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Family of teen killed by street vacuum files suit; Bear wanders into courthouse parking ramp; 10 more state news briefs

SHEBOYGAN -- The family of a Sheboygan teenager struck and killed by a city vehicle in 2011 now wants $250,000 in damages.

Relatives of Jaime Olivas, 18, have filed a damage claim to be considered by the Common Council Monday evening. If it's rejected, the family can file suit.

Olivas was crossing a street away from a crosswalk when he was hit by a Sheboygan public works vehicle.

The family said the city was negligent because it mounted a leaf-collection system in a way that obstructed the driver's vision. The damage claim also said the driver was negligent because he failed to see Olivas. The driver had worked for the city for 38 years and was ten days away from retirement when the incident occurred.

An investigation by the State Patrol showed that the leaf vacuum was a major factor in the mishap along with the decision by Olivas to walk on the street away from a crosswalk.

Media reports said safety concerns were raised before the death and it prompted them to get new leaf-vacuum systems mounted behind city trucks instead of in front.



Bear wanders into courthouse parking ramp

WAUSAU -- A black bear made himself at home during the weekend in the heart of central Wisconsin's largest metro area.

Marathon County sheriff's officials said the confused bear wandered through the east side of Wausau on Saturday morning before it ended up downtown in the basement parking lot of the courthouse. An animal control officer subdued the bear with a drugged dart.

Sheriff's Lt. Bill Millhausen said the general public was never threatened and the bear did not have a record of harassing anyone so it was released in a wooded county park outside of Wausau. Millhausen said his officers recently got training on using his department's new tranquilizer gun.

Sheriff's Lt. Mark Wagers said the bear was an unusual sight for Wausau, but officers have dealt with a variety of animals that get trapped in the courthouse garage. Deer and owls have ventured there in the past.

-- Raymond Neupert, WSAU, Wausau



Pilot killed when acrobatic plane crashes

A pilot was killed Sunday during the Stevens Point Air Show.

Police said a 47-year-old man was performing aerial maneuvers in a 1993 YAK 55M when his craft went down in a wooded area about 1,000 feet east of the runway at the Stevens Point Municipal Airport.

WAOW TV of Wausau was covering the show when it captured dramatic video of the crash. It showed the plane dropping and wavering just before it did a flip. It then fell straight down into the wooded area that was distant from the spectators' viewing point. Police stopped the air show at that point and sent viewers home.

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board were called to investigate. The airport reopened for general flights around 4 p.m. Sunday -- about 3.5 hours after the crash occurred.

The crash site is near a part of the Stevens Point Green Circle walking and bicycling trail. That part of the trail is closed until further notice.

The air show was supposed to feature a number of aerobatic performances and displays of World War II aircraft. Before the show began, a ceremony took place to rename the airfield in honor of World War II and Korean War pilot Conrad "Connie" Mattson.

View video of the crash here:

-- Larry Lee, WSAU, Wausau


Eau Claire man given two years prison for crash that killed wife, another woman

EAU CLAIRE -- A 69-year-old Eau Claire man is about to spend two years in a state prison for causing a drunk driving crash that killed his wife and another woman and injured seven others.

Gerald Larson must also spend four years under extended supervision once he's no longer behind bars.

The crash occurred in September of 2012 in the Chippewa County town of Eagle Point. Authorities said Larson was driving from a bar to a resort when he drove through a stop sign and collided with another vehicle at an intersection.

Larson's wife Karen was killed, along with Lori Barger of Altoona. Three others in Larson's vehicle were hurt, along with four people from Wheeler in the other unit.

The driver's blood alcohol level was 1.9% -- over 1.5 times the legal limit.

Larson was originally charged with 18 felonies, but they were bargained down to the point in which prosecutors recommended two years in a county jail.

Circuit Judge James Isaacson rejected that, ordering prison and supervision instead. His attorney said Larson was very remorseful, and his cataracts might have been a contributing factor in the mishap.



Three face charges after spontaneous pedestrian beating

MADISON -- Three men face criminal charges after they allegedly refused to stop for a pedestrian in Madison and then beat the walker after he slapped the hood of their vehicle early Saturday, just after midnight on University Avenue.

Police said a 29-year-old man was crossing an intersection when a sport utility vehicle cut him off. When he slapped the vehicle for not yielding, police said the three men inside got out, beat him and drove away. The pedestrian suffered a broken nose.

The attackers were found a short time after the incident. Police said all three face charges of substantial battery. One of them also faces a charge of possessing cocaine with the intent to deliver.


Young Illinois camper killed by falling tree

BARABOO -- A ten-year-old girl was killed early Sunday when a tree fell on her family's tent at a southern Wisconsin campground.

The accident occurred around 4 a.m. Sunday at Devil's Lake State Park near Baraboo. The girl, who was from Cary, Ill., died at the scene.

She and her father were trapped inside the tent. The father was treated at a hospital and later released. Her 13-year-old brother climbed out and had minor cuts and bruises.

Park superintendent Steve Schmelzer said a thunderstorm had passed through not too long before the incident and the tree might have been weakened by strong winds and about 1.5 inches of rain. Schmelzer said the tree otherwise appeared to be healthy and fully green.


Appeals Court will hear victims' plea for Archdiocese’s cemetery funds

CHICAGO -- A federal appeals court in Chicago was to hear arguments Monday on whether the Milwaukee Catholic Archdiocese must make $55 million in cemetery funds available to priest sex abuse victims.

Creditors in the archdiocese bankruptcy case say the church has no legal right to protect its cemetery fund. They also say Federal Judge Rudolph Randa had a conflict of interest when he ruled that the church can keep the money because he bought plots in the Catholic cemeteries and has numerous relatives buried there.

Creditors also believe that former Milwaukee Archbishop Tim Dolan created the fund specifically to hide money from the priest abuse victims. The church says the donations it receives are intended to care for Catholic cemeteries throughout the 10-county Archdiocese in southeast Wisconsin.

Randa said the church fund was protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 and the First Amendment's freedom of religion.

Nationally legal observers call this the first case to be raised about the use of trust funds under the Religious Freedom act. They expect any decision to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court where the final outcome may affect other cases which involve religion's impact on health care and gay marriage.


Overdose death prosecutions vary by county

It's been 26 years since Wisconsin has allowed reckless homicide convictions for those who supply the drugs that kill those who overdose.

Now Gannett Wisconsin Media says a person's chances of being convicted depend on where the offenses take place. The chain of ten daily newspapers in Wisconsin's mid-section found that prosecutors are generally becoming more aggressive in filing charges under the state's "Len Bias Law."

However, drug suppliers in some counties get a decade or more in prison for overdose deaths while suspects in other places never get charged.

Gannett said La Crosse, Fond du Lac and Waukesha counties are especially aggressive in charging suppliers.

Dodge County District Attorney Kurt Klomberg said he'd do it more often, but sometimes it's hard to prove who supplied the dose that caused a user's death. Other times, Gannett says authorities don't think to investigate certain deaths as drug-related.

Last year, Wisconsin prosecutors charged 71 people with first-degree reckless homicide in drug overdoses. That's up from 47 in 2012. Twenty-one people were convicted last year. Their average sentences were just over six years. The maximum is 25 years.

Numerous states passed similar laws in the years after basketball prospect Len Bias died from a drug overdose just before his pro career could begin. Wisconsin adopted its "Len Bias Law" in 1988.

Last fall, WITI TV in Milwaukee found that prosecutors filed almost no charges under the law until heroin became popular again over the last decade. That review found that Len Bias law prosecutions in southeast Wisconsin grew by over 300% since 2008.


Clean Water group launches new push to return unused meds

Don't be surprised if the place where you buy your medicines encourages you to return pills that you don't use.

The Great Lakes Clean Water Organization says it will encourage pharmacies in Wisconsin and four other states to take part in its "Yellow Jug Old Drugs Program."

It started in 2008 in Michigan, and later expanded to Wisconsin and Illinois. Indiana and Ohio will get on board this month.

It's among a number of efforts in recent years to keep old and unused prescription drugs from being flushed down toilets and thrown into the garbage. Those programs try to avoid drug chemicals from polluting public water supplies -- which we're seeing more of during the past few years.

The Yellow Jug Program says it has properly disposed of almost 50 million tons of old medicines in its six-year existence.


Fall election ballot will gel after Monday's deadline

MADISON -- Barring any petition challenges, Wisconsinites will know by Monday evening who will be on Wisconsin's fall election ballots.

Candidates for congressional, state and county offices have until 5 p.m. Monday to get their nomination papers filed.

One question is whether Assembly Democrat Brett Hulsey of Madison will have the 2,000 valid nominating signatures required to be in an Aug. 12 primary for governor against Mary Burke.

Hulsey announced his long-shot bid just a few weeks ago. The Burke campaign has continued to set its sights on defeating Republican Gov. Scott Walker in November.

Four candidates for state attorney general are expected to file in the hopes of replacing Republican J.B. Van Hollen who's stepping down after this year.

On the federal level, the field will be set for a GOP primary in east central Wisconsin's Sixth District -- where Republican Tom Petri is retiring after 36 years in Washington.


Bar patron shot during robbery identified

RACINE -- A man shot and killed during a weekend robbery at a Racine tavern was identified as Joseph Walker, 47.

The Racine man was a customer at the American Legion bar when he was murdered around 1:30 a.m. Saturday.

Police were still looking for two suspects at last word -- both men, ages 20 to 30.

The tavern is across the street from the Family Fellowship Church. Pastor Scott Miller told the Racine Journal Times that people are willing to march for peace, but they also need to step up and help catch the offenders. He urged anyone with information on the shooting to come forward.


State schools get good marks on transparency

In a recent study, parents said Wisconsin was among six states that had the most readable and useful statewide report cards about their schools.

The Education Commission of the States ordered the study, which included reviews by 14 parents with wide educational, economic and geographic backgrounds.

Educational experts also reviewed the states' report cards, but Wisconsin was not among the eight best that they singled out. The report did say Wisconsin was one of only ten states that provided data on five measures which are considered essential for making schools accountable.

The areas include student achievement, graduation rates, academic growth, closing achievement gaps and data on student readiness for college and careers.

State public school Supt. Tony Evers said Wisconsin's high marks were the result of hard work by many stakeholders.

Most states have created their own school report cards in recent years, as part of a deal with the Obama White House to avoid future federal sanctions under George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind Act.