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Heroin claimed record 227 lives in 2013; Girl’s parents seek restraining order against 5-year-old boy; More state news

An analysis found that 227 people died of heroin overdoses in Wisconsin last year. That’s 10% more than in 2012, according to Gannett Wisconsin Media, which found that overdose deaths skyrocketed over the past seven years.

The state only averaged about 30 heroin deaths each year between 2000 and 2007. Last year more than twice that many died in Milwaukee County alone. Gannett said 67 people died from overdoses of heroin in the state's most-populated county in 2013 -- up from just nine a decade before.

Gannett, which has 10 daily newspapers in Wisconsin's midsection, said 39 of the state's 72 counties had at least one heroin overdose death last year -- six counties more than in 2012.

Law enforcement officials have said more addicts turned to heroin after the prescription painkiller OxyContin was reformulated four years ago to make it harder to inject and snort.

The heroin problem in southeast Wisconsin will be examined at a forum June 4 at Marquette University in Milwaukee.


Girl’s parents seek restraining order against 5-year-old boy

A judge is being asked to halt bullying by a kindergartener in Kenosha County.

A court hearing is set for Tuesday after the parents of a six-year-old girl asked for a restraining order to keep a five-year-old boy away from her.

The two are in the same class at Prairie Lane Elementary School in Pleasant Prairie. Police said the girl was kicked in the face and has had rocks and sand thrown at her.

The girl's father told Milwaukee TV stations that his daughter has been threatened as well as attacked, and the school should have done something about it sooner.

Tanya Ruder of the Kenosha Unified School District said there are two sides to every story, but she couldn't give the school's take.

The girl's father said he'll lobby to have the boy removed from Prairie Lane. One TV report said another family has also complained to police about the same boy, and they're thinking about seeking a restraining order as well.


Cold didn’t slow Lyme disease tick

If you think the cold winter reduced your chances of getting Lyme disease, think again.

UW-Madison entomology professor Susan Paskewitz said she's heard from many people who hoped that the extreme cold might have killed off a lot of disease-carrying ticks. But it didn't happen.

Paskewitz told Wisconsin Public Radio that she and her team found 50 deer ticks early last month in a relatively small area in Dane County. She said the ticks have probably adapted to colder winters, staying warm and cozy even in harsh conditions.

Paskewitz said Wisconsin's ticks are more likely to carry Lyme disease than in the past. A study from UW-Eau Claire released last fall bears that out. It said that just over a third of ticks collected in 21 counties tested positive for Lyme. A state health official blamed an expanding tick population at the time.


Temperatures fall to 20’s in parts of state

It got colder during the night in much of Wisconsin, causing folks to stoke up their furnaces for the first time in a while.

The mercury fell into the 20's in north central areas. Land O'Lakes, next to the Upper Michigan border in Vilas County, was the state's cold spot at 6 a.m. with 26 degrees. Volk Field in Juneau County got down to 24 overnight.

With only a week to go before the Memorial Day weekend, the Wisconsin Dells outdoor water parks felt a shiver as nearby Grand Marsh dropped to 25. Most of the state was in the 30's at 6 a.m. A few places were in the low 40's.  Prairie du Chien was the warm spot at 41.

The National Weather Service says a mid-level low pressure system over the Great Lakes will keep things cool and occasionally wet at least through tomorrow. Today's highs will only reach the 40's and 50's.

Patchy frost is due to return tonight with lows dropping again into the 30's. Clear and warmer weather is expected on Sunday. Highs in the 60's are forecast at least through Tuesday.


Economist says state’s economy recovering gradually

An economist says Wisconsin's unemployment rate is dropping for the right reasons unlike the nation as a whole.

Wells Fargo portfolio strategist Brian Jacobsen said employment is actually increasing in the Badger State, while the national rate is dropping because more discouraged job-seekers are leaving the labor force.

State officials said yesterday that the seasonally adjusted jobless rate was 5.8% in April. It's a half point below the national rate, and the lowest figure since October of 2008 when the Great Recession was just starting to take hold.

Marquette Professor Abdur Chowdhury said the new numbers reflect a state economy that's recovering gradually. He did note a lack of job growth in the construction industry.

Chowdhury also told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Gov. Scott Walker's campaign promise to create 250,000 private sector jobs during his current four-year term seems "unachievable."

State Workforce Development Secretary Reggie Newson hailed the creation of 101,000 jobs since 2010 but said more needs to be done.

The campaign of Walker's main Democratic challenger, Mary Burke, said last year's job numbers were worse than the previous two years. She said that shows that Walker's approach is not working.


Sentencing set for two men convicted in drug death

Two men are scheduled to be sentenced this afternoon for supplying the heroin that killed a Marshfield woman.

Prosecutors have recommended a five-year prison sentence for Trenton Blume, 25, who's in the state prison at Waupun on other convictions. The state also proposed a four-year term for Justin Drinka, 23, of Marshfield, although Wood County Circuit Judge Greg Potter can impose something else if he chooses.

Blume and Drinka have both pleaded no contest to first-degree reckless homicide in the death of Kayla Vanderwyst, 20. She died in August of 2012, a day after she went to Wausau with the two defendants to get the drug. An autopsy showed that Vanderwyst died from overdoses of heroin and morphine.

--Raymond Neupert, WSAU, Wausau


Accused kidnapper says her rights were violated

A woman accused of kidnapping her half-sister's baby near Beloit and leaving him behind in the cold now says the FBI did not let her have an attorney when she was questioned.

Kristen Smith, 32, of Aurora, Colo., appeared yesterday before federal Magistrate Judge Stephen Crocker in Madison.

She earlier pleaded innocent to taking Kayden Powell from a home in the town of Beloit in February and leaving him in blankets in a storage bin behind an Iowa gas station in sub-zero temperatures. She was on her way home to Aurora at the time.

Yesterday, Smith's lawyer Matt Noel said none of what she told officers in her first day in custody should be used against her in a possible trial because the FBI never read Smith her rights. Smith also contended that her statement to an FBI agent was a request for an attorney. The agent reportedly assumed Smith was saying what she might do if she didn't cooperate.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie Pfluger said officers read Smith her rights during her arrest and again during further questioning and a polygraph test. She wanted to place into evidence the polygraph results and two later FBI interviews. Crocker is expected to rule on the matter next month.


Merrill woman faces possible 66 years in prison for death of friends

A Merrill woman will find out Aug. 20 how long she'll be in prison for killing two friends in a high-speed drunk driving crash.

Twenty-six-year-old Ashley Baumann, 26, faces up to 66 years behind bars after a Lincoln County jury found her guilty this week on all seven criminal charges she was facing.

Defense lawyer Wright Laufenberg has not decided whether he'll appeal, but he has asked that evidence be preserved. He also wants Baumann freed on a cash bond until she's sentenced. She was sent to jail right after the verdict.

A court hearing on presentencing requests is set for June 5. Prosecutors are not sure how much prison time they'll recommend, saying it depends on the results of a presentence investigation.

Baumann was convicted of causing a 2012 traffic crash in Merrill which killed Jessica Hartwig and Misty Glisch. Jurors did not buy the defense argument that another passenger was driving.


34 credits short of degree: Walker to give commencement speech at Concordia

Gov. Scott Walker will deliver his first college commencement address this evening.

Walker will impart his wisdom on about 500 graduates at Concordia University in Mequon.

His office said Walker has been invited in the past to make commencement speeches, but this is the first one that has worked out.

Walker recently said he wanted to become a college graduate himself, using the UW System's new flexible-option degree program. He went to Marquette University in Milwaukee but life got in the way, and he left in 1990 while he was 34 credits short of a degree.


Future of John Doe investigation unsure

At least two attorneys say a major court ruling this week could hurt the state's John Doe investigation into campaign activities in the Wisconsin recall elections.

The federal appeals court in Chicago ruled that the state's ban on corporate political spending is unconstitutional and other laws that regulate issue ads and financial reporting by outside groups are either unconstitutional or too vague.

Former ACLU legal director Raymond Dall'Osto of Milwaukee told the Journal Sentinel that the law against candidates coordinating with outside groups "may end up being not enforceable."

The John Doe probe is looking for evidence that Republican groups and recall candidates, including Gov. Scott Walker, may have violated the coordination law.

Milwaukee campaign finance lawyer Mike Maistelman said the winners in this week's court rulings are the "Doe defendants."

Milwaukee campaign finance lawyer Jeremy Levinson does not agree. He said unreported coordination remains illegal and a group's spending in consultation with a campaign is an in-kind contribution that must be reported as a donation and meet state limits.

State officials and prosecutors have not commented. The Doe probe is currently on hold after a judge shut it down as part of a federal civil rights lawsuit.


Kringle bakery wants to open new store, ‘museum’

Most Wisconsinites know that the Danish kringle is a wildly popular home-grown pastry. Now, a Racine company wants to show us why that is.

The O&H Danish Bakery plans to convert a former car dealership in Mount Pleasant into a new store, plus a museum of sorts, which would highlight the history and popularity of kringle and the "artisan trade of Danish baking." That trade has been around for over a century in Racine.

The Mount Pleasant Plan Commission will consider the proposal Wednesday. If it's approved, the store would open next spring as the company's fifth bakery, and it would become the firm's flagship location.

O&H owners said they need the facility to accommodate growth in the company’s mail-order business and retail sales of baked goods.

O&H has been in business for 65 years. It's where President Obama bought the unique treat when he campaigned for reelection in 2012.

Last year, the kringle became Wisconsin's official state pastry.  But lawmakers had to quietly insert it into the massive state budget after separate bills to create four other state symbols failed to pass since 2009.


Overnight fire closes state office building

MADISON -- A state office building will be closed all day while crews clean up and investigate an overnight fire at the General Executive Facility on East Washington Avenue, close to the Capitol.

Fire officials said a passerby heard the building's alarm system sounding around 1:50 this morning.

Crews later found ceiling tiles that were melted on the building's fourth floor. No injuries were reported.

Media reports said smoke spread to most floors of the structure, which houses the headquarters of the state departments of Workforce Development and Children and Families. All other state office buildings remain open.