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Ex-con who allegedly burgled RF businesses, still on the run; Burke attacks Walker over state's revenue woes; 9 more Wisconsin stories

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Ex-con who allegedly burgled RF businesses, still on the run; Burke attacks Walker over state's revenue woes; 9 more Wisconsin stories
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

Eric Hall, the man believed to have stolen a Ford Explorer and broken into two River Falls businesses last June, is still on the run.

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Hall allegedly stole a half-dozen vehicles in central and western Wisconsin three days after he left prison on June 10th.

The 38-year-old Hall was almost captured in July at a home in Vesper in Wood County, but authorities said a friend lied to officers about Hall's whereabouts, while Hall stole the man's vehicle and sped away.

One of the first vehicles stolen had a shotgun and rifle in it, plus hundreds of rounds of ammunition. Another belonged to a New Auburn volunteer fire-fighter with an emergency light and siren inside.

Since then, authorities said Hall stole more vehicles, committed several burglaries, assaulted a police officer, and was involved in a high-speed chase.

He has connections or has been seen in Pierce, St. Croix, Portage, Marathon, Wood, Monroe, Jackson, Grant, Sauk, Oneida, Vilas, Eau Claire, Barron, and Chippewa counties.

The River Falls segment of the drama began Friday, June 13, shortly after 3 a.m. when the store alarm sounded from the interior of Dick’s Fresh Market, 1121 S. Main St. Two glass entrance doors were found broken, possibly with an ax or bat. Store surveillance video showed the suspect going inside, heading back to the meat department and then returning to the front to leave — all within about three minutes.

A search by police, including use of Hudson's K-9, failed to locate Hall.

Later that morning a cleaner at Copper Kettle, 1005 S. Main St., called to report a break-in. A glass door there was found shattered and a “four-figure sum of cash” was missing, according to police.

Hall, whose nickname is Buck, is white, 5-10, 170-190 pounds, has many tattoos, wears glasses and has a goatee.

Anyone with information about Hall can remain anonymous be eligible for a reward. They're asked to call area Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

-- Larry Lee, WSAU, Wausau

Candidate Burke takes shot a Walker over 'fiscal responsibility'

MADISON -- Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke says the latest state revenue projections show how "fiscally irresponsible" Scott Walker has been.

The Revenue Department issued preliminary figures Thursday showing that state tax collections were $281 million less than projected for the fiscal year ending June 30. That does not include $25 million in casino revenues fees the Potawatomi tribe is withholding in a dispute with Walker over the proposed Menominee Hard Rock casino at Kenosha.

Burke said she was right earlier this year, when she wondered if Walker and his legislative Republicans cut taxes beyond a fiscally-responsible level.

Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said Republicans have managed taxpayers' money well, and will keep doing so. The state would have to either cut spending or raise revenues by next June 30 to prevent the current two-year budget from ending with a $115 million shortfall.

The state has enough in its $280 million rainy day fund to cover the lag in tax collections but the Legislature would have to approve its use.

State law requires that the budget be balanced, although there are normally commitments that stretch into the next budget period.

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau says the budget which takes effect next July already has a $642 million structural deficit.

State reports 29,000 jobs added through March

MADISON -- State officials said Wisconsin added just under 29,000 private sector jobs in the 12 months ending in March.

Wisconsinites will learn Sept. 18 how the increase compares with other states, when the federal government releases its Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages.

In the last census report, Wisconsin gained just over 28,000 jobs for the year ending last December -- a 1.2 percent job growth rate that was about half the national increase.

The new figure is about 500 jobs higher than the previous one.

Industrial pipe firm expanding at Kaukauna

KAUKAUNA -- A Fox Valley company that makes industrial pipes says it will hire 155 more people over the next three years.

Team Industries of Kaukauna plans to add positions that range from welders to accountants. The firm is currently expanding its current plant, and it plans to put up an additional facility.

Kris Levanetz of Team Industries told WLUK TV there's a higher demand for the piping the company provides to facilities like power plants and oil refineries.

She also said Team Industries is expanding its market area.

Students frequent target of ID fraud

MADISON -- One of every five identity theft victims are in their 20's. With that in mind, Wisconsin consumer protection officials are urging college students to be especially careful about protecting their personal information as they head to class next week.

State officials urge students to shred documents they don't need to keep -- like school registration forms, bank and credit card statements, and offers for new credit cards.

They're also urged to buy lock-boxes to keep sensitive items like passports and credit cards.

Before they connect onto their campus online networks, students are urged to check with their college's tech department for guidance on protecting their Web-accessible devices.

Veteran who sued feds completing FBI training

MILWAUKEE -- A wounded Army Ranger from Oak Creek will graduate from the Federal Bureau of Investigation's training academy in October.

Justin Slaby won a federal lawsuit last year, after he claimed he was wrongly dismissed from the FBI academy because he lost his left hand while serving in Iraq.

This week, the Justice Department's inspector general found that former Milwaukee FBI office director Teresa Carlson urged agent Mark Crider to commit perjury, by testifying that Slaby wasn't qualified to be an agent due to his disability.

Crider supported Slaby in court anyway and Slaby's attorney, Kathy Butler, said this week's report portrayed Crider as "the hero he is."

Butler also confirmed Slaby's progress toward his goal of becoming an FBI agent.

The Justice Department did not prosecute Carlson even though this week's report said Carlson had refused to talk to the inspector general until she was forced to do so, and questioners had suspected that she lied.

Part of all this was made public a year ago and soon afterward, Carlson was transferred to Washington where she remains the FBI's deputy director for facilities and logistics.

ISIS militants alleged to have water-boarded Foley

MILWAUKEE -- There's a report that Marquette graduate James Foley was water-boarded during the early days of his captivity in Syria.

The Washington Post said Islamic State militants strapped Foley and three other U.S. journalists onto gurneys, and poured cold water on cloths over their faces in a drowning sensation. It was apparently part of the terrorists' interrogation of the Americans, who were covering the Syrian civil war when they were captured.

The Post said the militants appeared to use the same technique the CIA used to interrogate suspected terrorists after the 9-11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

Foley was taken hostage on Thanksgiving of 2012, and a video released last week showed him being executed.

Embattled Oregon police chief opts for retirement

OREGON -- A Dane County police chief who retired this week is now under a state investigation.

According to the Wisconsin State Journal and television reports, former Oregon chief Doug Pettit did not tell village officials about a significant number of police calls for problems at the Union Sports Club. That's where he and other Oregon officers had performed security work while off-duty.

WISC TV said the state Justice Department is looking into possible misconduct in office, for using village resources like police uniforms and squad cars in their off-duty work.

The club lost its liquor license this summer, after Oregon Village Board members found earlier violations that officials did not know about, including incidents of drugs and violence. Had they been known, board officials said the club would have lost its license earlier than it did.

The chief had gone on a medical leave before he announced on Monday he would retire. The board issued a statement yesterday calling Pettit's behavior "reprehensible."

Sloppy, muggy weather on-tap for long weekend

SULLIVAN -- Labor Day Weekend will not be ideal for campers and other outdoor enthusiasts in Wisconsin. Rain is in the forecast every day.

The National Weather Service says up two inches could fall in central and northern Wisconsin between Friday and Monday. Forecasters say flooding is possible in cities and streams, and large hail is possible in some areas.

The best chance of thunderstorms is from Friday afternoon through Saturday, and again from Sunday night into Monday night.

Temperatures are expected to remain mild, with highs in the 70's and 80's predicted for each day of the holiday weekend and the mercury should stay above 55 at night.

Dry and warmer weather is expected Tuesday throughout the Badger State.

Wild rice crop maturing later than usual

Many folks in northern Wisconsin love wild rice but the harvest for the Ojibwe Indian food staple is running late this year.

Biologist Peter David of the Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission says hardly any rice is mature enough for picking, even though Labor Day Weekend is normally a busy harvest time. The cool summer and this year's long winter are both to blame for the delay.

David says the overall quality of the wild rice crop appears to be better than expected. There were fears that high water levels in the spring would damage the rice plants. Still, David says the quality is "highly variable."

Some wild rice waters away from the reservations won't open until they're declared ready by state and tribal officials. Meanwhile, harvesters might run into more waterfowl hunters.

The Department of Natural Resources is starting an early teal season on Labor Day. David said he hopes conflicts will be minimal since many hunters prefer to be out early in the morning while rice harvesting doesn't normally begin until after 10 a.m.

-- Natalie Jablonski, WXPR, Rhinelander

Mother facing homicide charge in daughter's traffic death

MADISON -- A Madison woman was charged Thursday in the death of her 18-month-old daughter.

Dane County prosecutors said Raya Hansen, 33, was under the influence of drugs when the toddler was killed in February of last year.

Hansen reportedly told police she dropped the girl's baby bottle, and was looking for it when a wheelchair the girl was riding in rolled onto a busy street and she was hit. The wheelchair was being used as a stroller.

A state investigation last summer found that Hansen's neglect resulted in her daughter's death. Hansen is now charged with second-degree reckless homicide and fatal child neglect. Her initial court appearnace has not been scheduled.

Hansen is currently in prison at Taycheedah, for a sentence in an unrelated incident.

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