Monday, April 15, 2024
Monday, April 15, 2024

Milwaukee Press Club 'Excellence in Wisconsin Journalism' 2020 & 2021 Award Winners

‘Absolutely Unacceptable’: Onalaska Paroled Killer’s Neighbor Says He’s Living in ‘Unregistered Daycare’ With Juvenile


The parole agent for murderer Terrance Shaw told Shaw’s next-door-neighbor in Onalaska that Shaw has privacy rights. She told the parole officer that neighbors believe Shaw is living in an unregistered daycare. She said the agent responded that they are aware of all of that and reiterated that Shaw was approved to live in that house.

The next-door neighbor of paroled strangler and rapist Terrance Shaw is furious that he was released into the Onalaska community where he once preyed on and murdered a young nurse, and she says that Corrections placed him in a house that she believes may operate as an unregistered daycare due to the number of kids brought to the home and picked up each day at regular intervals. He also lives with a juvenile relative, she said.

Tonja Colsch, 51, a title closer, told Wisconsin Right Now in an exclusive interview that she learned Shaw, a registered sex offender convicted in 1982 of the random murder of Susan Erickson, was living next door to her a few days ago through the grapevine. She says that he lives with his adult son, his son’s wife, and their teenage daughter, information verified through public records, the sex offender registry, and social media.

“That’s unacceptable,” she said. “It’s unacceptable. There are kids everywhere. I am single, and I live right next door. I was never notified. There are single ladies on our block. Our community was never notified.” We confirmed via the sex offender registry and online records that Colsch does live next door to Shaw.

Colsch said she called Shaw’s parole officer, and he refused to tell her the conditions of Shaw’s release without an open records request. The parole agent told her that Shaw has privacy rights. Colsch told the parole officer that neighbors believe Shaw is living in an unregistered daycare. She said the agent responded that they are aware of all of that and reiterated that Shaw was approved to live in that house.

She noted: “There’s a school bus that picks up right across the street from the house, and there’s another school bus three houses down that picks up.”

Furthermore, she is concerned by the volume of kids going to and from the house.

“I believe it’s a private daycare,” Colsch said of the house. “This morning, I watched one gal drop off her two little ones and then there was a van, I didn’t see how many little ones she had, but they have to be under 5.”

We could not find a daycare license for the residence, but Colsch says that multiple young children – about five – are dropped off at the home in the mornings and then picked back up and this has happened for months. The neighborhood has many other children and is a stop for school buses, she noted.

A woman dropped off an infant at the door of Shaw’s residence on the morning of September 21, 2022.

She’s furious and scared. “There’s quite a few kids, my kids are grown, but I have grandkids,” she said.

Colsch is old enough to remember how terrified the community was when Erickson was murdered. Shaw, who did not know his victim, had glimpsed her through a picture window, broke in, raped, stabbed, and strangled her to death. The murder was so brutal that Shaw left behind a severed piece of his thumb and fingernail at the murder scene. He was arrested a year later prowling the home of another med tech in Onalaska, with meat hooks and rubber shoes in his car. The arresting officer believes he was using the meat hooks to hike himself up the side of the med tech’s home to peer in, and he told WRN that the front door of the woman’s house was chipped.

We contacted a woman who lives in the home where Shaw lives via cell phone and left a message seeking comment. We did not get a response.

A young child was dropped off at Shaw’s residence on the morning of September 21, 2022

Erickson’s two sons and the Onalaska police chief also did not know Shaw was back in Onalaska living 2.6 miles from the murder scene, even though he was released in 2021.

Erickson had multiple knife wounds to the neck, heart, lungs, chest and back. Some of the knife wounds came after she was dead and some came through the chest. She was also strangled with a “band of bruising” around her neck and was sexually assaulted, according to a 1997 article in The La Crosse Tribune. Her jugular vein was cut and an artery behind her ear was severed. Part of the knife was “found lodged in her vertebrae,” an old Leader-Telegram article reported. She was also “tied down,” a pathologist testified.

Colsch was 10 years old when Erickson was murdered. “When this happened, it was huge,” she said. “My mom is a nurse. I remember this clear as day. I remember those nurses were getting walked out with security. There was a lot of fear at the time. I don’t think there had ever been a big murder like that.”

So she was especially horrified to learn Shaw had moved in next door.

We asked the Department of Corrections why Shaw was allowed to live in that location and what his parole conditions are but have not received a response. We have asked Evers and Lt. Gov. Barnes and AG Josh Kaul about Shaw with no response.

What terrifies her about the Erickson murder is that it was so random and “out of the blue” and then they “found him stalking another med tech from the hospital.”

“None of us knew about this,” Colsch said of the release until a text went around after we broke the story of Shaw’s parole and the La Crosse Tribune then followed with its own story.

Onalaska paroled killer
Children boarding a school bus near shaw’s residence on the morning of september 21, 2022. The children have been cropped out of photo.

Although officials told the Tribune that Shaw, 73, has severe mobility issues, Colsch doesn’t think he’s as “frail” as they are purporting.

She said he does use a stand-up walker at times, but he’s “not in a wheelchair,” and she’s seen him walk unassisted. He even spoke to her.

“It’s just a strange situation.” She said Shaw and his relatives moved into the home in October 2021. “They have teenage girls.” One is now over 18, but the second is a juvenile teen who lives in the home with Shaw, according to Colsch.

“I honestly never thought he would be released,” she said. “His excuses for why he did this to me do not make sense.”

Shaw argued that he was suffering from undiagnosed PTSD from his military service in the Vietnam War. There was a petition to free him that said he got a “doctorate in Bible studies and a PHD in philosophy of religion.”

Colsch said, “A lot of veterans went through Iraq, and, yeah, they have PTSD, but they never hurt a fly. They would hurt themselves before they hurt a fly.”

The release “doesn’t make sense,” she said.

Colsch said she “did not vote for Gov. Evers, nor will I be voting for him again because this is unacceptable.” She believes Shaw “wouldn’t be out of it weren’t for him (Evers)” because the governor selected the parole commission chair who freed Shaw – twice appointing him.

As for Evers’ pledge to reduce the prison population by 50%, she said people with lower level offenses should be considered, but not someone like Shaw. He “brutally raped and murdered an innocent woman. It was not a crime of passion. They had nothing to do with each other. He was just walking by one day,” Colsch said.

She says the fact Shaw is living back in Onalaska “went like wildfire” after the news stories.

Colsch believes a system needs to be created to notify the public where convicted murderers live, much like the sex offender registry. Shaw’s address is available on that registry, but the killers’ addresses without sex offenses are not. We asked Corrections for the address of another convicted killer, for example, and were only given the city.

“As a single woman living by myself, I would want to know that I had somebody convicted of first-degree murder living next door to me so I can have the choice to have the opportunity to protect myself,” Colsch said.

She doesn’t think Shaw’s age matters much. He’s 73. “If he was 90 and dying from cancer, I might feel a little bit different, but I’ve seen him, and I don’t think he’s as disabled as what they’re trying to portray him as. My mom is around that age, and she takes care of two great-grandchildren, and she’s all over the place.”

People say “thank God it’s not next door to me,” she said. “But it’s all fun and games until it is. It IS next door to me. It IS next door to people with kids. You can’t trust this person. It is absolutely unacceptable.”

She called Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes’ comment on video in 2018 that releasing prisoners was “sexy” disgusting. “I don’t know how it’s sexy to release someone who committed a murder like this,” she said.

Another concern she articulated is that neighborhood property values will drop, and no one would want to buy her house now even if she did try to move. “He’s living next door. I’ve even spoken to him.”

Before she knew who he was, “I figured he was a sweet old guy,” she said of the killer. “He is not frail though to the point where he couldn’t do something.”

She added: “I can not imagine what Susan Erickson’s family is going through right now. They didn’t even have common courtesy to tell those family members and then to put him back in the same community two miles from where this murder happened is absolutely unacceptable.”

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Trump's First Criminal Trial

Five Key Questions Ahead of Trump’s First Criminal Trial

Jury selection is set to begin Monday in the first-ever criminal trial of a former U.S. president.

Former President Donald Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts related to charges he paid hush money to adult film actress Stormy Daniels through a lawyer and covered it up as a legal expense before being elected president.

Trump has attempted to delay the start of the New York state trial several times, including three longshot tactics judges rejected this week.

What charges does Trump face in the New York hush money case?

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has charged Trump with 34 counts of falsifying business records related to money paid to Daniels and another woman, former Playboy model Karen McDougal. Bragg has alleged Trump broke New York law when he falsified with the intent to commit or conceal another crime.

Prosecutors allege Trump falsified internal records kept by his company, hiding the true nature of payments that involve Daniels ($130,000), McDougal ($150,000), and Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen ($420,000). Prosecutors allege the money was logged as legal expenses, not reimbursements. Both Cohen and Daniels are expected to testify.

Cohen is expected to be a key witness in the trial. Daniels has said she expects to testify.

Former Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., Bragg's predecessor, did not bring the case to trial.

What happens on Monday?

Prosecutors, defense attorneys and Donald Trump are expected to be present when the trial before Judge Juan Merchan gets started Monday. The first step will be picking a jury, a process that could take a week or more depending on how things progress. The trial is expected to last six to eight weeks.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys will select 12 jurors and six alternates from a pool of potentially hundreds of people. Each juror will answer 42 questions designed to determine if they can be impartial in the high-profile trial of a polarizing former president. The jurors will remain anonymous because of security concerns.

Once a jury is seated, it's on to opening statements where prosecutors and defense attorneys will get to address the jury about what they plan to show during the trial.

What is Trump's defense to the charges?

Trump has maintained he did nothing wrong and has accused Bragg of bringing a politically motivated case involving conduct in 2016 during a presidential election year as Trump faces incumbent Joe Biden in a rematch of the 2020 election.

Trump has spoken out against the judge, the district attorney and other involved in the case repeatedly. Trump's comments prompted a gag order from the judge who said Trump can't talk publicly about certain people involved in the case and their families.

"The White House Thugs should not be allowed to have these dangerous and unfair Biden Trials during my campaign for President. All of them, civil and criminal, could have been brought more than three years ago. It is an illegal attack on a Political Opponent. It is Communism at its worst, and Election Interference at its Best. No such thing has ever happened in our Country before," Trump wrote on his social media platform Truth Social this week. "On Monday I will be forced to sit, GAGGED, before a HIGHLY CONFLICTED & CORRUPT JUDGE, whose hatred for me has no bounds. All of these New York and D.C. 'Judges' and Prosecutors have the same MINDSET. Nobody but this Soros Prosecutor, Alvin Bragg, wanted to take this ridiculous case. All legal scholars say it is a sham. BIDEN'S DOJ IS RUNNING THE CASE. Just think of it, these animals want to put the former President of the United States (who got more votes than any sitting President!), & the PARTY'S REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE, IN JAIL, for doing absolutely nothing wrong. It is a RUSH TO THE FINISH. SO UNFAIR!"

Will Trump take the stand?

That's not clear yet. Trump said last month that he'd be willing to testify at trial if needed.

Could Trump go to jail?

It's too earlier to tell what will happen if Trump is convicted. Under New York state law, falsifying business records in the first degree is a Class E felony that carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison.

Trump's age and lack of any prior criminal convictions could work in his favor at sentencing if he's convicted. His attacks on the judge could have the opposite effect at sentencing. Before sentencing, the judge would look at sentencing guidelines, recommendations from prosecutors and any other pre-sentence reports.

In late March, Trump said that he wasn't worried about a conviction when asked if he thought a conviction could hurt his chances of returning to the White House.

"It could also make me more popular because the people know it's a scam," he said. "It's a Biden trial, there is no trial, there's a Biden trial."

Whatever happens during the trial, Trump will be protected by the U.S. Secret Service.

Even if convicted and sentenced to jail, Trump could continue his campaign to re-take the White House.

"The Constitution does not bar felons from serving as President," said Richard Hasen, professor of law and political science at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Trump could not pardon himself from any state charges, Hasen said.

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Liberal Justice Anne Walsh Bradley Not Running for Reelection

(The Center Square) – Wisconsin’s next supreme court race could be even more contentious and even more expensive than the last one.

Liberal Justice Anne Walsh Bradley on Thursday surprised the state when she announced she will not run for re-election next year.

"My decision has not come lightly. It is made after careful consideration and reflection. I know I can do the job and do it well. I know I can win re-election, should I run. But it's just time to pass the torch, bring fresh perspectives to the court," Walsh Bradley said in a statement.

She is one of Wisconsin’s longest serving justices, serving her third 10-year term on the court.

“In the 177-year history of the court, only four justices have served longer than my length of service,” she wrote.

Walsh Bradley’s decision means the next election will be open.

Former Republican attorney general, and current Waukesha County judge, Brad Schimel has already jumped into the race. There aren’t any declared Democrats yet.

Schimel on Thursday said Walsh Bradley’s decision isn’t changing anything for him.

“From the beginning of my campaign, I made it clear that I’m not just running against one person, I’m running against this Court’s leftist majority,” Schimel said. “I wish Justice Ann Walsh Bradley well in retirement after decades of public service. I look forward to continuing the fight to bring integrity and respect for the Constitution back to the Supreme Court of Wisconsin.”

Wisconsin’s last race for the supreme court, in April of 2023, set records for spending. The race between Justice Janet Protasiewicz and former Justice Dan Kelly cost more than $56 million. That makes the 2023 Wisconsin race the most expensive judicial race in American history. Many court observers and politicos in Wisconsin say the 2025 race could be just as expensive, or even more expensive.

Protasiewicz’s victory flipped the Wisconsin Supreme Court to a 4-3 liberal majority for the first time in 15 years.

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State Bar of Wisconsin Changing Diversity Definition to End Discrimination Suit

(The Center Square) – The State Bar of Wisconsin isn’t ending its diversity clerkship that faced a federal discrimination lawsuit, instead it is changing the definition of diversity.

The State Bar agreed to tweak the program and make it about the diversity of ideas and experiences, rather than base the clerkship on race and gender.

“The settlement clarifies the definition of ‘diversity’ but makes no changes to the program,” State Bar Executive Director Larry Martin said. “The Diversity Clerkship Program, which has been creating opportunities for Wisconsin-based law students for three decades, will continue to exist and to operate in its current form.”

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty sued, saying it’s against the law to hire anyone based on race or gender.

WILL Associate Counsel Skylar Croy said they have had to make it a habit to remind people of that fact.

“Defeating unconstitutional DEI programs has become WILL’s area of expertise, and we are not stopping here,” Croy said in a statement. “While we are pleased with this victory, we know the fight is far from over. In fact, this is only the beginning of a movement, and our lawsuit will provide a roadmap for future victories in all 50 states.”

WILL has also sued over DEI programs at the University of Wisconsin that it says are race-based.

The bar said the only thing that is changing about the Diversity Clerkship is the focus on race in its definition of diversity.

“Under the settlement, the new definition states: Diversity means including people with differing characteristics, beliefs, experiences, interests, and viewpoints. Diversity promotes an environment in which all individuals are treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their differences and without regard to stereotypes, and helps to ensure a better understanding and consideration of the needs and viewpoints of others with whom we interact,” the bar added.

WILL sued on behalf of Daniel Suhr, who is a lawyer in the state and is required to be a member of the bar.

After the settlement, Suhr said the new definition is the first step toward restoring fairness to the Diversity Clerkship.

“Premier internship opportunities should be available to students based on merit – not race. I am proud to partner with WILL to set a strong precedent for the next generation of law students,” he said in a statement.

The Diversity Clerkship Program is a 10-week, paid summer job where first-year Marquette University Law School and University of Wisconsin Law School students are matched with law firms, corporate legal departments and government agencies.

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Group Allegedly Involved in Pre-pandemic Wuhan Coronavirus Research to Testify Before Congress

Lawmakers plan to interrogate the head of Eco Health Alliance, the group accused of conducting dangerous coronavirus research in Wuhan, China just before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic will hold a public hearing May 1 where Dr. Peter Daszak is expected to testify. Daszak is the president of Eco Health Alliance, a U.S. nonprofit health research company that used taxpayer-funded grants to conduct coronavirus research.

The lawmakers on the committee also allege that newly obtained documents show Daszak’s previous testimony misled the committee or misrepresented the facts.

“These revelations undermine your credibility as well as every factual assertion you made during your transcribed interview,” the letter said. “The Committees have a right and an obligation to protect the integrity of their investigations, including the accuracy of testimony during a transcribed interview. We invite you to correct the record.”

One of those obtained documents appears to show Daszak saying he plans to work with Wuhan researchers.

A federal grant database shows that Eco Health Alliance received millions of dollars since 2014 from the federal government to study coronaviruses that originate in animals and in some cases can transfer to humans, with an emphasis on China.

A key and highly disputed part of the inquiry is whether Eco Health Alliance’ research included making coronaviruses more dangerous,.

Under former President Donald Trump, the federal National Institutes of Health cut all funding to the group in question over the controversy.

Under the Biden administration, funding has been restored, and NIH has emphatically stated that Eco Health Alliance did not play a role in the start of the pandemic.

“Unfortunately, in the absence of a definitive answer, misinformation and disinformation are filling the void, which does more harm than good,” NIH said in a 2021 statement. “NIH wants to set the record straight on NIH-supported research to understand naturally occurring bat coronaviruses at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, funded through a subaward from NIH grantee EcoHealth Alliance. Analysis of published genomic data and other documents from the grantee demonstrate that the naturally occurring bat coronaviruses studied under the NIH grant are genetically far distant from SARS-CoV-2 and could not possibly have caused the COVID-19 pandemic. Any claims to the contrary are demonstrably false.”

In 2022 and 2023 NIH awarded Eco Health Alliance a total of at least $1,230,594 to research “the potential for future bat coronavirus emergence in Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam.”

The idea that the COVID-19 virus began in a Wuahn lab was once denounced as a conspiracy theory but has now gotten more widespread credibility.

The FBI announced last year after its investigation that COVID-19 most likely came from a Wuhan lab. That news came just after the Department of Energy also said the Wuhan lab was most likely the origin of COVID-19, though neither agency expressed a high degree of confidence in that theory.

Other groups have suggested it came from the Wuhan wet market, though no definitive answer has been settled on.

Trump's First Criminal Trial

Trump Calls for Sanctions, Censure of Special Counsel Jack Smith

Former President Donald Trump called for special counsel Jack Smith to be sanctioned or censured for "attacking" the judge in Trump's classified documents case.

Trump's comments on Thursday come after Smith and his team of prosecutors made it clear they think Judge Aileen Cannon's latest ruling was based on "an unstated and fundamentally flawed legal premise." Prosecutors objected to Cannon's order to produce proposed jury instructions under two different legal scenarios. Smith said both legal scenarios were flawed.

In response to the judge's order, prosecutors said they need clarification on Cannon's position so they can appeal if needed. They asked the judge to decide before the trial if the Presidential Records Act "has an impact on the element of unauthorized possession" of classified documents. Failure to do so could make it impossible to prosecute Trump because of the double jeopardy clause in the Fifth Amendment, which prohibits anyone from being prosecuted twice for the same crime.

Trump lashed out Thursday morning.

"Deranged 'Special' Counsel Jack Smith, who has a long record of failure as a prosecutor, including a unanimous decision against him in the U.S. Supreme Court, should be sanctioned or censured for the way he is attacking a highly respected Judge, Aileen Cannon, who is presiding over his FAKE Documents Hoax case in Florida," Trump wrote in a message posted to Truth Social.

Trump also said Smith shouldn't be on the case.

"He shouldn’t even be allowed to participate in this sham case, where I, unlike Crooked Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and all the rest, come under the Presidential Records Act," Trump wrote. "I DID NOTHING WRONG, BUT BIDEN DID, AND THEY LET HIM OFF SCOT-FREE. HOW DID THAT HAPPEN, JACK? A TWO TIERED SYSTEM OF JUSTICE. ELECTION INTERFERENCE!"

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 40 felony counts that allege he kept sensitive military documents, shared them with people who didn't have security clearance and tried to get around the government's attempts to get them back.

Trump faces a rematch against President Joe Biden in this year's presidential election. Trump also faces three other criminal cases in New York, Georgia and another federal case in Washington D.C. He's used millions of dollars in campaign contributions to pay his mounting legal bills.

Trump also is appealing a $464 million fine in a civil case in New York. He posted a $175 million bond to appeal that decision.

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Biden Cancels Replenishment of Strategic Oil Reserves

The Biden administration will pause its replenishment of the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserves because oil has become too expensive, the White House said.

Earlier in his term, Biden drained about half of the U.S. oil reserves down to their lowest level in decades in order to try to lower gas prices, which surpassed a record national average of more than $5 per gallon in 2022 before coming back down. Now, Biden’s effort to replenish those reserves have been stalled.

Critics warn that lower oil reserves are a national security issue for the U.S. If the reserves are low when a larger war or crisis occurs, refilling the reserves could be much more difficult and certainly more expensive.

“It’s pure insanity to watch the Biden Administration cut American oil production and then claim they can’t refill our critical reserve because of the price,” Daniel Turner, founder and executive director for Power The Future, said in a statement. “Joe Biden drained the SPR for political reasons, cut our domestic production for his climate agenda and now he’s leaving our critical reserve more vulnerable because he’s incompetent. As a result, Americans are paying more at the pump, more at the grocery store and our SPR is less full during a time of rising turmoil in the Middle East.”

Biden has taken fire from Republicans for hindering U.S. oil production and lowering the reserves. The Biden administration has increased regulatory pushback for oil domestic production while raising ongoing concerns about climate change.

“The Biden administration’s war on U.S. energy is crippling hardworking Americans and has led to our Strategic Petroleum Reserves being at their lowest levels since the 1908s,” U.S. Rep. Mike Collins, R-Ga., wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “Reverse course and restore U.S. energy dominance!"