One of the criminals freed by Gov. Tony Evers’ then-appointee on the state Parole Commission has been charged in the double homicide of Gina and Emerson Weingart in an Elkhorn bar.
Thomas Routt Jr. 57, was named by his lawyer to WTMJ-TV, but the attorney says he denies wrongdoing. Routt was initially held on a parole hold. According to online court records, he has now been charged with homicide.
The Weingarts, husband and wife, were both found shot to death inside the Sports Page Barr in Elkhorn in a crime that has shocked the community. It’s not clear what the motive is for the crime, and police have released few other details. Gina Weingart worked at the bar.
Now it turns out the person who police have in custody is on the streets because of a parole grant.
According to Fox 6, the criminal complaint says Routt was at a gambling machine when he suddenly shot the two victims, fired at a third person, and then stole money from the cash register. He told police the motive was money, Fox 6 reported.
Thomas Routt Jr.: Paroled in 2020
Corrections’ records confirm that Routt was released in August 2020 on parole. A press release from Gov. Tony Evers said that John Tate, his controversial appointee to run the state Parole Commission, was to “begin his work as Parole Commission chairperson on June 3, 2019.”
“Improving our parole system is an important part of reforming our criminal justice system and eliminating the racial disparities that have led to increased incarceration rates for people of color,” Evers said when he first appointed Tate. “I know that John Tate II will be a strong advocate for the change we need to ensure our criminal justice system treats everyone fairly and focuses on rehabilitation. We can improve public safety and empower returning citizens at the same time.”
Tate later resigned after controversy over a 2022 parole grant, which was rescinded.
An Excel spreadsheet the Parole Commission sent to Wisconsin Right Now via a previous open records request lists Routt’s name, but says that he was paroled on an underlying burglary charge.
However, Routt was incarcerated for an even more serious offense. A description of Thomas Routt Jr.’s arson crime was detailed in a Wisconsin Court of Appeals order.
“The sentencing court had deemed Routt’s ‘horrendous crime’ of arson—in which he burned down the home of his ex-mother-in-law while that family was at another daughter’s wedding—to be “one of the worst I’ve ever seen…. This is one of the sickest, most dangerous kind[s] of arson that I’ve ever encountered because it was an arson for revenge, an arson to inflict great pain upon the victims and it did,” it says.
The appellate order recounts how Routt tried to use the toughening of parole policies in Wisconsin to get out of community supervision in 2023, but the appeals court rejected that request.
Thomas Routt Jr’s Criminal Record
According to Wisconsin court records, Thomas Routt Jr. was convicted of:
1995 Burglary Of Building/Dwelling and Carrying Concealed Weapon
1996 Arson of buildings; damage of property by explosives
1996 Forgery and Bail jumping
1996 Burglary Of Building/Dwelling
2008 Battery by Prisoners
Over the years, Routt made the news several times, depicted as a model inmate who was trying to turn his life around, as the old cliche goes.
Routt is quoted in a 2010 Appleton-Post Crescent article headlined, “Inmates Learn to Feel Pain of Victims.”
It says he was part of a restorative justice program at Columbia Correctional Institution and recounts how he had been sentenced for burglary. The story quoted the victim as saying her young daughter was afraid Routt would burglarize their home again and steal her toys and little brother. In that story, Routt apologized to the girl.
Thomas Routt Jr. appeared in a 2023 video by Gateway Tech College, where he was a campus ambassador. In the video, he described being molested as a child from ages 5 to 8, which led him to become depressed and a self-described loser. He said he went to prison in 1995 at age 28 after turning to drugs, served 25 years and was released in 2020, and underwent 25 programs. Once freed, he went to Gateway and was working on his second degree there, crediting prison with saving his life.
Wisconsin’s Parole Controversies
In 2021, after Tate started paroling some of the state’s worst killers and rapists, Evers renamed him to the Parole Commission, but his nomination pended until it was withdrawn by the governor amid controversy.
Tate’s parole grant – later rescinded – of convicted wife killer Douglas Balsewicz caused great controversy in 2022. After Wisconsin Right Now and other news outlets reported on the looming release and the victim’s family’s fervent efforts to stop it, Evers belatedly asked Tate to rescind the parole.
Tate eventually stepped down, although he later resurfaced as a violence prevention official in Racine.
Wisconsin Right Now won several Milwaukee Press Club awards for our reporting that a series of victims’ families and local police departments were not notified by the state about pending paroles and parole hearings, contrary to state law. After that reporting, parole has ground close to a halt in Wisconsin under a new parole commissioner.
It turned out that Tate had been paroling some of the state’s most brutal killers and rapists into Wisconsin communities, and that Evers had renominated him as parole commissioner after some of those releases.
These are old-law inmates because parole was abolished under truth-in-sentencing laws for inmates sentenced in later years.
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