RUSK COUNTY (DrydenWire) – Felony Homicide charges have been filed in Rusk County Circuit Court against an immigrant who was in Wisconsin illegally following a vehicle-versus-semi collision that left one dead. The deceased was identified as Steven M. Nasholm.
Jorge Sanchez-Tzanahua is now facing multiple charges including Homicide by Intoxicated Use of a Vehicle. At the time of this post, Sanchez-Tzanahua remains in custody on a $100,000 cash bond.
On Tuesday, January 30, 2024, at approximately 3:30p, a Rusk County Sheriff’s Office Deputy was dispatched to a motor vehicle accident on Highway 8 near the intersection of Olesiak Road, in Strickland Township, Rusk County. A passing motorist had reported to Rusk County Dispatch that a vehicle had rear-ended a semi.
The Weyerhaeuser Fire Department and Ladysmith Emergency Medical Services were also dispatched and when the Deputy arrived on the scene, fire personnel advised that the operator of the semi was trapped within the cab of the vehicle.
The Deputy observed that the road conditions were wet but he did not encounter any icy road conditions on the way to the accident scene and that the road conditions remained the same at the accident scene.
Fire personnel were tending to the driver and lone occupant of the semi, identified as Steven Nasholm in a press release from the Rusk County Sheriff’s Office. Nasholm was unresponsive, but breathing, however, his breathing was labored and almost sounded as if he was gargling. Nasholm’s condition appeared to be critical due to his injuries.
A helicopter and an Advanced Life Support ambulance were requested to respond to the crash scene to assist with patient care.
The Deputy made contact with a Hispanic male near the other vehicle involved in the crash. Fire personnel provided the Deputy with two Mexico ID cards they had received from the male that identified him as Jorge Sanchez-Tzanahua.
As the Deputy attempted to communicate with Sanchez-Tzanahua, Sanchez-Tzanahua advised the Deputy that he did not speak English. The Deputy was able to gather some limited information from Sanchez-Tzanahua, including that Sanchez-Tzanahua was driving west and the semi was also traveling west. The Deputy determined that based on his initial observation of the scene, this was not possible.
Sanchez-Tzanahua had sustained only minor injuries, and the Deputy saw some blood on his hands.
EMS personnel spoke with Sanchez-Tzanahua, and a co-worker of Sanchez-Tzanahua’s also arrived at the scene and was able to assist by translating.
During his initial contact with Sanchez-Tzanahua, the Deputy allegedly observed Sanchez-Tzanahua swaying while standing in place, his eyes were bloodshot and glossy, and his face and eyelids appeared droopy. The Deputy also allegedly detected a strong odor of intoxicants emitting from the area where Sanchez-Tzanahua was standing. The Deputy determined that Sanchez-Tzanahua was likely intoxicated.
The Deputy walked by Sanchez-Tzanahua’s vehicle, a green 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee, and observed that the driver’s door was missing as a result of the accident. The Deputy also detected a strong odor of intoxicants emitting from Sanchez-Tzanahua’s vehicle and observed both airbags had deployed. The driver’s seat belt was also found to be retracted into position indicating the Defendant was not wearing his seat belt.
The Deputy learned that Sanchez-Tzanahua’s driver’s license status was revoked due to a prior OWI-related conviction on 02/28/2023 in Rice Lake City Municipal Court, that he held a .02 PAC restriction, and was required to operate a vehicle with an ignition interlock device (IID). The criminal complaint filed against Tzanahua states that in March 2023, a notice of his revocation was mailed to him.
While examining the crash scene, the Deputy was able to determine that Sanchez-Tzanahua’s green Jeep Grand Cherokee had been traveling west on Highway 8. The Victim had been operating a 2018 Kenworth semi that had been traveling east on Highway 8.
The Jeep was located approximately 100 yards west of the semi and there was a large debris field between the vehicles indicating the initial point of contact was likely between the two vehicles. The Deputy observed the primary damage to both vehicles was on the front driver quarter panels indicating that one of the vehicles likely crossed the center line into opposing traffic, causing the accident.
The Jeep had sustained a substantial amount of damage to the front of the vehicle primarily near the front driver-side tire. The damage continued down the entire driver-side of the vehicle. There was also minor damage to the rear passenger bumper, likely from striking the guard rail.
The semi’s front driver-side bumper was slightly bent. The front driver-side steer tire was missing and there appeared to be damage to areas of the engine bay behind where the steer tire was. Inside the cab, the Deputy observed the passenger window was broken out and the windshield on the passenger side of the vehicle was smashed.
Further examination of the crash scene, including tire marks on the road, indicated that the semi had been traveling east approaching a slight left curve. The Jeep had been traveling west after completing a slight right curve. The Jeep crossed the center line traveling into the eastbound, opposite lane of travel causing a collision with the semi.
After the collision, the semi continued traveling east for approximately 50 yards before losing control due to the driver-side steer tire being compromised from the accident. This appeared to cause the semi to enter the north ditch and go through an embankment before coming to rest in a driveway coming off Highway 8 to the north. After the collision, the jeep appeared to have somehow struck the guardrail located on the south shoulder of Highway 8 before rolling backward onto the north shoulder of Highway 8 where it came to rest.
Sanchez-Tzanahua was taken into custody for operating while intoxicated. During a search of his vehicle, several beer bottle caps were found spread throughout the vehicle. An empty Corona box was also found.
Sanchez-Tzanahua was transported to the Weyerhaeuser Cenex to conduct Field Sobriety Testing because it had a well-lit, level, and paved surface to conduct Standardized Field Sobriety Testing. The Deputy observed that while attempting to walk to a squad car to be transported, Sanchez-Tzanahua was limping and at one point allegedly nearly fell backward while trying to walk.
The co-worker of Sanchez-Tzanahua continued to provide translation assistance, and the Deputy observed numerous clues of intoxication during the Field Sobriety Testing.
Sanchez-Tzanahua agreed to take a Preliminary Breath Test and the results of that test indicated a breath alcohol content of 0.176.
Sanchez-Tzanahua was transported to a medical facility for a legal blood draw. During transport, the Deputy learned that Nasholm had passed away while en route to the hospital. The Deputy allegedly heard Sanchez-Tzanahua utter “sorry” and burp from the rear passenger area.
A sample of Sanchez-Tzanahua’s blood was obtained and subsequently submitted to the Wisconsin Crime Lab for testing. The results of that testing were not included in the criminal complaint at the time of this post.
Once at the Rusk County Jail, an interpreter was located to assist with interviewing Sanchez-Tzanahua.
Sanchez-Tzanahua said that he was in Ladysmith visiting his brother from around 1:00a to 2:30a and that he consumed three beers during that timeframe. Sanchez-Tzanahua said that he left Ladysmith at approximately 2:30a and began traveling west on Highway 8 towards his home in Rice Lake.
Sanchez-Tzanahua stated that he is not on prescription medication and does not use illegal drugs. He said he was traveling approximately 56 MPH and was not distracted by anything when the Victim crossed into his lane causing Sanchez-Tzanahua to strike the Victim. He said he called his co-workers after the accident and waited by his vehicle for law enforcement to arrive.
Sanchez-Tzanahua allegedly admitted he is not legally in the United States and that he has been in the U.S. for approximately three years. He said that the information on the two IDs he provided was correct.
Online court records show that Sanchez-Tzanahua appeared for a hearing in Rusk County Circuit Court on January 31, 2024. Rusk County District Attorney Anderson requested a $100,000 cash bond. Defense Counsel for Sanchez-Tzanahua requested a $10,000 cash bond. The Hon. Judge Beverly Wickstrom ordered a $100,000 cash bond.
Sanchez-Tzanahua is charged with Class C Felony Homicide by Intoxicated Use of a Vehicle While Having a Prior Intoxicant Related Conviction; Class H Felony Knowingly Operate Motor Vehicle While Revoked – Cause Death of Another; Misdemeanor Violating a Court Order Restricting Operating Privilege Ignition Interlock Device.
Sanchez-Tzanahua made an initial court appearance on February 7, 2024, and is scheduled to appear again in March 2024.
Pursuant to the direction of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, as found in Supreme Court Rule 20:3.6, Trial Publicly, you are advised that a charge is merely an accusation and that a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.