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Probable West Nile case reported in St. Croix County; New Richmond woman faces criminal charges after St. Paul accident; More state news briefs

Neighboring Iowa has recorded its first human case of the West Nile virus this year, and Wisconsin and Minnesota might not be far behind.

As of late last week, Wisconsin still had one probable human case of the mosquito-borne disease in St. Croix County.

Trempealeau County recorded its first West Nile case last week in a dead bird. Six other birds previously acquired the virus in Dane, Dodge, Sauk, Portage, Waupaca and Rusk counties.

Dave Neitzel of Minnesota's health department said the recent warm weather sped up the creation of disease-spreading mosquitoes, and the virus is pretty much on schedule compared to past years.

Wisconsin had 16 human cases last year. Four state residents died from West Nile in 2012 when an unusually large outbreak struck most of the nation's mid-section.


New Richmond woman faces criminal charges after St. Paul accident

Authorities in St. Paul said a Wisconsin woman drove drunk and endangered her three young children when she flipped her minivan Friday.

An eight-year-old child was taken to a hospital with a facial injury. The other two kids, ages four and 12, escaped injury.

Their mother, Christal Luellen, 34, New Richmond, faces charges of criminal vehicular operation, endangering children and driving while impaired. Officials said her blood alcohol content from a breath test was .176 -- more than twice the legal limit of .08 in both Minnesota and Wisconsin.

--Minnesota News Network


100 mph winds recorded near Kenosha

The National Weather Service said straight-line winds of up to 100 mph caused a 3.5 mile path of damage near Kenosha. The storm hit late Saturday night about three miles southwest of Kenosha.

The Weather Service surveyed the area yesterday and found widespread tree damage and numerous house fences blown down. Some roofs and power lines also fell.

Southern Wisconsin also had another round of heavy rains Saturday night and yesterday. Milwaukee had just over three inches of rain, and Milton in Rock County had close to two inches.

We Energies reported no weather-related power outages this morning.

Meanwhile, a massive cold front is moving into Wisconsin today, and parts of the state might not hit 70 today. Highs are expected to be in the 60's and 70's the next few days with isolated showers today and a slight chance of rain tonight and tomorrow. A gradual warm-up is due to begin on Thursday.


Aug. 1 is deadline for applying for fall sporting licenses

If you plan to hunt for wolves or catch that elusive sturgeon, you have a deadline coming up.

The state Department of Natural Resources says folks have until Aug. 1 to apply for a host of sporting licenses for the fall and winter. That includes the wolf season which begins in mid-October plus seasons for turkey, bobcat, fisher, otter and sturgeon on the up-river lakes from Lake Winnebago.

License applications are available at DNR service centers, licensing facilities in sport stores, online at the DNR's Website and by phone. Here's the toll-free number for that -- 1-877-LICENSE.


Groups react to Sensenbrenner plan to eliminate ATF

Plan to eliminate ATF raises Conflicting gun interests are uniting against a plan by Wisconsin House Republican Jim Sensenbrenner to eliminate the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Larry Keane of the National Shooting Sports Foundation says the ATF's “high-profile missteps” are not enough to warrant the agency's disbanding. On the other side, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence says new ATF director Todd Jones should be given more time to correct the problems.

Sensenbrenner, a Menomonee Falls Republican, says it's proper to disband the ATF in the wake of some botched enforcement operations. That includes the storefront effort in Milwaukee that was supposed to round up gun-toting criminals, but instead was burglarized, arrested the wrong people and had a machine gun and sensitive records stolen.

The Journal Sentinel says the National Rifle Association has not weighed in on the idea to have the FBI and other agencies split up the ATF's current duties.

Sensenbrenner says he's getting support from lawmakers of both parties. House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan of Janesville says he wants to look for ways to eliminate duplicated efforts by the ATF and other agencies. Ryan, the Republicans' vice-presidential nominee in 2012, said he looks forward to seeing the bill that Sensenbrenner plans to bring forward.


Crandon crash claims one life

One person was killed, and two others were seriously hurt after a one-vehicle crash near Crandon in northeast Wisconsin.

The accident happened early Sunday afternoon on the Old Eight Road in the Forest County town of Crandon.

A medical examiner pronounced one victim dead at the scene. The other two were sent to a Rhinelander hospital.

The State Patrol is helping sheriff's deputies investigate. Details of the crash were not immediately released.

--Larry Lee, WSAU, Wausau


Merrill fire causes estimated $2 million in damages

An electrical problem is suspected in a fire that caused heavy damage to a wire fabricating plant in Merrill.

Somebody called 9-1-1 about 1:30 a.m. Sunday yesterday morning after seeing smoke from the roof of the Northern Wire plant. When firefighters arrived, a large part of the facility was engulfed in flames.

The exact cause remains under investigation. Nobody was hurt.

Units from six area fire departments helped put out the blaze. One broadcast report said the damage totaled $2 million.

According to its Website, Northern Wire is owned by the Elgin Fastener Group of Batesville, Ind. It makes custom wire-forming, welding and shaping for farm equipment, lawn and garden equipment, RV's and construction.

--Larry Lee, WSAU, Wausau


Milwaukee girl caught in crossfire dies

Sierra Guyton, the ten-year-old Milwaukee girl who was shot in crossfire while playing with her sister at a school playground on May 21, died yesterday.

The girl Sierra died at 1:35 a.m. Sunday at Milwaukee Children's Hospital where she was taken off life-support last month.

Police said Sylvester Lewis, 18, and Jamey Jackson, 28, were shooting at each other to settle a previous dispute. Sierra was caught in the middle. Both men face criminal charges.

Friends and relatives gathered at the Guyton home yesterday afternoon. The girl's father, Onjuan, pointed out that the nearby Clarke Street Elementary School playground sat empty during a nice sunny day in which it would normally be full. A balloon launch and a candlelight vigil will be held at the playground tonight.


Governors tone down stands against gay marriage

Scott Walker is not the only Republican governor toning down his rhetoric against gay marriage.

At a weekend meeting of the National Governors Association in Nashville, both Walker and Iowa Governor Terry Branstad said the GOP is better off focusing on economic and fiscal issues.

The Associated Press calls that a "dramatic turn" for a party that has long been defined by social conservatism. It appears to stem from a report drafted after the 2012 presidential election which called on the GOP to be more "inclusive and welcoming" -- especially on issues involving the "treatment and rights of gays."

Walker said gay marriage remains an important issue, and he's defending a state constitutional amendment for one-man, one-woman marriage voters approved seven years ago.

National and state polls since then show support for gay marriage, but it still goes against the GOP's platform.

On Friday, the federal appeals court in Chicago combined similar appeals from Wisconsin and Indiana of district court rulings that struck down their respective state’s gay marriage bans.

Another group of cases is also heading toward the U.S. Supreme Court. That includes an appeal of Kentucky's gay marriage ban.  Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear is also playing down his rhetoric. He says he just wants the Supreme Court to settle the issue once and for all.


Researchers look at using native honeybees to pollinate cranberry crops

Scientists at UW-Madison want to find out if cranberry growers can attract native bees to pollinate their crops and rely less on beekeepers to bring in honeybees.

A team led by entomology Prof. Claudio Gratton is about to study whether planting things like flowers in the cranberry fields would attract native bees. The goals are to increase pollination and produce more berries while reducing reliance on beekeepers that are getting more expensive to hire.

Tom Lochner of the Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association said it's a "significant cost" for growers and the cost has been rising in the wake of recent declines in commercial honeybee populations.

Jeremy Hemberger, a UW graduate student who's performing the research, said cranberry growers appear to be optimistic about using native bees. However, they point out potential problems like weed growth. It's also possible that the wildflowers might lure the bees away from their intended pollination cranberry targets.


Photographer’s death considered case of mistaken identity

A former northeast Wisconsin man was killed in Chicago over the weekend in what police call a case of mistaken identity.

The Chicago Tribune said Wil Lewis, 28, was shot in the back while standing along a street on Saturday in the Rogers Park neighborhood. He was a photographer who was supposed to start a new job today in the Windy City.

Lewis was born in Guatemala. He was adopted, and at age seven, moved to Sturgeon Bay where his father, Joseph Lewis, was the high school principal at the time.

The family moved to Kaukauna when Joseph got another job there. Wil Lewis graduated from Kaukauna High School in 2005. According to his LinkedIn page, he earned a photography degree at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design before working as a freelance photographer in Chicago for several years.


Miller Park crane collapse was 15 years ago

Mention the words "Big Blue" in Milwaukee, and many folks will know what you're talking about.

Fifteen years ago today, three iron-workers were killed when a 567-foot Big Blue crane collapsed as it was lifting one of the large panels onto the retractable roof at the Miller Park baseball stadium.

It was windy at the time. The crane hit a basket containing William DeGrave, Jeffrey Wischer and Jerome Starr. They fell about 300 ft. to deaths. The incident delayed the opening of the new ballpark by a year -- to 2001.

Attorney Robert Habush represented the three widows, and they ended up getting $57 million after a trial and a later settlement.

Habush said he remembers Wischer's widow leaving him a phone message just hours after the incident. He said her husband was concerned about the safety of the construction site for some time and told her if something happened to him, she should call Habush.

The company that leased the crane, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, was found 97% negligent and the crane's owner 3%.

A sculpture honoring the three ironworkers is located just outside the home plate entrance to Miller Park.