Victims of the State

19 Cases

Adams County, WI 

Kenny Ray Reichhoff

Dec 11, 1974 (Friendship)

Kenny Ray Reichhoff was convicted in 1975 of the murders of Marvin Collins and Ervin Schilling. He was sentenced to life in prison. Nineteen-year-old Reichhoff worked for Collins at his chainsaw shop and lived in a rented trailer next door. Prosecutors contended that Reichhoff shot Collins to settle an argument that occurred four days earlier and that he shot Schilling, a customer, to silence a witness. Police found Reichhoff's .22 caliber pistol, which they said was the murder weapon, under Reichhoff's porch.

The state crime laboratory found eight latent fingerprints in the chainsaw shop that did not match Reichhoff or the victims. The prosecution contended that Reichhoff entered the shop by the rear door when he killed the two, but testimony established that it was barred and padlocked. Police confiscated another gun that belonged to Claude Hayes, Collins' father-in-law, but never tested it to see if it matched the spent shell casings. They also did not consider that Collins' wife may have been the intended target of the attack. Instead of opening the shop as usual, she went to the hospital to pick up her son. Reichhoff had no dispute with her and probably did not know that she was not there. Cracks in the case were enough for Reichhoff's to get a new trial. In Oct 1977, a retrial jury acquitted Reichhoff.  (101 Wisconsin Unsolved Mysteries) (Reichhoff v. State)  [10/08]

Brown County, WI 

Mike Piaskowski

Nov 21, 1992

Mike Piaskowski was convicted in 1995 of participating with five other men in the 1992 beating murder of Tom Monfils. Monfils disappeared on the job at a Green Bay paper mill. His mangled body was found the next day at the bottom of a two-story vat of wood pulp with a fifty pound weight tied to his neck. A District Court Judge ruled that there was insufficient evidence to support Piaskowski's conviction, and on July 10, 2001, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that decision saying, “The record is devoid of any direct evidence that Piaskowski participated in the beating of Monfils, and the available circumstantial evidence at most casts suspicion on him. This is a far cry from guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.” A 2009 book was written about the case entitled The Monfils Conspiracy. This book alleges that the other five defendants in the case were also wrongly convicted.  (Piaskowski v. Bett)  [10/05]

Brown County, WI 

John Maloney

Feb 10, 1998 (Green Bay)

John Maloney, a detective in the Green Bay PD, and an arson investigator, was convicted of strangling his estranged wife, Sandy, and setting her body on fire. Maloney was a suspect because of their impending divorce, ongoing child custody battle, and history of domestic disputes. Sandy was a heavy user of prescription pills and was very drunk at the time of her death. She apparently tried to hang herself shortly before her death, but the cord broke causing her to bruise her head on a coffee table. She then apparently started a fire by careless smoking or perhaps deliberately. The state maintained that Maloney hit her on the head, strangled her, and then set a fire that was staged to look like the result of careless smoking.

Special prosecutor, Joe Paulus (DA of Winnebago County), withheld evidence. Initially the fire was labeled an accident but circular reasoning developed: “The fire guys decided it must be an arson because it was murder. The coroner decided it must be a murder because it was arson.”  (TruthInJustice) (Article 2) (Article 3) (48 Hours)  [11/05]

Buffalo County, WI 

Frederic Saecker

June 1989

Frederic Saecker was convicted of raping a 39-year-old woman. Following the crime he was seen walking on a highway near the location of the crime with blood on his hands. He also gave inconsistent versions of his whereabouts and made several incriminating statements. Saecker, however, did not at all resemble the victim's initial description of the perpetrator, and both she and her husband could not identify him. Saecker's mother later paid for DNA tests that exonerated him in 1996.  (IP) (WIP)  [10/05]

Dane County, WI 

John Johnson

Sept 6, 1911 (Madison)

John A. Johnson was convicted of the kidnapping and murder of seven-year-old Annie Lemberger. Annie had been presumably kidnapped from her home at 2 South Francis St. in Madison. Her body was found three days later in Lake Manona with a head wound. Since an autopsy found no water in her lungs, it was assumed she died from the wound prior to being thrown into the lake.
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Dane County, WI 

Ralph Armstrong

June 24, 1980 (Madison)

Ralph Armstrong was convicted of the sexual assault and murder of UW-Madison student Charise Kamps. The crime occurred in Kamps' apartment at 134 W. Gorham Street in downtown Madison. In 2001, DNA tests excluded Armstrong as the source of the hair and semen evidence presented at trial. The tests also excluded Kamps' boyfriend as the source of the evidence. It should be noted that the hair and semen evidence was not critical and that other evidence of guilt was presented. However, by itself the other evidence would appear too weak to sustain a conviction. In addition, the presence of an unknown semen donor suggests an alternative assailant. In 2005, an appeals court overturned Armstrong's conviction. It seems likely that the state will attempt to retry Armstrong.  (WSJ) (IDP)  [3/08]

Dane County, WI 

Anthony Hicks

Nov 15, 1990 (Madison)

Anthony Hicks, a black man, was convicted of raping and robbing a white woman identified as Diane F., 26. The crime occurred in the victim's Madison apartment on Schroeder Road in 1991. The victim identified Hicks as her assailant. DNA tests exonerated Hicks in 1997. Hicks sued his trial lawyer and won $2.6 million for malpractice for not conducting the DNA tests that would have prevented his conviction.  (IP)  [10/05]

Dane County, WI 

Penny Brummer

Mar 15, 1994 (Madison)

Penny Brummer was convicted of murdering Sarah Gonstead, a female friend of her lesbian ex-lover. The case against Brummer was built on conjecture and thin circumstantial evidence. Brummer's case is the subject of a book, Who Killed Sarah? by Sheila and Doug Berry.  (TruthInJustice)

Dane County, WI 

Audrey Edmunds

Oct 16, 1995

Audrey Edmunds, a day care provider, was convicted of killing 7-month-old Natalie Beard, who died allegedly from “shaken baby syndrome.” Dr. Robert Huntington, the forensic pathologist who testified against her in 1996, “now unequivocally rejects his prior opinion and its implications and will testify to that effect,” according to an appellate brief. New studies show that “shaken baby syndrome,” as previously understood, does not exist. The studies show that if infants could be shaken hard enough to be injured or killed, they would have severe injuries to their necks – injuries Natalie Beard did not have. Hearings on the matter are scheduled in Jan. and Feb. 2007.  (TruthInJustice) (Jan. Hearings)  [3/07]

Eau Claire County, WI 

Evan Zimmerman

Feb 26, 2000

Evan Zimmerman, a former Augusta, WI police officer, was convicted of murdering his former girlfriend, Kathleen Thompson. Thompson had had a violent fight with her husband just hours after their wedding. Following the fight, both were taken to the Eau Claire County Jail. Thompson was last seen walking away from the jail at 3 a.m. and later was found strangled on a Eau Claire street. Her husband was never considered a suspect as he was in jail at the time of her murder. Zimmerman's conviction was based on allegedly inconsistent statements he gave to Eau Claire police about his whereabouts around the time of the murder. None of Zimmerman's interrogations were taped.

Zimmerman's son, Shannon, said the alleged inconsistencies were due to his father being in an alcoholic haze at the time of the crime and during subsequent police interviews. He said the case against his father consisted of “out-of-context statements, misleading statements and very, very shaky facts.” With the help of the Wisconsin Innocence Project, Zimmerman's conviction was overturned. At retrial in April 2005, the prosecution's case did not proceed well, and in mid-trial the prosecutor asked the judge to throw out the case, saying he lacked the evidence to show “beyond a reasonable doubt” that Zimmerman had killed his former girlfriend. The judge agreed and acquitted Zimmerman. Zimmerman had served 3 1/2 years in prison for the crime.  (Wisconsin State Journal)  [1/08]

Jefferson County, WI 

Whitewater Three

Sept 5, 1998

Jarrett M. Adams and Dimitri Henley, both blacks, were convicted by an all white jury of sexually assaulting Shawn E. Stratton, a white female student at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. A third black, Rovaughn Hill, was also charged in the assault, but his trial ended in a hung jury. On the day of the alleged assault, Adams, Henley, and Hill, were playing video games in a university dormitory room with a student named Shawn Demain, whom they had met only that day. According to Heidi Sheets, Stratton's roommate, both she and Stratton invited the three young men to their room four floors above.
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Kewaunee County, WI 

Beth LaBatte

Nov 16, 1991

Beth LaBatte was convicted in 1996 of murdering sisters Ceil and Ann Cadigan, ages 85 and 90. The crime occurred in their rural home just north of Casco. LaBatte was released in 2006 after DNA results that showed that blood on items connected to the Cadigan murders did not belong to her.  (GBPG)  [9/06]

Manitowoc County, WI 

Steven Avery

July 29, 1985

Steven Avery was convicted of brutally attacking and sexually assaulting Penny Beerntsen. Avery was convicted largely because of the victim's identification even though he had 16 alibi witnesses. DNA tests exonerated him in 2003. In 2005, while locked in a $36 million lawsuit with county officials, Avery was arrested on suspicion of murdering 25-year-old Teresa Halbach. It is not clear if any serious evidence exists against Avery, but faced with a $500,000 bail and a desire to retain private defense counsel, Avery accepted the county's sub-lowball offer of $400,000 to settle the suit.  (WIP) (JD)  [9/06]

Milwaukee County, WI 

Laurie Bembenek

May 28, 1981

Lawrencia Bembenek, also known as Bambi, was convicted of murdering Christine Schultz, her husband's ex-wife. Bambi's husband Fred Schultz was a police officer as was his ex-wife. Bambi had become a police officer and was stunned by the amount of graft going on in the department: officers selling pornography from their cars, accepting oral sex from hookers, frequenting drug hangouts, and harassing minorities.
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Milwaukee County, WI 

Robert Stinson

Nov 3, 1984

Robert Lee Stinson was convicted of the murder of a neighbor, 62-year-old Ione Cychosz. The victim was found beaten and stabbed with eight bite marks on her. A forensic odontologist, Dr. L. Thomas Johnson, determined that the perpetrator likely had a missing upper front tooth. Police visited Stinson as part of a neighborhood canvass and he lived in a home adjacent to the yard where Cychosz's body was found. A detective on the case, James Gauger, recalled, “My partner told him a couple of jokes, and Stinson laughed.” When they saw a missing tooth, “we knew we had our man.”

At trial, Johnson and another forensic odontologist, Dr. Raymond Rawson, testified that Stinson's teeth matched bite marks found on the victim's body even though Stinson was missing a tooth in a place where the bite marks indicated a tooth. Johnson testified that the bite marks “had to have been made by teeth identical” to Stinson's and that there was “no margin for error in this.” Rawson called the bite mark evidence “overwhelming” and said “there was no question there was a match.” Rawson would later give provably erroneous bite mark testimony against an Arizona murder defendant named Ray Krone.

On appeal in 1986, Stinson argued he was convicted solely on inadmissible bite mark evidence, but the appeals court upheld bite mark evidence in their legal decision, Wisconsin v. Stinson. According to one expert, the decision was the “crown jewel” of legal opinions that forensic odontologists pointed to as validation of bite mark analysis as an approved science.

In 2005, the Wisconsin Innocence Project accepted Stinson's case and developed two kinds of new evidence. First, DNA testing of saliva found on the victim's sweater revealed a male profile that excluded Stinson. Second, the WIP arranged for the bite marks to be re-examined by a panel of four nationally-recognized experts, Dr. Gregory Golden, Dr. David Senn, Dr. Norman Sperber, and Dr. Denise Murmann. Using modern methods, the panel unanimously concluded that Stinson's teeth could not have inflicted the bites. Due to the new evidence, Stinson's conviction was overturned in 2009 and charges against him were dropped. Stinson was released after serving more than 23 years in prison.  (Chicago Tribune) (Law Review) (AP News)  [3/10]

Milwaukee County, WI 

David Sanders

Convicted 2008 (Milwaukee)

David Sanders, a Franciscan Brother and schoolteacher, was convicted in 2008 of molesting an altar boy more than 20 years earlier. The victim who knew his molester as “Brother David,” picked Sanders out of a photo array and remembered him as the man who taught him First Communion rites at St. Vincent's parish. The victim also said he visited his molester in Delaware. Sanders 1980s address was in the address book of the victim's family. At trial Sanders' defense argued that Sanders had never administered the victim's First Communion nor, as far as anyone could prove, had ever been to Delaware. Sanders had worked at a number of Milwaukee area parishes as a music teacher, but never at St. Vincent's.

Following Sanders' conviction, the victim's grandmother found a letter written by a different “Brother David,” named David Nickerson, which implicated that man in the assault. When confronted, Nickerson admitted he molested the victim. Sanders was subsequently exonerated after 5 months of imprisonment. Authorities were debating whether to charge Nickerson, in part, because the victim is far from an ideal witness. In 2008 the victim was 30 years old and was himself in prison for molesting a child.  (WIP) (MJS)  [11/08]

Outgamie County, WI 

Kenneth Hudson

June 25, 2000

Kenneth Hudson was convicted of the murder of Shanna Van Dyn Hoven, a 19-year-old UW-Madison student. Police alleged that Hudson, then 31, was caught with blood on his hands, chest, and legs after leading them on a high-speed chase. They also said he confessed to the crime. Prosecutors said Hudson stabbed Van Dyn Hoven, a stranger, in a fit of misplaced rage, and then tried to put her in his truck.

Hudson said he tried to help the woman when she fled from the woods, covered in blood. She sat briefly in his truck, but fled when David Carnot, a retired police detective's son, came out from the woods. Hudson drove off because he feared Carnot would attack him, and fled from police because he had marijuana on him, had an expired license, and had been drinking. After he was pulled over and arrested, Hudson fell asleep in the back of a police cruiser but awoke to find a Kaukauna police officer pouring a red liquid on him that appeared to be blood. After telling the officer to stop, Hudson was moved to a second police cruiser where another officer smeared something on his chest and hands. Hudson has maintained this story from the hours following his arrest. He also denied making any confession.

Despite Hudson's bloody hands, no blood was found on his steering wheel or gearshift. Tests revealed animal blood was on Hudson's foot. Other tests revealed no DNA in blood samples. A lab analyst suggested the samples could have been chemically contaminated so that the DNA in the material could not be tested. Transcripts and a tape of the 911 communications that day omit nearly all transmissions mentioning the murder and chase. A recently uncovered dispatch log and 911 tape shows that two Grand Chute police officers who said they were involved in Hudson's chase and arrest, did not arrive until 90 minutes afterward. Other evidence discrepancies exist with a knife, vials of Van Dyn Hoven's blood, and a missing window crank from Hudson's truck, allegedly found next to the victim's body. The DA in the case, Vince Biskupic, had been cited for a number of unrelated ethics violations, as was his former boss, Joe Paulus, who was sent to prison on bribery related convictions.  (WSJ) (WSJ2)  [9/06]

Racine County, WI 

George Hamilton

Dec 15, 1917 (Racine)

George E. Hamilton, alias Eli J. Long, was convicted in 1918 of the murder of Edward B. Warner. Warner was shot during a robbery of the Standard Oil Station that he managed on the corner of Seventh and Main Sts. in Racine, WI. A 14-year-old boy named Mervil Peil, who was on the sidewalk of the street opposite the oil station, saw the apparent murderer as he ran from the oil station to the sidewalk in front of the station, then north until he disappeared. The boy picked out Hamilton as “the man who resembled him most” from about a half dozen other men at the police station that evening. The identification was not positive, the boy asserting that “his (Hamilton's) height was about the same, and his dress, and the build of the man.” Peil repeated his statements at trial, as did police officers Yanne and Harms, whose hearsay accounts presumably served to corroborate Peil's testimony in the eyes of the jury.
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Wood County, WI 

Edward Kanieski

June 29, 1952

Edward Frank Kanieski was convicted of murdering tavern owner Clara Bates. Bates, 76, was found strangled and bludgeoned to death in her living quarters at her bar in Wisconsin Rapids. Kanieski, then 33, was one of two men who found Bates two days after she was last seen alive. Kanieski had been been an irregular customer at her bar. He had once told Bates a false story about being an aviator. When Bates expressed interest in going to Iowa some months in the future, Kanieski had offered to fly her there. Later he had a fall outside a funeral home, for which his head was bandaged. Using the bandage as evidence, he told Bates he had a plane accident and could no longer take her. Kanieski initially lied about being at Bates's bar the night of her murder. While Kanieski was there, she left other patrons to speak with him for about 15 minutes. Kanieski left before closing. Bates subsequently closed her bar early for some unspecified reason, possibly because she planned to meet with her murderer. Exiting patrons reportedly saw Kanieski's car by the side of the road and he admitted he was parked by the side of the road.
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