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Wisconsin roundup: Lawsuit filed in death that sparked Tomah VA controversy; alleged Dells freeway murderer pleads insanity to reduced charges; and 10 more state news stories

MADISON  --  A wrongful death suit has been filed by the family of Jason Simcakoski, the Marine whose death sparked the controversy about the presrcibing of pain medications at the Tomah VA Medical Center.

The lawsuit says the Veterans Administration accepted responsibility for "action or inaction" that led to the death of the 35-year-old Stevens Point Marine -- but the family says the VA has "failed to follow its words with deeds," and it seeks unspecified damages. The suit was filed in federal court in Madison.

An autopsy showed that Simcakoski died from "mixed drug toxicity." The VA facility later responded by reassigning its medical director, firing its chief of staff for prescribing excessive pain medications, and creating a multi-step improvement plan at Tomah.


Feingold, Johnson get big help in their U.S. Senate race

Wisconsin's two major U.S. Senate candidates are getting some big time support.

Actor Robert Redford, who played a Democratic Senate hopeful in the 1972 movie "The Candidate," sent a fundraising email to Feingold supporters on Monday. And the national Super PAC "Let America Work" says it will start airing about $500,000 worth of ads for Republican incumbent Ron Johnson that focus on fighting terrorism.

A new Marquette Law School poll is due out Wednesday, and it could tell us whether more voters are tuning into the race -- something that normally happens around Labor Day. In the last Marquette poll Aug. 10, one of every five registered voters did not have an opinion of Feingold -- and one of every three voters still had no opinion of Johnson.


Actor Gene Wilder, Milwaukee native, dies at 83

STAMFORD, Conn. -- Wisconsin native Gene Wilder, who starred in an eclectic range of movie roles, has died.

His nephew says the 83-year-old Wilder died late Sunday at his home in Stamford, Conn. from the Alzheimer's disease he first suffered three years ago -- which he kept secret until now.

He was born in Milwaukee as Jerome Silberman in 1933 and graduated from the city's Washington High School -- and he later went to the University of Iowa, served in the Army, and performed on Broadway before his first movie role as a hostage in "Bonnie and Clyde" in 1967. Wilder also starred as a nervous accountant in "The Producers," the candy man in "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," and an obsessed scientist in "Young Frankenstein."

The Journal Sentinel says Wilder did want to return to Milwaukee after his father died there in 1973 -- but he came back in 1991 to be inducted into the Wisconsin Performing Arts Hall of Fame.


Alleged Dells freeway murderer pleads insanity to reduced charges

BARABOO  --  A 21-year-old man has pleaded insanity to reduced charges in the killing of a motorist on the Interstate near Wisconsin Dells.

Sauk County prosecutors have agreed to reduce an intentional homicide charge to reckless homicide against Zachary Hays -- and he entered pleas Monday to that, plus three counts of reckless endangerment. He'll undergo a mental exam, and he still faces charges in Milwaukee and Columbia counties as part of a day-long crime spree on May 1.

Investigators say Hays shot and killed 42-year-old Gabriel Sanchez in their West Allis apartment building -- and he later drove to Wisconsin Dells where he reportedly shot at vehicles and killed passenger Tracy Czackowski while her family was heading home from the Dells to suburban Chicago. His lawyer first mentioned Hays' mental health issues several weeks after the incidents.


More criticism for former Wisconsinite Kaepernick

SAN FRANCISCO -- Former Wisconsinite Colin Kaepernick is getting a ton of heat for sitting during the national anthem before three exhibition football games with his San Francisco 49ers.

State Assembly Republican Jeremy Thiesfeldt went to the same church as Kaepernick's parents during the quarterback's early years in Fond du Lac -- and Thiesfeldt tells KFIZ Radio he's especially upset that Kaepernick claims to be standing up for the oppressed, when he appeared to be hardly oppressed himself.

The San Francisco police union has complained to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and 49ers CEO Jed York about what the union calls Kaepernick's "incredible lack of knowledge" about the officer involved shootings he's protesting against. Even Donald Trump has chimed in, saying Kaepernick should "find a country that works better for him" -- and the GOP White House candidate added, "Let him try, it won't happen."


Feingold: Clinton is "trustworthy"

MADISON  --  Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Russ Feingold says his party's nominee for president is "reliable and trustworthy."

But after a campaign appearance in Madison, Feingold reaffirmed that Hillary Clinton should think about shutting down the controversial Clinton Foundation if she wins.

It's an issue in her campaign, amid reports that numerous people who met with Hillary Clinton when she was secretary of state gave money to the foundation. The Clintons have challenged those reports, but Feingold says "the highest level of security" should be applied to things like that for those who serve as president.

Feingold is in his own campaign against Senate Republican Ron Johnson -- and the Democrat leads Johnson by 11 points among likely voters in the latest Marquette poll with a new one coming out Wednesday.


Woman pleads insanity to killing her young son

SHEBOYGAN  --  A trial date of Nov. 9 is set for a Sheboygan Falls mother who reportedly claimed that "voices" caused her to kill her 2-year-old son.

Twenty-seven-year-old Katlyn Kinateder pleaded insanity Monday to first degree intentional homicide, and hiding a child's corpse. Sheboygan County District Attorney Joe DeCecco says Kinateder will have one or more psychiatric exams.

The defense wants to either move the trial, or bring in an outside jury due to heavy media coverage of the case -- and the court scheduled a hearing for Oct. 24 to give Kinateder a chance to change her plea.

Police say they had to subdue her before they found her toddler in a cardboard box wrapped in a blanket at her home earlier this month -- and reports say she might have been off her mental health medication at the time.

(Raymond Neupert, WHBL, Sheboygan)


Wisconsin high schools make Newsweek's top 500

Most Wisconsin public schools start fall classes Thursday, and 22 high schools have a lot to be proud of.

Whitefish Bay is the state's top selection on Newsweek's annual list of the nation's 500 best public high schools. Whitefish Bay is 61st nationally, with 95 percent of its students college bound, 99 percent graduating, and 85 percent ready for college.

The Kettle Moraine global charter school at Wales has the state's second highest listing at 130th naturally, followed by Cedarburg High at 145th. Kohler tops the list of Wisconsin schools ranked 200th through 400th followed by New Berlin Eisenhower, Greendale, Glendale Nicolet, Sussex Hamilton, Wales School for Arts, Appleton's Renaissance School for the Arts, Grafton, Williams Bay and Bay Port.

Eight state high schools are ranked 401st through 500th -- the Appleton Career Academy, De Pere, Muskego, Franklin, Marshfield, Waukesha West, Oshkosh West and Appleton North.


Suspects sought in Green Bay area murder

BELLEVUE  --  Sheriff's deputies in the Green Bay area have been looking for suspects in the shooting death of a 52-year-old woman.

Officers found the body of Suzette Langois outside her home in Bellevue early Monday morning. The State Crime Lab is helping deputies sort out the evidence, and rescue divers checked out a nearby stormwater holding pond to see if anything was hidden there.

Sheriff's officials say Langois was targeted by her killer -- and therefore, the neighborhood is not in danger.

At a news conference, Brown County Chief Deputy Todd Delain said his investigators wanted to talk with anyone who knows about the incident, or spoke with the victim within 24 hours of her death.


Beloit's ABC Supply agrees to large acquisition

BELOIT --  A large Wisconsin building supply distributor could get a lot bigger in a few months. ABC Supply of Beloit announced an agreement Monday to acquire "L" and "W" Supply, a Chicago-based supplier of steel framing, drywall, ceiling tiles and other building items.

ABC says it will be one of its largest acquisitions, but the terms were not disclosed. The company says the deal is subject to a federal antitrust review, and it's expected to be finalized by the end of ABC's fiscal year.

"L" and "W" would keep running as a separate division. It brought in $1.4 billion last year, giving ABC Supply total annual revenues of $8 billion if the deal goes through.


Abortions in Wisconsin drop for sixth straight year

MADISON  --  The number of abortions performed in Wisconsin has dropped for the sixth straight year. That's according to the latest annual report on induced abortions released by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services Monday.

The report shows that there were just under 5,700 abortions in the state last year compared with 5,800 abortions in 2014. That's a drop of 140 abortions, a 2.4 percent decline. Of the 5,660 abortions last year, 214 were performed on minors. Seventy-nine percent were surgical, while 21 percent were chemically induced.


Libertarian White House hopeful to make first state visit

MILWAUKEE --  The Libertarian candidate for president will make his first Wisconsin visit on Thursday night.

Gary Johnson will hold a rally at Serb Hall in Milwaukee. The former two-term governor of New Mexico had 10 percent support among Wisconsin's registered voters in the last Marquette Law School poll on Aug. 10.


UW officials not happy with ‘Number 1 party school’ ranking

MADISON  --  University of Wisconsin officials aren't happy that the flagship Madison campus is ranked first on a list of the nation's top party schools.

The ranking released Monday comes from the Princeton Review, a New York-based tutoring and test prep company that surveys thousands of students and rates colleges in a number of categories each year.

A statement from the school made no mention of the ranking, instead calling alcohol use on campus a "pressing public health concern" that hurts academic achievement and makes schools less safe. They noted that incoming students go through mandatory programs educating them about the dangers of alcohol.

Sarah Nigbor

Sarah J. Nigbor serves as a regional editor for RiverTown Multimedia, a position she began in April 2017. She joined RiverTown Multimedia in October 2013 as a news reporter for the New Richmond News, before being appointed editor of the Pierce County Herald in February 2015. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Spanish and French in 2001. She completed a minor in journalism in 2004. 

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