribal feast.

David Schlemm filed suit in 2011, demanding that he be allowed to wear a colorful headband while praying and to celebrate his tribe's annual Ghost Feast with tacos that contain venison instead of the prison's standard beef stew. Federal Judge William Conley threw out the case last year. He said the barring of headbands is needed to keep gang members from identifying themselves. The judge also disagreed that a ban on wild meat violates Schlemm's religion.

This week, a three-judge panel from the Seventh Circuit Appellate Court in Chicago sided with the prisoner on both counts. It said the headband does not have tones associated with gangs, and it wouldn't hurt anything if he wore it only in his cell or at religious ceremonies.

Also, the court cited a federal law that requires prisons to change their rules to accommodate religious practices and saving money by using beef stew is not a compelling reason to deny the venison.

Schlemm also wanted weekly sweat-lodge ceremonies, and the right to smoke a personal pipe. The appellate panel agreed with Judge Conley not to allow those.

Schlemm was convicted of kidnapping, battery, and multiple sex assualts. He was at the state's most secure prison at Boscobel before being transferred to Green Bay. His earliest possible release date for extended supervision is 2026.

Plea deal pending in guardian embezzlement case

MILWAUKEE -- A plea deal is in the works for a Milwaukee woman accused of stealing $50,000 that was left to her young granddaughter.

Prosecutors said Betty Coleman, 56, lied about her criminal record, so she could be the guardian of the girl's estate. Officials and attorneys said Coleman wiped out the estate within five months, and used the money for alcohol, cigarettes, back rent, wigs, and numerous cash withdrawals.

The Journal Sentinel said Coleman also spent some of the stolen money on her current husband who, ironically, is in prison for molesting the same girl a number of years ago.

The case was first uncovered in probate court two years ago. In 2014, the granddaughter won a default judgment against Coleman for $150,000 on allegations that included theft and fraud.

The current criminal case involves a life insurance policy which paid $50,000 to the grand-daughter after Coleman's ex-husband died.

Coleman has pleaded innocent to felony embezzlement and misdemeanor contempt of court. She's due back in court May 6 when the status of her case will be reviewed.

Bucks' arena finance talks continue

MILWAUKEE -- More talks were scheduled Thursday to try and hammer out a financing agreement for a new Milwaukee Bucks' arena.

State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, and Milwaukee city and county leaders all met Wednesday with Bucks' president Peter Feigin). They said they made progress, after state lawmakers had called on Milwaukee officials to kick in more for the costs of the arena and its related amenities.

Mayor Tom Barrett has offered $17 million worth of infrastructure. Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele has not offered anything concrete. He said he's looking for something that will use tax dollars responsibility, while making sure the Bucks stay in Milwaukee.

The NBA has ordered a mid-2017 deadline to get a new arena built or else it could buy back the team and chart its future.

Gov. Scott Walker was not at Wednesday's session. He helped break ground for a new business in the Fox Valley, where he set might be a couple weeks before any deal gets close to being finalized.

The new arena is expected to cost around $500 million. Present and former Bucks' owners have pledged half that amount.

Possible GOP candidate Ben Carson makes Milwaukee appearance

MILWAUKEE -- Potential GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson spoke in Milwaukee Wednesday night but not mainly about politics.

The retired brain surgeon was the keynote speaker at a fund-raiser for the Summit Educational Association, which provides individual tutoring to inner-city kids.

Carson told his life story about growing up in poverty in Detroit, watching his mother work two or more jobs while rejecting public assistance, and how he became a pediatric neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins.

Carson did take a slap at President Obama's observation that we are not a Judeo-Christian nation. In Carson's words, "Fortunately, he doesn't get to decide that. We get to decide what kind of a nation we are." Carson has been competitive in early GOP presidential polling.

He has said he would announced on May 4 whether he'll run for the White House next year.

Survey: Most Wisconsinites don’t want Walker to run for president

The latest Wisconsin Survey shows most residents -- 59 percent -- don't want Gov. Scott Walker to run for president.

The governor is widely thought to be planning on entering the race for the Republican nomination.

The statewide survey shows Walker with just a 41 percent approval rating.

David Littig, a retired political scientist with the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, said that is surprising since Republicans swept state government in the last election.

If Walker runs for president, Littig said his stance on budget and tax issues plays well with Republicans. "Also, what people like about Gov. Walker is he's decisive, he's courageous, he seems to have integrity," he said. "But, at the same time, he's polarizing, he's inflexible."

It's those last qualities that Littig said he thinks won't play to national voters who aren't conservative.

"We're likely to have Walker back as the governor. And it's going to be tough sailing for a time," he said.

Littig said that is because some of Walker's budget-cutting and education proposals aren't polling well even among Republicans.

In identifying Walker's political views, 48 percent said the governor was "very conservative" and 37 percent identified him as "somewhat conservative." Five percent said he was "somewhat liberal" while another 5 percent said he was "liberal." Five percent said they were unsure of his political views while less than one percent said he was "moderate."

The survey also found concern among many about how Walker's anticipated run with effect the state. Forty-three percent of respondents said that they thought Walker's campaign trips were detrimental to Wisconsin. Thirty-six percent said that they thought the campaigning had no effect, 18 percent through they were beneficial to Wisconsin while 4 percent said they were unsure.

A majority of survey respondents also took a dim view of Walker's prospects if he was elected president. About 44 percent said that they thought he would make a poor president and 16 percent said he would be "not so good." Twenty-eight percent thought we would be a good president while 11 percent thought he would be an excellent chief executive. Only 1 percent were unsure, according to the survey.

Thirty-five percent of respondents identified as Republicans, 34 percent as Democrats and 26 percent said they were independents. About 57 percent said they consider themselves somewhat or very conservative while 37 percent said they are somewhat or very liberal.

The Wisconsin Survey is a random telephone sample of 600 adult Wisconsin residents that asks their opinions on national and state government, economic and policy issues. The survey's margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The survey was conducted by Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television and the Strategic Research Institute at St. Norbert College.

The latest Marquette University poll, released last week, showed Walker's job approval rating had dropped to 41 percent. It was at 49 percent in October.

-- Patty Murray, Wisconsin Public Radio

Elderly man's death was likely homicide

MADISON -- Madison Police are treating the death of a 76-year-old man last weekend as a homicide.

He was found dead in his apartment last Saturday morning, after neighbors saw newspapers building up outside.

Police said Wednesday they've learned of suspicious circumstances which caused officers to believe the man was murdered. Lt. Kelly Donahue said detectives think the victim was targeted by somebody, and the case does not pose a threat to the general public.

Officials have not said how the man died.

Name released in fatal Madison beltline crash

MADISON -- A woman killed in a Madison freeway crash Monday evening was identified Wednesday as Amanda "Amy" Hanneman, 30, of Stoughton.

Her car struck a tree Monday evening, after sliding off a ramp from eastbound Hwy. 12 to southbound Interstate 39-90 on the east edge of Madison.

The State Patrol said Hanneman was not wearing a seat belt at the time. She died at the crash scene.

Jury accepts insanity plea from ex-deputy who killed wife, sister-in-law from Lake Elmo, Minn.

MADISON -- Former Dane County sheriff's deputy Andrew Steele has been found not-guilty by insanity, in the shooting deaths of his wife and sister-in-law.

A jury in Madison deliberated for 10 hours before reaching a decision around 1 a.m., Thursday.

Jurors agreed with Steele's contention that the ALS he contracted last June damaged his brain, and was a factor in his decision to kill Ashlee Steele and her sister Kacee Tollefsbol of Minnesota two months later. The jury's vote was not unanimous, and only 10 votes were needed for a verdict in the sanity phase of the case. The vote was 10-2. The trial lasted 10 days and Steele did not testify.

Prosecutors believed that the 40-year-old Steele planned the killings.

Assistant District Attorney Andrea Raymond read jurors a suicide note that Steele had on his phone. She said he wanted to "go out like a rock star."

Steele's lawyer, Jessa Nicholson, said the verdict sets a precedent about taking brain damage seriously. She said the justice system needs to look at how people are affected by neurological issues, instead of just traditional psychological concerns.

The next step in the case is to determine Steele's mental state, and the terms of his commitment to an institution.

Oconto trucker accused of assaulting young boys

OCONTO -- A trucker from northeast Wisconsin is accused of molesting five boys on his travels.

The State Justice Department filed 13 felony charges Wednesday against Rodney Enneper, 45, of Oconto.

He made his first appearance in Oconto County Circuit Court but did not have a lawyer, so the proceeding was put off until Friday afternoon. Circuit Judge Jay Conley set bond at $250,000.

Prosecutors allege Enneper sexually assaulted the five boys during road trips in his rig, in an Oconto County forest, and in his trailer. The incidents occurred from 2005 through last August.

Charges include child enticement, and first-and-second degree child sexual assaults.

Oconto is located about 40 miles northeast of Green Bay.

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