Top 10: New Richmond homicide case produced conflicting theories
Editor's note: This story is part of a series looking back at some of the biggest stories of 2018. Find the rest of the series here: Top Ten 2018
Contrasting theories will be examined next month in the case of a New Richmond man accused of shooting his teenage son to death in April.
St. Croix County prosecutors allege Kayle A. Fleischauer murdered 19-year-old Chase Fleischauer while the father and son were drinking late at night on April 14. Fleischauer pleaded not guilty in June to first-degree intentional homicide and possession of a firearm by a convicted out-of-state felon. The 42-year-old's attorney in November outlined an argument alleging the younger Fleischauer shot himself, either intentionally or accidentally — a theory prosecutors will likely rebut at a Jan. 22 motion hearing.
A criminal complaint alleges that after being called to Kayle Fleischauer's New Richmond house at 4:10 a.m., St. Croix County sheriff's deputies arrived to find Chase Fleischauer with a gunshot wound to the head. The elder Fleischauer, allegedly intoxicated and behaving erratically, was found with blood on his hands and head.
Chase Fleischauer, along with his sister, had reportedly gone to the home to spend time with Kayle Fleischauer while he was grieving the death of his own father. The sister, Somer Fleischauer, had been downstairs until hearing a loud noise while the two Fleischauer men were alone upstairs, the complaint states.
She told authorities she found her brother on the floor. Her father later appeared from a nearby hallway and told her it was too late to save her brother, the complaint alleges.
Somer Fleischauer later told deputies she suspected Kayle Fleischauer had "shot him in the head," according to the charging document.
But defense attorney Earl Gray later challenged a statement made by a St. Croix County Sheriff's Office investigator, who testified that the Ramsey County Medical Examiner's Office told him the gun was fired about 18 inches from Chase Fleischauer's head. Gray said subsequent testing by the same medical examiners appeared to contradict that claim.
He also raised questions about DNA evidence and gunshot residue, all of which Gray said supports his theory that the younger Fleischauer "either accidentally or intentionally killed himself."
Prosecutors responded in a court filing that they have no intention of dropping the case.
A motion to deny Gray's request filed by Assistant Attorney General Robert Kaiser Jr. and St. Croix County Assistant District Attorney Erica Ellenwood states Mikla responded at the preliminary hearing to a question asking about whether a "gun," not a gunshot, as Gray implies, left residue on the victim's head.
Mikla also truthfully testified that he was told by Dr. Mills about the distance from which the gun was fired, the prosecutors state. Their court filing does not deny the subsequent findings set forth by defense — it says that's a matter for trial — but rather says investigator Jim Mikla "truly believes that he was told the approximate firing distance by Dr. Mills."
"It will not be the first case a prosecutor has taken to trial that had some problems," the document states. "That is why there are trials."
Lastly, prosecution rejected the notion that an outright dismissal clings to the distance the victim's head was from the gunshot, which Gray argues establishes a self-inflicted shot.
"The prosecutor did not even argue that testimony in support of a bindover," the filing states.
Instead, prosecution said St. Croix County Circuit Court Judge Michael Waterman binded the case over for trial based on the totality of information presented at the preliminary hearing.
A series of statements from the filing in support of the state's case are listed in the document, which concludes with a theory. "At least one reasonable inference is that the defendant dropped his pistol as he fled back to his bedroom or bathroom from what he had done to his own son," the attorneys wrote. "He did not want the victim's sister to help revive the victim as she was being directed by 911 because he did not want the victim to survive and tell that the defendant had shot him."