July 30, 2015

Wisconsin Ag officials lift avian flu quarantines at three sites

File photo: DACTP

File photo: DACTP

The state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection has ended quarantines at three of the nine poultry producers hit by avian influenza earlier this year.

The affected operations are in Chippewa, Barron, and Jefferson counties. The end of the quarantine means they will be able to restock their barns and resume business, months after they were shut down and forced to destroy their flocks.

Cases of avian influenza spiked this spring, with several neighboring states also seeing a large number of outbreaks. In Wisconsin, the virus forced the destruction of more than a million birds.

There are still six sites in the state under quarantine. They are in the final stages of testing for the highly contagious flu virus before they will be allowed to reopen.

While the virus has not been seen in Wisconsin since this spring, ag officials caution it could make a return this fall when temperatures fall and wild birds begin to migrate.

Wisconsin WIC program transitions to electronic payments

A state program that helps provide nutrition to mothers and their young children is changing the way it makes benefits available.

The Women, Infants, and Children, or WIC nutrition program has paid out benefits to participants using paper checks since the 1970s. That started to change in June, says Wisconsin WIC program director Patti Hauser. The program is in the midst of moving to electronic debit cards, similar to those used to provide FoodShare benefits.

Hauser says there’s not much cost savings for the state with the switch, but it will make it easier for recipients to check-out at grocery stores. “The transaction goes just much quicker at the cash register. The family doesn’t need to sort their WIC foods from their other foods,” she says. Also, they are able to pay with just a swipe of their card.

The state began issuing cards in June and is phasing them in across the state over the summer. Hauser says they hope to have the funds transfer system fully implemented by the end of September.

State releases records in fatal shooting of Trooper Casper

Trooper Trevor Casper

Trooper Trevor Casper

The state Department of Justice is offering a more complete picture of the events surrounding a fatal shootout between State Trooper Trevor Casper and bank robber Steven Snyder. The agency on Tuesday released its investigation report and crime scene photos, along with video and audio from the response to the March 24th incident.

Dispatch audio caught the first report of the shooting, calling a “hot stop” with shots fired. Shortly afterwards, an officer reported Trooper Casper’s shooting by referring to his badge number. On audio from a dash cam in a squad car, an officer can be heard screaming at Casper to “stay with us Trevor.”

Video of the actual shootout and some other sensitive materials were not released.

Casper began following Snyder’s vehicle in Fond du Lac because it matched the description of one connected to a bank robbery earlier that day in Marinette County. Snyder had robbed the bank in Wausaukee, then killed Thomas Crist as he was fleeing to a getaway car. He then ambushed Casper while the state trooper was following him.

The entire exchange of gunfire took 17 seconds. Trooper Casper was hit three times and Snyder once. Both died from their injuries.

Officers found about $137,000 in cash inside Snyder’s car, along with a handwritten manifesto.

Affiliate KFIZ contributed to this report.

U.S. Supreme Court asked to review Ho-Chunk video poker ruling

The Wisconsin Department of Justice is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review an appeals court decision that allowed video poker machines to remain at the Ho-Chunk Nation’s Madison casino.

In an 83-page request filed Tuesday morning, the state argues the machines offer an experience that is based on a card game, meaning they violate the state’s gaming compact with the tribe. Federal Judge Barbara Crabb supported that reasoning in a ruling last year, but a federal appeals court in Chicago disagreed in April and overturned the decision.

The tribe has argued that the machines do not violate its compact because players compete against each other and they are not banked by the house. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals said the state would need to make that type of gambling activity a crime in order to keep the Ho-Chunk from operating the machines.

In Tuesday’s filing, the DOJ notes the appeals court decision conflicts with one made by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in another case. The state argues the Supreme Court should review the case because it involves “a question of national importance that is likely to rear its head over and over again in tribal gaming cases.”

Remains identified in 1990 Jackson County cold case

Julia Baez

Julia Baez

More than 25 years after her decapitated body was found in a pair of shallow graves in Jackson County, investigators finally have a name to go with the victim of a brutal homicide.

The Jackson County Sheriff’s Department announced Monday that is has identified the remains as belonging to 36-year-old Julia Baez of Milwaukee. Baez’s body was found in a pair of shallow graves in October of 1990, on land that is in the Town of Brockway. She had been decapitated and dismembered, with the remains put inside plastic bags and buried. Her skull has never been located.

Investigators were able to finally track down her identity using a DNA profile from her remains, which were exhumed in July of last year and sent to a university in Texas. The sample helped link the remains to Baez, using a national database of missing persons.

Jackson County District Attorney Gerald Fox believes the answers to how Baez died lie outside of the region. “Based on what we think we know about Baez’s life, we think that somebody between the (Twin) Cities and Chicago may know something about this homicide,” he said.

Sheriff Duane Waldera says they know who Baez last had contact with in Milwaukee, but there are challenges in tracking down that information 25 years later. “I would say we have leads, there’s stuff to work on,” Waldera said. “But a person of interest right now, probably not. Not a known one.”

For Black River Falls Fire Chief Steve Schrieber, finding the identity of Baez closes a long standing question of his career. Schrieber was working as the county’s deputy coroner in 1990 and has cared for the former Jane Doe’s gravesite for the last quarter century. “I was always hoping that we would be able to put a name to Jane Doe,” he said. “After taking care of her for 25 years, it’s a great day to know she’s actually going to go back to her family and be where she needs to be.”

Affiliate WXYM contributed to this report.