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Heavy rains, strong winds hit central Wisconsin; Three die in Trempealeau County accident; 14 more state news briefs

Central Wisconsin was pounded by rain yesterday and last night.

Wisconsin Rapids had 3.6 inches -- almost twice as much as the city's old record rainfall for the date set in 1990. The National Weather Service said Rapids also had marble-sized hail and 54 mph winds.

In nearby Nekoosa, trees and power lines fell. They also had street floods and dime-sized hail.

New London had almost three inches of rain yesterday. Necedah had 2.5 inches of rain extending into the overnight, plus small hail. Plover had 3/4 inch of rain in just 10 minutes.

Hail of an inch or less fell at Eau Claire, Barron, Rosendale, Adams and Appleton. Rush hour motorists in Oshkosh had flooded streets downtown late yesterday.

Storms also hit far southern Wisconsin where 1,200 We Energies customers were without power this morning. More than 200 Wisconsin Public Service customers were in the dark in the Green Bay area. All told, around 1,500 outages were reported by the state's five largest utilities.

More showers and isolated storms are in the forecast today. There's a chance of rain in the statewide forecast every day into the weekend.


Three die in Trempealeau County accident

Western Wisconsin authorities continue to investigate a traffic crash that killed three people in Trempealeau County.

Sheriff Richard Anderson said an eastbound SUV veered into the opposite lane where it collided head-on with a mini-van. The van caught fire.

The accident happened about 7:30 a.m. yesterday Monday on Hwy. 95 between Arcadia and Blair.

The SUV driver died at a hospital in Whitehall. She was the only one in her vehicle. The mini-van driver and a passenger were killed.

Two other people in the van were taken to area hospitals. Their conditions were not disclosed.

Deputies are still trying to figure out what caused the crash. The victims' names were not immediately released.


Ryan book says GOP doomed unless it attracts younger, more diverse voters

Paul Ryan's new book is being released today.

In it, the former vice presidential candidate from Janesville said the GOP is doomed to future election defeats unless it can expand its base beyond older white voters.

Ryan's book is called "The Way Forward, Renewing the American Idea."

The House Budget chairman is speculated to be a 2016 White House hopeful, and a book is normally what candidates put out a couple years in advance. Gov. Scott Walker did the same thing earlier this year.

In calling for more inclusion, Ryan is following the lead of Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus from Kenosha, who commissioned a study that reached the same conclusions.

Ryan's book cites his own previous rhetoric as part of the problem. He repudiated his previous claim that America is made up of "makers and takers" -- the takers being those who get more from the government than they put in.

Ryan said a constituent called him on it at the Rock County Fair, asking if a taker is the person who lost a job and is on unemployment or a veteran who served in Iraq and now gets his care through the Veterans Administration.

Ryan's book also discloses that his father had an alcohol problem before he died.


Man charged with bungee jumping from construction crane

An eastern Wisconsin man faces a criminal charge for climbing on a construction crane and jumping down with a bungee cord.

Nicholas Propson, 26, of Maribel is charged with a misdemeanor count of illegally entering a construction site.

Authorities said he bungee jumped from a 140 ft. tall construction crane last month at Acuity Insurance in Sheboygan. His feat appeared on YouTube, and after that, a company manager called police. The video showed other people, including another person behind him on the crane.

Propson turned himself in four days after the incident, but police said he refused to tell them who was with him.

The contractor that owned the crane said the machine had to be recertified after the incident, and that process cost $3,000. The firm filed a request for restitution in Sheboygan County Circuit Court.


Brewers stadium vendor wants to sell beer from vending machines

The way beer is regulated, you might think it's impossible to buy it from vending machines, but baseball fans in Minneapolis are doing it and the food vendor for the Milwaukee Brewers wants to offer it too.

Sportservice Inc. has filed an application with Milwaukee's licensing division for the OK to install two self-service beer vending units in Miller Park. A city panel will consider the request next month.

The idea is to speed up purchases for baseball fans so they can get back to the action on the field. Fans would go to a cash register, show ID's, and then buy cards for certain monetary amounts. Those cards would be scanned at the vending machines where buyers could choose the brands and amounts of beer that they want. Monitors would be at the machines to double check ID's and ban those who look like they've had one too many.

The Minnesota Twins were reportedly the first Major League Baseball team to offer self-service beer a couple weeks before they hosted the All-Star Game in mid-July.


Man pleads not guilty to threatening governor’s son

A Milwaukee man charged with threatening one of Gov. Scott Walker's sons could find out next week when his trial date will be.

Robert Peffer, 31, has pleaded not guilty to four misdemeanor counts of making threats on a computer.

Authorities said Walker's son Matthew started getting threatening messages on Twitter June 30 when he turned 20. According to prosecutors, Peffer said he came across Matthew's Twitter handle when the governor tweeted him a happy birthday wish. The defendant later sent Matthew 35 other messages.

Matthew goes to Marquette University, and he's the head of the Wisconsin Federation of College Republicans.

In court records, Peffer said his only beef against Matthew Walker is that he's the governor's son. Peffer had been involved in Walker's failed recall effort in 2012.

The Journal Sentinel said Peffer was also investigated for making threats against President Obama last year and for comments and images related to the 2012 shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo.


Stepson takes insanity plea in baseball bat killing of elderly man

A central Wisconsin man claims he was insane when he allegedly killed his stepfather with a baseball bat.

Andrew Pray of Plover pleaded not guilty by reason of mental disease yesterday to a Portage County charge of first-degree intentional homicide.

Pray, who turned 33 last Friday, will now get a mental competency exam. A judge will review it at a conference on Oct. 6.

Pray is accused of striking 77-year-old Christopher Bonnstetter three or four times with the bat as the victim was resting on his living room floor May 26. Authorities said Pray's mother tried calling for help and was forced to go to a neighbor to get assistance. Pray was arrested a short time later.

--Raymond Neupert, WSAU, Wausau


Family Action revokes endorsement of Assembly candidate

A pro-family group has revoked its endorsement of a Republican candidate for the state Assembly.

Wisconsin Family Action says Ashton Kirsch of Baraboo has views on marriage that are too different from the group's traditional support for one-man, one-woman marriage. The group's director refused to tell the AP if that means Kirsch favors same-sex marriage.

Kirsch has not commented.

Family Action promoted the state's constitutional amendment against gay marriage when voters approved it in 2006. That amendment is now being challenged in a federal appeals court.

Kirsch received 71% of the vote last week in a three-way Republican primary for the Assembly seat that's being given up by Democrat Fred Clark. Kirsch faces Democrat Dave Considine in November. Considine also won a three-way primary in his party last Tuesday.


No human West Nile cases confirmed yet this year

August and September are when we start seeing humans get the West Nile virus in Wisconsin, but it hasn't happened yet.

State health officials report no confirmed human cases this summer and just one probable case -- which cropped up before the Fourth of July in St. Croix County.

Fifteen birds have come down with the mosquito-borne West Nile this year. The state has reported its first case of a horse getting the virus. State Veterinarian Paul McGraw said a 4 1/2 year old mare became ill in St. Croix County and is now recovering.

That agency encourages horse owners to vaccinate their animals for both West Nile and Eastern Equine Encephalitis. Officials say West Nile kills about a third of the horses it infects, while the encephalitis kills 90% of affected horses.

State agriculture officials also advise everyone to eliminate places, like buckets and old tires, where infected mosquitoes can breed. They also suggest keeping birdbaths clean and outdoor pools chlorinated.


Waupaca Foundry sells for $1.3 billion

The Waupaca Foundry is being sold.

The private investment firm of KPS Capital Partners said this morning it has agreed to sell the company to Hitachi Metals for $1.3 billion.

Waupaca is the world's largest iron foundry. According to KPS, it's North America's top supplier of iron castings for the auto and commercial vehicle industry, agriculture and the construction and industrial markets.

The sale to Hitachi is expected to be finalized before the end of the year.


Former Milwaukee County official charged with taking bribes

A former Milwaukee County official is due in court this afternoon after he was charged yesterday with taking bribes.

Dennis Dietscher, 55, of Hales Corners allegedly arranged to have a company perform over $10 million in repairs and restorations to county property. Prosecutors said that in exchange, the firm of Belfor USA gave Dietscher hunting and fishing trips, lavish dinners, tools, repair work for his own house and other kickbacks.

Dietscher was arrested in February after he was reportedly caught having his own roofing firm bill Milwaukee County for work at a park, which was actually tree removals at his father's house in Big Bend.

Dietscher faces six felony charges, including two counts of accepting bribes, two counts of misconduct and fraud in public office and two counts of false swearing.

Media reports said Dietscher played a major role in coordinating millions of dollars of repairs after last summer's Milwaukee County Courthouse fire, but the new charges are not connected with that work.


Zelich pleads not guilty in suitcase bodies case

Former West Allis police officer Steven Zelich has pleaded not guilty to killing Jenny Gamez, one of two women he allegedly murdered and hid in suitcases.

Zelich, 52, was arraigned yesterday on his Kenosha County charges of homicide and hiding a corpse. That involved the 2012 death of Gamez, 19, after the two reportedly played a sexual choking game at a Kenosha hotel.

The bodies of Gamez and Laura Simonson, 37, of Farmington, Minn., were found in separate suitcases in early June along a rural roadside near Lake Geneva. Charges are pending in the case of Simonson, who died in similar circumstances last fall in Rochester, Minn.

Zelich returns to court next month on two Walworth County charges of hiding corpses. A status hearing in his Kenosha County case is set for Oct. 21.


Brown County man gets 18 years in prison in death of two-year-old

A Green Bay man will spend 18 years in prison for causing the death of his girlfriend's two-year-old son.

Nicholas Willies struck a plea deal in June with Brown County prosecutors. He pleaded no contest to an amended charge of second-degree reckless homicide in the death of Alex Fountain in January of last year. The toddler died from head and abdominal injuries.

Willies, 30, apologized to the Fountain family during his sentencing yesterday. The boy's mother Juanita said Willies robbed the world of a beautiful, smiling child.

Circuit Judge Marc Hammer said Willies should not have been caring for the youngster because he couldn't care for anyone but himself. When he leaves prison, Willies must spend another 14 years under extended supervision.


Sept. 1 is deadline for signing up for special deer hunt

A special deer hunt begins in early October for Wisconsin's disabled residents.

The Department of Natural Resources is reminding those hunters that the deadline to sign up is Sept. 1.

Property owners are allowing the special hunt on 7,600 acres in 44 counties throughout the state. Disabled hunters must enroll with a property owner. A list of those owners, plus more information, is available on the DNR's website accessible at


Crops still need rain

A relatively cool and dry summer is still hampering the Wisconsin corn crop.

The National Ag Statistics Service says the corn matured nicely over the past week, but the plant's silk and dough levels are still 4% below the average for the past five years. Sixty-five percent of the state's corn is rated good to excellent.

Sixty-eight percent of Wisconsin soybeans are good to excellent. The beans are maturing a little ahead of schedule.

There's still a need for rain. Only 53% of the state's farm fields have adequate moisture levels, and 45% are short or very short of moisture. That's 2% more than a week ago.

Parts of central Wisconsin had rains yesterday that were too heavy to soak in. Wisconsin Rapids had the most with almost 3 2/3 inches. More showers are in the statewide forecast today with a chance of rain every day into the weekend.


UW-Milwaukee one of friendliest campuses for LGBT students

UW-Milwaukee is one of the nation's 50 friendliest colleges for lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender students.

The Campus Pride blog listed the 50 schools in alphabetical order. It said the list highlights positive efforts to improve safety and academic life for LGBT students.

Shane Windmeyer, who created the index, said more colleges than ever want to be viewed as LGBT friendly and a welcoming place for all students. He said it has a direct impact on colleges' recruiting efforts.

Campus Pride said it has seen an increase in the numbers of schools promoting themselves as LGBT friendly. As a result, the blog increased its list of top schools from 25 to 50. Milwaukee is the only Wisconsin school on the list.