Wisconsin roundup: State report describes care problems at King Veterans Home; Slender Man stabbing suspect to change plea; and 11 more state news stories

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MADISON  --  Another report describes substandard care at the State Veterans' Home at King in Waupaca County.

WISC TV says the state's health agency wrote the five-page report, which describes broken bones and other injuries to elderly veterans who reside at the home -- plus unsanitary conditions that led to gastrointestinal illnesses for 30 residents and 22 staffers for most of last year.

The report follows an extensive review by the Madison Capital Times on the conditions at King -- which Assembly Democratic Minority Leader Peter Barca called "sickening," and Senate Republican Luther Olsen of Ripon called "appalling."

The Legislature's Joint Audit Committee will soon consider seeking a formal audit of the home.

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Milwaukee service planned for nun killed in Mississippi

MILWAUKEE  --  Milwaukee Catholic Archbishop Jerome Listecki will lead a Mass Friday morning to honor one of the two nuns killed in their Mississippi home last week.

The Mass for 68-year-old Sister Margaret Held begins at 11 a.m.  at Saint Joseph Chapel, and she'll be buried Friday afternoon.

The Slinger native and Sister Paula Merrill were stabbed to death last Thursday, close to where they worked at a health clinic for the poor in Lexington, Miss. Forty-six-year-old Rodney Sanders is charged with capital murder in the two deaths.

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Libertarian Johnson visits Milwaukee, seeks inroads

MILWAUKEE  --  Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson tells a Wisconsin crowd this is the "craziest election ever," because he expects to win it.

But the former New Mexico governor told reporters during his visit to Milwaukee Thursday night he'll need to become a part of the televised debates with Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Johnson now has about half the threshold of support that's needed to be invited. He told hundreds of people during his Milwaukee rally that he would replace income and business taxes with a consumption tax -- he opposes a fence at the Mexican border -- and if elected, he would eliminate a number of federal departments.

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Johnson breaks with Trump's call for wall

MILWAUKEE  --  U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson says he agrees with fellow Republican Donald Trump's stances on immigration, but not his proposed 1,700-mile wall along the Mexican border.

The Republican Johnson, who chairs the Senate's Homeland Security committee, says there needs to be "better fencing" in certain places, and more technology to stop illegal border crossings.

Johnson, who's in tight re-election battle with Democrat Russ Feingold, also says there probably needs to be more "boots on the ground."

Johnson's comments came after he led a roundtable discussion in Milwaukee on opioids.

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Officials still don't know what caused Fitchburg house explosion

FITCHBURG  --  Officials still don't know what caused a house to explode in Fitchburg eight days ago, destroying or damaging about two dozen nearby homes.

Residents attended a community meeting Thursday night, where Fire Chief Joe Pulvermacher assured that their neighborhood is still safe to live in.

Officials have not ruled out natural gas as a possible cause for the explosion, but Madison Gas and Electric says there were no leaks to their pipes on the night of the blast.

Police Chief Thomas Blatter says the incident left trails of debris "similar to a tornado," and people have been finding personal records and photos scattered around the area.

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State tax collections less than projected

MADISON  --  Wisconsin received about $85 million fewer tax dollars than it projected for the fiscal year ending in June.

The Revenue Department says total state tax collections still rose by 3.8 percent, and the Legislative Fiscal Bureau says the state remains on track to have a $241 million surplus for the first year of the two-year budget period.

In June, the non-partisan budget office projected a $325 million surplus for the past year -- and the new tax collection numbers reduced that surplus. The Revenue agency's report does not take state spending discrepancies into account, and a more complete review of the state government's financial status is due out in October.

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Slender Man stabbing suspect to change plea

WAUKESHA  --  Both girls accused of stabbing a classmate in Waukesha in allegiance to Slender Man now claim to have had mental health issues at the time.

A court filing this week shows that 14-year-old Anissa Weier will plead insanity next Friday to her adult charge of attempted homicide.

The other young defendant, Morgan Geyser, entered a similar plea last month. Both were 12 when they allegedly stabbed Payton Leutner 19 times during a 2014 sleepover to celebrate Geyser's birthday -- and they tried but failed to have their cases handled in juvenile court.

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Wisconsin has fewest traffic deaths for August since World War II

MADISON  --  Fifty people have died in Wisconsin traffic crashes last month, lowest for an August since World War Two in the 1940s.

The state DOT reports 14 fewer deaths than in the same month last year, and 15 fewer than the average for the past five years.

Wisconsin had a number of heavy rainstorms and floods that may have kept some motorists off the roads -- and the state reported no flood-related traffic deaths last month after two in July. Going into the Labor Day weekend, the state's death toll for the year is still 9 percent higher than 2015 with 387 deaths reported from January through August.

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State may have its second human West Nile case

MADISON  --  A second person has been hospitalized in Wisconsin with a possible infection from the West Nile virus.

State officials say a probable case turned up in St. Croix County in the Hudson area, after the year's first case was confirmed in Sawyer County in August.

West Nile is transmitted by mosquitoes, and only one of every five people notice symptoms.

Last year, Wisconsin had seven human cases including one death -- and 47 birds and one horse died from the virus. This year, 17 birds and two horses have died from West Nile, and local health agencies reported three deaths of crows this week in Washburn and Brown counties.

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Review: Madison police did nothing wrong in mall arrest

MADISON  --  An outside review has determined Madison police acted reasonably and within department policies with the arrest of an 18-year-old black woman that sparked protests after footage of it was posted online.

Madison Police Chief Mike Koval released results of the Dane County Sheriff's review Thursday and wrote a lengthy blog piece about the incident.

Police arrested Genele Laird in June outside of a Madison mall after they say she brandished a knife while confronting someone she thought had stolen her cellphone. Video of the arrest sparked protests alleging excessive use of force and discrimination by Madison police.

In the video, police officers struggle with Laird and punch her as they take her to the ground and handcuff her.

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Concerns raised as outgoing lawmaker forms PAC with campaign cash

MADISON  --  A Republican state lawmaker who's stepping down this year is emptying his campaign fund to start a special interest political action committee.

The Wisconsin State Journal says Hudson Rep. Dean Knudson has transferred $21,000 from his campaign donors to start the Wisconsin Liberty Fund, designed to push for limited government and freedom.

A political watchdog, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, says the arrangement might be illegal because it allows unlimited contributions, removing restrictions the money had when it was given to Knudson as a candidate.

Matt Rothschild of the Democracy Campaign plans to file a complaint with the state Ethics Commission. However, Knudson says the former Government Accountability Board told him that his actions were legal as part of the campaign finance changes made this session by Knudson's fellow majority Republicans.

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Milwaukee police seek amended charge in mother's death

MILWAUKEE  --  Milwaukee police are recommending an amended charge of homicide for a woman accused of beating her mother on the city's south side.

Thirty-five-year-old Vicenta Manriquez is currently facing a charge of first-degree reckless injury. She's accused of beating her 63-year-old mother, Shelby Manriquez, on Aug. 14.

Police said Thursday that the mother died at a hospital Wednesday. So, they are now asking the Milwaukee County district attorney to amend the charge to first-degree reckless homicide.

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Madison, Milwaukee among 50 best U.S. ‘running cities’

EMMAUS, Penn.  --  Wisconsin's two largest cities are among the 50 best "Running Cities in America."

Runner's World magazine rates Madison 12th and Milwaukee 37th based on climate, crime, access to trails and healthy foods, and numbers of households with runners.

San Francisco is Number One followed by Seattle and Boston.

Runner's World calls Madison a "fitness friendly city" with a soft running path on the Military Ridge State Trail and scenic beauty at the UW Arboretum -- while Milwaukee is recognized for its Beer Run and a trail at Lakeshore State Park that juts into Lake Michigan.