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Monday, February 11, 2008

[WI] Deputy Peterson's lack of a history of violence contested

Witnesses: Peterson Had History of Pushing Girlfriend Around
Emily Matesic
Feb 9, 2008
As it released the final report Thursday, the Wisconsin attorney general's office concluded Tyler Peterson wasn't known to be a violent person who was capable of killing six of his friends. But that's what 20-year-old Peterson did last October, shooting six young people at the home of his ex-girlfriend, Jordanne Murray, and severely wounding a seventh. After evading police for several hours, Peterson eventually killed himself... According to interviews conducted with friends of both Murray and Peterson, there was a history of violence in their relationship dating back to high school... "The conclusion drawn by the attorney general's office is that there was no previous indicator that anybody was aware of other than the episode immediately preceding the killings. To me that seems incredibly inconsistent, and I'm not sure how they could come to that conclusion," Blau said. Since the final report was just released a day before, attorneys for the victims' families weren't sure whether they'll pursue legal action...

Families react to end of shooting investigation
Associated Press Writer
Feb 7, 2008
For one family that lost a young child in the shooting rampage of an off-duty deputy sheriff in Crandon four months ago, the state's closing of its investigation Thursday did not answer every question. Wayne Coulter, the live-in boyfriend of Jenny Stahl, whose 14-year-old daughter, Lindsey Stahl, died in the rampage, said he doesn't believe the deputy, 20-year-old Tyler Peterson, could shoot himself three times in the head hours after the killings as police closed in on him in some woods. "Do people believe that?" Coulter asked in a telephone interview from his home in Crandon. "I don't believe that for a minute. Who shot him? I don't know... Nothing is going to be done. It is crazy... They are out to protect their own butts now"... It appears the state's probe looked mostly into the killings and the aftermath, not whether Peterson's employers did anything wrong in hiring or supervising him... Gary Thomas, whose 18-year-old daughter Lianna died in the rampage, declined comment and referred questions to his attorney, Peg Lautenschlager, who represents five families and Neitzel. They have filed claims against the county and city governments seeking wrongful death damages...


  1. Crandon Families' Claims Will Be Denied
    TMJ4 / Associated Press
    Katie DeLong

    CRANDON - Forest County will deny the claims filed by families that seek millions of dollars in damages in the shooting rampage by an off-duty deputy sheriff that left six young people dead and another severely injured, an attorney said Tuesday.

    Corporation Counsel Paul Payant said the Forest County Sheriff's Department had no knowledge that Tyler Peterson was capable of causing such a tragedy.

    Nothing "jumped out or stood out" to put the county on notice about problems Peterson might have had, he said. "This is something that I don't think anybody could predict. Certainly, there seemed to be no history of problems with Tyler Peterson as far as the sheriff's department was aware of."

    Twelve notices of claim were filed with the county and the city of Crandon Monday, alleging that Peterson's employers were negligent in hiring and supervising him and "further were negligent in other respects as yet to be determined."

    The claims offered no details to back up the allegation.

    Four victims' estates or parents are seeking money from the governments for their deaths, and the lone survivor is seeking compensation for his injuries.

    The rampage occurred in the early morning hours of Oct. 7 after Peterson, 20 and also a part-time Crandon police officer, showed up at a house party in Crandon to make up with ex-girlfriend Jordanne Murray.

    According to the claims, Peterson was asked to leave and warned if he didn't, the police would be called.

    "I am the cops," Peterson responded, according to the claims.

    Peterson got an assault rifle from his truck that he was allowed to carry as a SWAT team member, forced his way back back inside and started shooting, firing about 30 shots before he fled in his truck, the claims said.

    He died hours later after holing up at a friend's property. Authorities have said Peterson suffered what appeared to be self-inflicted head wounds, along with a wound in the arm from a long-range bullet.

    Payant said that once the claims are denied by the county board of supervisors, the next step is for the families to file a civil wrongful death lawsuit.

    The county has liability insurance and its attorneys will defend the county, he said.

    The claims, which named Forest County Sheriff Keith Van Cleve and Crandon Police Chief John Dennee as defendants, seek a total of more than $5 million in damages, with several seeking $500,000 plus $5,000 for funeral and burial costs.

    The parents seek the money for the loss of their child and unspecified "emotional and financial harm," the claims said.

    City attorney Lindsay Erickson has denied comment on what the city might do next. She did not immediately return a telephone message Tuesday.


  2. Lawyer alleges political cover-up
    Wisconsin State Journal
    JAN 31, 2008

    A Milwaukee lawyer on Wednesday accused state Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen and Forest County District Attorney Leon Stenz of withholding for "political reasons" information on the October killings of six teenagers and subsequent suicide by an off-duty Forest County sheriff's deputy in Crandon.

    In a court filing, Alan D. Eisenberg asked a judge to order Stenz to give him all evidence relating to the murders.

    Eisenberg represents a Crandon woman who was arrested after an altercation with Tyler Peterson, the deputy, and other officers. The woman is a cousin of Peterson's ex-girlfriend, who was killed in the rampage, Eisenberg said.

    Among the evidence he's looking for is the investigative report on the murders, Eisenberg said.

    Kevin St. John, a spokesman for Van Hollen, declined to comment on the allegation, but Stenz called the accusations of a cover-up "totally ludicrous."

    "It gives cause to question Mr. Eisenberg's ethics," Stenz said.

    Eisenberg said Stenz and Van Hollen don't want the report released because it could raise questions about Stenz's conduct in talking to Peterson by phone about a possible surrender shortly before Peterson reportedly shot himself in the head after he was shot in the arm by a sniper.

    Stenz is a candidate for Forest County circuit judge and will be on the ballot in the Feb. 19 primary. He is facing incumbent Judge Robert Kennedy and Douglas Drexler, the Florence County district attorney. The judge serves both counties.


    Director in Justice Department suspended
    Wisconsin State Journal
    MARK PITSCH mpitsch@madison.com
    JAN 31, 2008

    The director of the state Department of Justice bureau that helps local law enforcement conduct death investigations, including murders and police-related shootings, has been suspended.

    The suspension of Carolyn Kelly, director of the special assignments bureau and also the state fire marshal, is the second high-level personnel move in the state Division of Criminal Investigation this month.

    James Warren, the longtime DCI administrator and the state's top criminal investigator, resigned effective Jan. 2. In a December e-mail, Warren said his year working under Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, elected in November 2006, was "very difficult" and his future "looked even more difficult."

    Kelly confirmed Wednesday that she has been put on paid administrative leave but declined to comment further. She earns $87,107 annually.

    Van Hollen said Wednesday that DCI "has always been well-run and well-managed" and that he was not in the process of making management changes in the division. But he declined to comment on Kelly's suspension.

    "We in the Department of Justice are not going to be publicly discussing personnel issues," Van Hollen said at a news conference announcing a new crime alert program.

    Van Hollen said he wasn't aware of any criminal probe involving Kelly and wouldn't say if the suspension was related to the state's investigation of the October murders of six young people in Crandon by an off-duty Forest County sheriff's deputy, and the deputy's subsequent suicide.

    Because the shootings involved a member of local law enforcement, the bureau Kelly runs was asked within hours of the murders to send agents to the scene. She was one of the officials who reviewed the incident.

    Even though the former deputy, Tyler Peterson, killed himself hours after committing the murders, state and local officials have still not released the state's investigative report on the matter.

    Van Hollen has said Peterson shot himself three times in the head and also was shot by a SWAT team member.

    The department's investigative file has been provided to Forest County District Attorney Leon Stenz for review and won't be made public until Stenz makes a decision on whether any charges are warranted in the case, said Kevin St. John, a spokesman for Van Hollen.

    With the killer dead, it's not clear who might be the subject of any charges or what might be the nature of any wrongdoing.

    Stenz said his review is nearly finished and said the investigative file may be released as early as next week.


    Suspended official is tied to e-mail
    Wisconsin State Journal
    By Mark Pitsch mpitsch@madison.com
    FEB 2, 2008

    The Wisconsin Department of Justice official suspended last week is linked to an e-mail about fellow employees that officials deemed threatening, according to a letter written by a department official.

    The letter indicates that the e-mail was either sent or received by Carolyn Kelly, the suspended director of the department 's special assignments bureau and state fire marshal.

    The email is part of an investigation into "possible misconduct " by an employee and won 't be immediately released, according to the letter, signed by Dean Stensberg, the department official in charge of handling requests for documents from the public.

    The letter, released on Saturday, doesn 't say whether the e-mail or the investigation is connected to Kelly 's suspension on Jan. 28. Justice officials have declined to release the text of the electronic message.

    Kevin St. John, a spokesman for Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, declined to comment on the suspension or elaborate on the letter, which the Justice Department provided to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in response to an open records request.

    Kelly declined to comment on the letter, and said she has not had contact with Justice officials regarding the circumstances of her suspension since she was notified of it last week.

    Kelly has confirmed she is on paid administrative leave. Her salary is $87,107.

    As director of the special assignments bureau, she oversaw agents who assisted local law enforcement investigating murder cases and police shootings, among other things. Agents she supervised responded to the October murders of six people in Crandon by an off-duty sheriff 's deputy, and she was part of a team reviewing law enforcement 's handling of the situation. The deputy, Tyler Peterson, killed himself hours after the rampage.

    A report on the matter is expected to be released on Thursday.

    Dan Bach, a former deputy attorney general who is Kelly 's lawyer, said he has not seen the email referenced in the letter and that Kelly has not been given a specific reason for her suspension.

    "We 're mystified by this, " Bach said. "She 's been a 25-year employee with absolutely a stellar record. "

    Kelly has been on maternity leave for several weeks, and was still at home when she was notified of the suspension, Bach said.

    Kelly 's suspension is the second move involving high-level officials in the Division of Criminal Investigation. DCI administrator Jim Warren resigned on Jan. 2, saying in an e-mail his year under Van Hollen had been "very difficult. "



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