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Man accused of crashing into Girl Scouts appears in court

CHIPPEWA FALLS — Colten R. Treu’s defense team questioned the charges regarding huffing while driving, indicating that Treu’s passenger was inhaling from a canister, during a preliminary hearing in Chippewa County Court on Friday.

The attorneys claimed there was no evidence that Treu had been huffing chemicals from a spray can when he crashed his black Ford-150 truck into a group of Girl Scouts on Nov. 3, killing four people. They requested that a charge regarding bail jumping be dismissed.

However, Judge James Isaacson found that a felony was likely committed, and it was likely committed by Treu, and he ordered the case be bound over for trial. An arraignment will be held May 24. No trial dates were set.

Treu, 22, 1060 Joseph St., is charged with four counts of homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle, four counts of hit and run-involving death, and one count each of hit and run-causing great bodily harm, intentionally abusing hazardous materials and bail jumping. Treu is accused of huffing from an aerosol canister, then crashing his pickup truck into members of Girl Scout Troop 3055 as they were picking up trash on Highway P in Lake Hallie, south of the Highway 29 overpass.

Several law enforcement officers testified Friday during the hearing about their encounters with Treu and the passenger in his car, John Stender, later that day, after both men had separately turned themselves in.

Lake Hallie police officer Tim Bowman described an eye witness account of Treu’s truck crossing the center line of Highway P, prior to the crash.

Bowman acknowledged a test from the Wisconsin State Lab of Hygiene didn’t detect any chemicals or drugs in Treu’s blood sample. However, Chippewa County District Attorney Wade Newell pointed out that Treu didn’t stay at the scene, so a blood draw couldn’t be immediately taken. Bowman said the blood draw happened later that evening.

Lake Hallie police officer Adam Meyers testified that Treu’s phone indicated he had looked up information on how long the huffing chemicals could remain in his blood stream.

Meyers acknowledged he saw no signs of impairment in Treu while interviewing him minutes after he turned himself in.

Defense attorney Travis Satorius noted that Treu turned himself in to authorities at 4:33 p.m. — about five hours after the crash occurred. The blood draw was taken after 7 p.m.

“You waited more than three hours to take a blood draw?” Satorius asked Meyers.

Meyers responded: “Yes, sir.”

Meyers described his conversation with Treu about what had occurred.

“He made a comment that he remembers hitting someone wearing a visible reflective vest,” Meyers said.

Treu told Meyers that Stender had been huffing more than he had, and he claimed that Stender grabbed the steering wheel, leading to the crash.

Police officer Todd Johnson testified that Stender told him that they purchased the canister of Dust-off at Walmart, which is less than two miles from where the crash occurred.

Stender told Johnson that Treu had let the vehicle drift over the center line, and Stender grabbed the steering wheel — after he had used the air duster — to correct the vehicle’s direction.

At the conclusion of the hearing, Isaacson praised the crowd of 50 onlookers for sitting quietly during the hour-long proceeding.

“I appreciate your restraint,” Isaacson said.

Treu remains incarcerated on a $250,000 cash bond.

The four people killed in the crash were Jayna S. Kelley, 9, Autum A. Helgeson, 10, both of Lake Hallie, Haylee J. Hickle, 10, and her mother, Sara Jo Schneider, 32, both of the town of Lafayette.

The fifth person injured was Madalyn Zwiefelhofer; she was hospitalized for three weeks, but is back in Chippewa Falls.

The deceased girls attended Southview Elementary and Halmstad Elementary in Chippewa Falls.

It is unclear if Treu’s passenger, John Stender, will also be charged. No charges have been filed at this time.

According to the criminal complaint, Treu did not stop after striking the five individuals. He drove his black Ford F-150 pickup truck to his home, put it in the garage, and placed another vehicle in front of it.

However, an officer who arrived at the scene was able to locate a “fresh fluid trail” which he followed for 1.8 miles, taking him to the garage at 1060 Joseph St., to an apartment shared by Stender and Treu. The truck had “significant front-end damage, with weeds observed stuck in the front bumper,” the criminal complaint states.

Treu and Stender were not at the house when officers arrived, but they each turned themselves in later that day.

Treu has one drunk-driving conviction from 2014, plus a Sept. 30 incident in Rusk County, where he drove into a ditch and rolled his vehicle. Officers did a field sobriety test after the crash and noticed his impairment. He is charged in Rusk County with possession of meth, marijuana, drug paraphernalia, and operating with restricted controlled substance.

Patti See: Fish Fry at Irvine

Editor’s note: ”Sawdust Stories” is a weekly column by local authors, who share their tales about people and places they love in the Chippewa Valley.

Tonight we’re a party of five: Dad and daughters and our husbands. Dad’s been eager to try the fish fry at Irvine, the bar where he ate every weekday lunch for his nearly 40-year career on the Soo Line Railroad. When Dad first moved to Chippewa Falls in 1947, he rented a room above the bar and shared a grimy down-the-hall-bathroom with other brakemen and engineers. They all lived just 100 feet from the front door of the Soo yard office, where they punched their time cards.

The place changed hands and names many times in the three decades since Dad retired. In the last few years it’s been “The Ghost Pub,” “The Depot,” and now “Pit Stop.” Dad still calls it “Irvine.”

William Irvine, one of our town’s finest, ran the Chippewa Lumber and Boom Co., the largest sawmill under one roof in the world — at least in the mid 1880s. He earned his riches in the logging business and donated 163 acres to Chippewa Falls in 1906. One hundred and thirteen years later, only that park and a street bear Irvine’s name, though this ghost pub-depot-pit stop may still hold his spirit.

In 1870, when the railroad finally chugged into Chippewa Falls, this was one of the first taverns in town, catering to lumberjacks and other roughnecks. The rooms above the bar were let to prostitutes. That means in the same tiny rental where my dad wrote love letters to the girl who’d become his wife, some 70 years earlier another girl — I imagine she had a heart of gold — was spending time with smelly lumberjacks to make money to send home to her family farm.

Did my 21-year-old father, who desperately missed his teenage girlfriend, know he was pining from a former whorehouse, a haunted one to boot? This juxtaposition of innocence and experience tickles me.

Seventy years later, it’s the ghost of himself my father might meet at this old tavern.

Tonight, I hold the door for Dad, and he uses his cane to hobble up the three concrete stairs. Once inside, he walks from corner to corner, inspecting everything.

“Sure looks different in here,” he says to our waitress. When Dad introduces himself — doesn’t everyone tell his server who he is? — she says she went to high school with my older brother, the other Joe See. I am reminded again how we are all connected in Chippewa Falls, like an intricate tapestry. Pull one thread and your neighbor’s cousin frays a bit.

Dad walks up to the only other filled table and says to the couple, “Well, you look familiar.” At 92, he can do this. Or maybe he always acted this way.

Turns out they are his old neighbors, who moved off the south side some 40 years ago. They remain parishioners at Holy Ghost Church, like my dad. They tell Dad everything but their names.

I look more carefully. I recognize the shape of the woman’s face, but I can’t quite pinpoint how I know her.

While I drink my beer and steal fries from Dad’s plate, my brain sifts through my “face files” as I try to recall her name. At 50, this happens to me frequently, a falling off that troubled me till I read an article that differentiated normal aging from full blown dementia — my fear since my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

I smile in the direction of the couple. They are older than my 71-year-old husband, Bruce, but younger than Dad — in that no man’s land of happy-to-be-alive-and out for Friday night fish but not yet worried about choosing a nursing home.

After they finish their meal, the couple comes over to our booth. This older woman puts her face near mine. “Were you that little blondie who cried so hard when her mom dropped her off at kindergarten?”

I simply had to hear her voice.

“Yes, I was,” I say. Everyone in our booth laughs, and she does too. I tell her, “I went to kindergarten through twelfth grade with your son.” I search for his name.

She hugs me awkwardly from behind. “You’re still as cute as ever.”

She rubs my dad’s shoulder. “You have a beautiful family.”

Dad nods and takes another bite of his beer battered cod.

After the couple walks away from us, my sister Geralynn says, “You cried that hard in kindergarten?” What she means is: so hard that 45 years later a woman in a bar remembers you.

“Yes. It was traumatic leaving my mom.” Bruce smiles kindly in my direction. Geralynn shakes her head. She works as a kindergarten teacher’s aide; she’s seen it all. Dad keeps eating.

I look at Geralynn. “Remember that red polyester shirt Mom had? One with the white V-neck ribbing?” I tear up.

I know she remembers how we used to give Mom a bath every Saturday morning and Mom worked the washcloth between her toes, like she used to when she was a farm girl. Or how we’d lift her out of the tub and both of us towel her off, each time Geralynn singing “Carwash” and Mom giggling.

We helped her get clean, and it meant the world: steamy bathroom, comforting scents of aloe shampoo and Pepsodent.

Mom would say to the two of us, “Oh, you girls,” so full of affection, though she had no idea who we were. On those bath mornings, Mom was naked and vulnerable and all ours, the same pressure you feel when you bring your newborn home only Mom was 80-something and we were desperate and afraid in ways we never knew a parent or a daughter could be.

Now Geralynn nods in my direction.

I say, “Mom’s red shirt had a tie at the top, like shoe strings. The first day of kindergarten I wrapped my fingers around the laces and wouldn’t let go. Miss Dutton had to pry my hands off.” This image is baked into my memory.

“How long did you cry?” she asks.

“Until November.”

Again everyone at the table laughs, Dad till he coughs and coughs. His emphysema makes his laughter sound like gasps lassoed together.

Bruce toes my shoe under the table, a gesture that says “you’re quirky, and you’re mine.”

I say to Dad, “That woman? Her name was Sally Lea before she married.”

Dad says, “Yeah, that’s right. Her parents owned a bakery in town. Sally Ann’s Bakery. I think her ma and pa named it after their little girl.” His eyes puddle.

Dad clears his throat and tells us, “Sally’s sister married our mailman.”

Next Saturday: Columnist Nickolas Butler pays homage to the local YMCA.

Trump administration reportedly considered releasing detained immigrants in sanctuary cities run by political opponents

In an attempt to retaliate against Democrats, President Trump and White House officials reportedly plotted to release detained immigrants into sanctuary cities.

The Trump administration tried at least twice in the past six months to convince immigration authorities to target various Democratic-led cities, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco, where they expected the immigrants would cause problems, according to emails obtained by the Washington Post and several whistleblowers from the Department of Homeland Security.

“The extent of this administration’s cynicism and cruelty cannot be overstated,” Pelosi spokeswoman Ashley Etienne told the paper. “Using human beings — including little children — as pawns in their warped game to perpetuate fear and demonize immigrants is despicable.”

Senior Trump adviser Stephen Miller, who has seemingly taken over immigration policy recently, led the discussion with ICE, according to the Post.

ICE officials, including acting deputy director Matthew Albence, reportedly shot down the proposition.

“It was basically an idea that Miller wanted that nobody else wanted to carry out,” a congressional investigator who has spoken to one of the whistleblowers told the Post.

“What happened here is that Stephen Miller called people at ICE, said if they’re going to cut funding you’ve got to make sure you’re releasing people in Pelosi’s district and other congressional districts.”

Trump went directly to former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who resigned earlier this week, but she and the DHS legal team struck down the idea, CNN reported Thursday.

The president has long railed against sanctuary cities, even proposing in 2016 that the federal government cut off all funding to those jurisdictions. A federal appeals court ruled in February that he could not do that in Philadelphia, specifically.

The news of the failed plan comes amid Trump’s intentions to double down in ICE after rescinding acting director Ronald Vitiello’s nomination to lead the department, instead saying he needed someone “tougher.”