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New Richmond is state’s cold spot today; One dies in week’s snowstorms; Nine more state news stories

The much-talked-about cold snap is just starting to take hold in parts of Wisconsin.

At 6 a.m. today New Richmond was the state's cold spot at six above.

Nearby Osceola had a wind-chill factor of minus 11. Milwaukee and Racine were both basking in 31 degree warmth, and those readings were expected to hold steady today.

The National Weather Service says a strong high pressure system will stick around at least into Sunday with clear skies which make it easier for the cold temperatures to settle in. Below zero readings are expected tonight in northern Wisconsin. The coldest early morning is expected to be on Saturday with 16 below predicted for Hayward and lows in the single digits in the south.

Another low pressure system is due in Sunday night, with light to moderate snow possible.


One dies in week’s snowstorms

The only Wisconsinite who's reported to have died from this week's snowstorms is now identified as Cody Schuster, 20, of Wausau.

Marathon County sheriff's officials said one vehicle slid across a centerline and struck an oncoming vehicle. Investigators said it's not clear yet which vehicle crossed the line.

One of the drivers was taken to a Wausau hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. The crash happened late Tuesday afternoon north of Wausau on County Road K.

Marathon County officers said they handled over 40 vehicle crashes on Tuesday, when parts of the Wausau area got almost six inches of snow in the region's first major storm of the season.


Madison, Milwaukee say keeping top profs is tough

Wisconsin's two largest public university campuses are having a tougher time keeping their best professors.

University of Wisconsin campus leaders at Madison and Milwaukee say they've seen more of their top talent get bigger job offers over the past decade.

Madison, the state's largest campus, has kept a lot of its best instructors and researchers from bolting thanks to a $2 million retention fund. It covers market pay hikes for highly regarded professors who either get job offers or are likely to be recruited.

Milwaukee has no such fund, and Chancellor Mike Lowell said his school has seen both professors and research funds leave UWM.

Today the university's Board of Regents will discuss faculty turnover and salary adjustments when it meets in Madison. Records show that almost 320 professors, or around 5% of faculty throughout the UW system, received market pay hikes in the last fiscal year.


Thieves make off with sympathy cards

A grieving family in Madison was robbed of memories Wednesday when a memorial box of sympathy cards went missing from a church funeral service.

Relatives of Raymond Riphon, 89, believe somebody entered St. Bernard Catholic Church behind their backs and stole a box filled with stories and memories about the deceased and condolences for the family.

Daughter Linda Stanley told WKOW TV it felt like "a real violation" that somebody would take such a thing, especially in a church where people should feel safe. Stanley said Riphon found St. Bernard to be a place of solace after his father was killed on duty as a Madison police officer in 1932.

The family placed a newspaper lost and found ad, and it was planning to tell Madison police about what happened. In the meantime, they're hoping the apparent thief will return the cards and memories.

Stanley said she doesn't care about the monetary donations if the thief really needs them. She's much more concerned about getting the cards back so they can help with her healing process.


Some fast food workers expected to strike today

Fast food workers in at least four Wisconsin cities will walk off their jobs today as part of a national campaign for higher wages.

“Wisconsin Jobs Now” is coordinating rallies in Milwaukee, Madison, Wausau and Stevens Point. Similar events are planned in 100 U.S. cities to mark the one-year anniversary of a movement aimed at paying fast-food workers $15 an hour to start with the right to unionize without retaliation.

Yesterday President Obama called on Congress to address what he calls a growing economic inequality and raise the federal minimum wage from its current $7.25 an hour. Iowa Senate Democrat Tom Harkin has a bill to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour over three phases and to tie future increases to the rate of inflation.

Fifty-three congressional Democrats wrote to a number of fast-food companies yesterday, expressing support for higher wages.

Industry leaders say it would restrain job growth and lead to higher prices. The National Restaurant Association said the demonstrations are "a coordinated PR campaign engineered by national labor groups." It says relatively few workers have taken part in demonstrations over the past year.


Woman accused of negligent homicide in motorcyclist’s death

A west central Wisconsin woman is due in court Monday for a traffic crash that killed a motorcyclist 14 months ago.

Randi Rupnow, 26, of Taylor was charged this week with negligent homicide in the death of Jesse Rauk, 28, of Neillsville.

Jackson County authorities said Rupnow's van turned into the path of Rauk's oncoming motorcycle last Oct. 10 on Hwy. 12-27 in the town of Adams. Investigators said Rupnow failed to see the oncoming motorcyclist for what they called an "undetermined reason."

Rupnow told authorities she slowed down to turn into a parking lot to pick up her son, and she never saw the motorcycle before it hit her van. The crash happened during daylight -- just after 10 a.m. -- and a witness said the bike had its headlight on. Officials said weather was not a factor.


Kuester pleads guilty to killing three members of family

A Waukesha man has pleaded guilty to killing three retired members of a rural southwest Wisconsin family.

Jaren Kuester, 31, was convicted Wednesday after Judge William Foust ruled that he was mentally competent to proceed. A hearing will be held Jan. 31 to determine whether Kuester was insane when he killed Gary, Chloe and Dean Thoreson in April at their family's farmhouse near South Wayne in Lafayette County.

He was found incompetent to stand trial in October, but defense lawyer Guy Taylor said Kuester got a lot better after his medication was adjusted.

Authorities said a series of incidents was triggered in late April when Kuester went to a Waukesha animal shelter to see his pet and threatened employees who told him the pet died two weeks earlier.

Officials said he later drove to Green County where he abandoned an SUV, ran through a wooded area, broke into the Thoreson house, killed the family members with a fireplace poker when they returned, and then drove a victim's pickup truck to his father's home in Waukesha. He was arrested there the day after the murders.


Ice fishing season starts early

Deer hunters might have been hampered by a recent cold wave, but ice fishing enthusiasts are enjoying an early start to their season.

The state Department of Natural Resources says folks are already putting lines through holes in the ice on smaller lakes, backwaters and bays.

Experts say the early part of the season provides the best chances to catch northern pike and walleye, especially in shallow lakes where the fish are more likely to bite better.

Another cold wave is moving into the Upper Midwest today with lows tomorrow night expected to be around 10 below in parts of Wisconsin. Still, officials say there's a risk of anglers and others falling through the ice and drowning this time of year.

DNR officials suggest that ice fishers stay clear of inlets, outlets and narrows that might have currents. They say clear ice is best because it's generally stronger than ice that's covered with snow or has bubbles.

One national survey indicates that almost 600,000 Wisconsinites are into ice fishing.


Man electrocuted apparently while trying to break into tire shop

A Milwaukee man electrocuted while he was allegedly breaking into a north side tire shop has been identified Devon Williams, 38.

The incident happened Monday morning at Greer Tire. Authorities said Williams was apparently cutting through copper and aluminum electrical wires that were attached to a security system. He was found partially hanging from the roof of the tire shop. Officials said he might have been trying to steal copper inside.

The shop is in an area where numerous thefts of copper wire have been reported. Investigators believe a second person may also have been involved and that person might have fled after the electrocution.


State tries new approaches to providing health insurance

State officials are trying to let uninsured Wisconsinites side-step the troubled Obama purchasing exchanges to get the coverage they'll need come Jan. 1.

Two weeks ago, Gov. Scott Walker asked Washington to let people buy insurance outside of the federal government's exchanges and still get the subsidies to which they're entitled under Obamacare. He's still waiting for an answer on that.

Also state Insurance Commissioner Ted Nickel asked the federal government this week to include Wisconsin in a pilot program with three other states. It would let folks deal directly with insurance companies to buy any policy that's currently offered on the federal government's exchange. Those people would not get subsidies for their coverage.

A federal health official said the pilot program is more plausible than granting subsidies for insurance outside of the exchanges. Florida, Texas, and Ohio are in the program. Officials say those involved are sharing detailed feedback aimed at improving service for everyone else involved with Obamacare.

JP Wieske of the Wisconsin insurance office says both proposals should be considered in light of the computer problems in getting folks signed up for Obama-care.

Yesterday the state Assembly voted 64-32 to let 100,000 Wisconsinites wait until March 31 to sign up for coverage on the exchanges before their tax-funded BadgerCare and high-risk insurance is dropped.


Alleged killer holds off police for 10 hours

A 37-year-old man allegedly killed a woman and then held Kenosha police at bay for 10 hours before he was arrested yesterday.

Officials it all started around 5 a.m. when the man's brother called police and reported the killing. When officers arrived, the suspect refused to leave the house and cooperate with the police.

SWAT teams and emergency crews closed off several blocks surrounding the home. Media reports said a nearby school kept children inside during their recess periods.

About 3 p.m. yesterday, tactical officers detonated a loud noise-making device and entered the home. Police said the man surrendered without incident, and they found the dead woman's body in the home's basement.

No names were immediately released.