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Pedestrian struck, killed east of Menomonie; Beaver Dam woman to lead farm coalition; 11 more Wisconsin stories

MENOMONIE -- A pedestrian was struck and killed late Sunday evening on I-94 on the east side of Menomonie but the man's identity hasn't been released.

The State Patrol was notified of a possible semi- versus pedestrian crash near Mile 43 at 12:40 p.m.

Officers responded and found the body of a man, still in an eastbound traffic lane.

The name of the truck driver was not released either.

The crash remains under investigation.

Menomonie Police and fire units assisted, along with Dunn County sheriff's deputies.

Semi-trailer loaded with cars burns near Eau Claire

EAU CLAIRE -- Fire destroyed a semi-trailer loaded with cars on I-94 about eight mile south of Eau Claire on Sunday afternoon.

Authorities said a westbound semi-rig driven by Svyatoslav Cherevach, of Auburn, Wash., noticed smoke coming from wheels on the right side of his car-carrier trailer and pulled onto the shoulder to investigate.

The situation appeared serious enough that Cherevach disconnected the tractor and pulled away from the now-burning trailer, saving the tractor.

Because of the flames and heavy smoke, the State Patrol closed all westbound lanes and rerouted traffic through Foster at Mile 81. One lane was reopened at 6:15 p.m. and the scene was cleared by 9 p.m.

There as no word as to how many cars were destroyed or the value of the loss.

UW-Whitewater vice-chancellor is finalist for top Fitchburg State job

WHITEWATER -- Vice chancellor Beverly Kopper at U-W Whitewater is one of three finalists to be the next president of Fitchburg State University in Massachusetts.

Kopper was among 85 people who applied to replace Robert Antonucci, who will retire next June after 12 years in the post. Kopper is Whitewater's provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs. The other finalists are Carol Bresnahan of Rollins College in Florida, and business administration dean Richard Lapidus of Cal Poly in Pomona.

Fitchburg State will bring the finalists to its campus for interviews and meetings starting Dec. 2. The school has about 7,000 students.

Kopper joined UW-Whitewater in March, 2010, arriving from the University of Northern Iowa where she had served as the Associate Provost for Academic Affairs and previously in other administrative positions. Kopper is a Professor of Psychology with her Ph.D. and M.S. in Counseling Psychology from Iowa State University. She also has her M.S. in Social Work from UW-Madison and her B.A. in Psychology from the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Beaver Dam woman named to lead farm-ranch coalition

A Beaver Dam woman will become the new chair of the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance.

Nancy Kavazanjian has been elected to lead a coalition of more than 80 farming-and-ranching groups, with a goal of boosting consumers' trust in the way agriculture produces food.

Over its three years of existence, the alliance has developed new tools to communicate with consumers.

They include Food Dialogue programs, in which farmers discuss their experiences. Five farmers will travel the country to tell their stories.

The Alliance has also produced a video called "Farmland" which can be downloaded.

Kavazanjian told the Brownfield Ag News Service that the goal is to get that video into all U.S. high schools. Kavazanjian represents the U.S Soybean Board on the coalition. She's also involved with the Wisconsin Corn Growers Association and Wisconsin Women in Agriculture.

Read more about the Alliance here:

Winter returns; central Wisconsin bracing for snow

SULLIVAN -- It's back to winter in Wisconsin, after a mild but foggy weekend.

Two- to seven inches of snow are in the forecast through Monday evening, fueled by a low-pressure system approaching from the southwest. Winter storm watches and warnings were to be posted mid-Monday for most of the state, and continue into early Tuesday.

The state's mid-section was expected to get the most snow, south of a line from Wisconsin Rapids to the tip of Door County. Places along Lake Superior in far northern Wisconsin can also expect up to seven inches.

The National Weather Service said many areas will get rain first, and then snow along with gusts up to 35 miles an hour which could cause drifting.

The far north could get freezing drizzle first. Tuesday should be dry and chilly before a Clipper system from Canada brings another inch-or-two late Tuesday night into Thanksgiving eve.

Upwards of a million will travel Thursday

MADISON -- Some 950,000 Wisconsinites will either drive or fly home to their families' Thanksgiving celebrations, according to the Wisconsin chapter of the American Automobile Association. That's a 4 percent increase over last year.

Nick Jarmusz of the auto club credits the increase to the improved economy. He says more folks are more comfortable about taking off for what many say is America's most beloved holiday.

Gas prices are the lowest they've been in about four years -- $2.84 a gallon in Wisconsin as of Monday morning -- but Jarmusz said it has little to do with the numbers of travelers we'll see.

He told the Wisconsin Radio Network, "Even if prices were higher than they were right now, we think we would be seeing the same travel numbers."

About 90 percent of travelers will go by car, and the rest will fly.

Nationally, 46 million Americans plan to go at least 50 miles one way for Thanksgiving -- the most since 2007, the year before the Great Recession took hold.

The busiest travel days will be on Wednesday and Sunday.

UW Oshkosh student suspended as alleged racin-possession case is heard

OSHKOSH -- A UW Oshkosh student was due in federal court Monday, after he was charged with possessing the deadly toxin ricin.

Kyle Smith, 20, had an initial appearance scheduled in Green Bay, where a judge could decide whether there's enough evidence to continue the court proceedings. Smith has been suspended from Oshkosh at least while his case goes through the justice system. Prosecutors say he's a danger to the public, because of his history of mental health concerns and drug use.

Defense lawyer William Kerner said there's no proof that Smith intended to hurt anyone with the ricin and therefore, he's not a danger to the public despite being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

Weekend crashes claim lives near Beaver Dam, Hatley and Appleton

At least three people were killed on Wisconsin highways during the weekend.

In Dodge County, a 29-year-old Lake Mills man died early Saturday in a two-vehicle collision on Highway 151 in the town of Calamus near Beaver Dam. Officials said the man was driving in an opposite lane just before his vehicle collided with a vehicle driven by a 29-year-old Beaver Dam woman. The man died at the scene.

The other driver was taken to a Beaver Dam hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Officials said alcohol may have been a factor.

Also, an 18-year-old Birnamwood woman died in a two vehicle crash at a corner near Hatley in eastern Marathon County Sunday.

Pamela Kroncke, 59, of Seymour was killed Sunday when her mini-van crossed a center line on Outagamie County on CTH OO near Appleton and collided head on with a pick-up truck.

Media reports said the woman's three-year-old grandson was seriously hurt, and was in stable condition at Milwaukee Children's Hospital.

-- Craig Warmbold, WBEV-WXRO, Beaver Dam

Superior officer returns to duty after investigation SUPERIOR -- A police officer in Superior is going back on the street this week, after an internal investigation showed that he used "reasonable force" in arresting a woman he punched.

George Gothner lost 10 hours of pay, for using vulgar and unprofessional language while arresting 29-year-old Natasha Lancour outside a lounge in Superior last Jan. 5.

Squad car video showed that Gothner punched Lancour in the face. He said at the time that the woman scratched him, and she was resisting arrest.

The district attorney in neighboring Bayfield County investigated the officer's conduct and while he decided a month ago not to recommend charges, he did say Gothner's actions were "far short" of what the public expects from police officers.

Gothner spent most of the past year on administrative desk duty.

Lancour was originally charged with a felony, which was later reduced to misdemeanor disorderly conduct and that charge was dropped soon after the prosecutor's finding.

Beloit Police investigate fatal shooting

BELOIT -- Beloit Police continue to investigate the shooting death of a 24-year-old man.

Police were called around 12:30 p.m. Sunday and found Joel Baldwin Davidson Royster, 24, lying on a terrace. He died later at a Beloit hospital. Police said they don't believe the shooting was random, and they've been asking for tips on how and why it happened.

Gunfire, robbery interrupt Saturday dining experience

MOUNT PLEASANT -- Police in Racine County are searching for two men who fired a pair of gunshots during a robbery at a busy restaurant.

No one was hurt in the incident, which happened late Saturday night at Jose's Blue Sombrero in Mount Pleasant.

Police said the robbers wore white masks, as they ordered an employee to open a safe at gunpoint.

Officials said they opened fire, and then took an undetermined amount of money before escaping on foot across the parking lot.

Unsafe backing blamed for summer train collision

Human error is blamed for the collision of two freight trains on July 20 at Slinger, about 35 miles northwest of Milwaukee.

Reports submitted to The Federal Railroad Administration show that a Wisconsin & Southern train with 64 freight cars stopped after clearing the other track.

The engineer then put the train in reverse to pick up a crew member.

The train went too far, and it struck a Canadian National train which was going 38 miles an hour at the time, after getting the okay to proceed. There was not a spotter at the rear of the first train, and federal regulations did not require it.

Three Canadian National locomotives and four of its 98 freight cars jumped the tracks. Five cars derailed on the Wisconsin & Southern train. The conductor and an engineer on the CN train were hurt.

Media reports said about 5,000 gallons of diesel fuel spilled. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on the railroads' reports to the government. The news outlet said it asked for the Federal Railroad Administration's report on the incident but had not received it.

UW-Eau Claire senior wins Rhodes Scholar distinction

EAU CLAIRE -- A UW Eau Claire student from Neenah is among 32 Americans named Sunday as Rhodes scholars.

Tayo Sanders II said he was "speechless, breathless, (and) humbled" to be chosen.

He was among 877 applicants endorsed by 305 schools.

Sanders is a senior at Eau Claire, majoring in materials science. He has conduced extensive research in nano-technology, the manipulating of microscopic matter.

Sanders is also the leader of a program for minority students and he performs community outreach for the STEM program which promotes science, technology, engineering, and math careers.

In his free time, Sanders is a triathlete and a salsa dancer.

The award carries a full scholarship to Oxford University in England starting next fall.

Steve Dzubay

Steve Dzubay has been publisher at the River Falls Journal and Hudson Star Observer from 1995-2016. He holds a bachelors degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. He previously worked as a reporter-photographer at small daily newspapers in Minnesota and is past editor of the Pierce County Herald and River Falls Journal.