LADYSMITH — Sarah Glaze, widow of Rusk County sheriff’s Deputy Dan Glaze, described the difficulties she has faced in the past two years since her husband was shot and killed south of Ladysmith.
During her testimony Wednesday in Rusk County Court, she talked about the “surreal knock on my door,” which led to her finding out the worst thing possible had happened. Sarah Glaze said she no longer works full time, and has had difficulty moving forward and staying in touch with friends. Her children have suffered from not having a father.
“My children will never be who they would be because of his death,” she told St. Croix County Judge Scott Needham during a sentencing hearing. “My son had to work 10 times harder (at school) to get caught up. I have put my son to bed 778 times with him missing his father.”
Doug S. Nitek, 46, of Conrath was sentenced to life in prison without eligibility for parole for shooting and killing Dan Glaze on Oct. 29, 2016.
During a trial in September, Nitek was convicted of first-degree intentional homicide by use of a dangerous weapon. Nitek also was convicted of two counts of criminal damage to property, and one count each of possessing methamphetamine, marijuana and drug paraphernalia.
Sarah Glaze said their son was only 5 years old when her husband died. She said it has been difficult watching her children slowly forget little things about his father as they fade into memory.
“I’ve had to teach my youngest daughter of who her father was through pictures. She won’t have a single memory of who he was, because she was only 5 months old when he was murdered,” she said.
Needham ordered the life sentence, saying the death was particularly senseless, fueled by Nitek’s meth addiction. He said it was a fair and just sentence that matches the crime.
“This entire case was a tragedy — the intentionally taking of a life,” Needham said. “In this case, there is no reason for the unreasonable. There is no clarity for the chaos. There is no rational explanation for the irrational.”
Needham noted that Nitek has numerous prior convictions and couldn’t turn around his life.
“I don’t know what to fix. Rehabilitation clearly hasn’t been successful,” Needham said, adding that punishment is clearly necessary in this case.
Needham offered condolences to the Glaze family for their loss, saying he hopes they can find peace, joy and comfort in the future.
“You will never have closure, and that isn’t lost on me,” he said.
Rusk County Sheriff Jeff Wallace asked Needham to order life in prison with no opportunity for release.
“Dan was a husband, a father, a son, a brother, a great cop, a great employee, and most importantly, a great friend,” Wallace said. “Losing Dan was like losing one of my own sons, and I wonder every day what I could have done to keep Dan safe.”
Wallace directed his final comments toward Nitek, saying this was a senseless death.
“I sat through the trial and watched Doug show no remorse for taking Dan’s life,” Wallace said. “Dan did nothing to you to make you resort to taking his life. We are here because you made bad decisions.”
Nitek stared directly ahead during the testimony from victims. He made a brief statement prior to sentencing, apologizing for his actions. Outside of his attorneys, no one spoke on Nitek’s behalf.
Prosecuting attorney Richard Dufour reiterated that he saw no remorse from Nitek during the trial. He said there is no higher offense in Wisconsin than first-degree intentional homicide, and Nitek deserves life in prison without the possibility of release.
“This offense is especially senseless,” Dufour said. “He was ambushed by the defendant because of the defendant’s meth-induced paranoia, believing that law enforcement was after him. There was no reason for the defendant to shoot and kill Dan Glaze.”
Dufour said meth has a particularly strong grip on Nitek, and if Nitek were to ever be released, it is highly probable he could kill again.
“The public needs to be protected from the defendant,” Dufour said.
Dufour also asked for restitution totaling $49,000 to Rusk County. Restitution also should be given to Sarah Glaze for her losses, both emotionally and financially, he said.
Defense attorney Charles Glynn said he’s concerned about the prosecutor’s opinion that Nitek isn’t capable of recovery from his drug habit. He said that any eligibility for release from prison in the future would change how Nitek handles himself in prison.
“He’s an extraordinarily remorseful person for what he’s done, whether that come across in court or not,” Glynn said. “He’s taken full responsibility for his actions.”
The defense asked that Nitek be eligible for some type of supervision in 25 to 30 years.
The Rusk County courtroom was packed to capacity Wednesday, with a dozen law enforcement officials from agencies in surrounding counties sitting in the jury box.
The criminal complaint states that Nitek was about 168 yards from Glaze when he shot and killed the officer as Glaze was sitting behind the wheel of his squad car. Up to six shots were fired at Glaze, including the fatal one that struck Glaze in his head. More law enforcement arrived at W7958 Broken Arrow Road, east of Highway 27 south of Ladysmith, with Nitek reportedly firing shots at multiple officers. Nitek was found not guilty of shooting at additional officers during the trial.
When Eau Claire County’s armored BearCat vehicle arrived, it pulled up to the trailer where Nitek was located. Nitek shot at a camera on that vehicle.
Nitek eventually surrendered, leaving the trailer without incident. Inside the home, the officers located the rifle and more bullet casings, along with fresh bullet holes. Officers also found a small baggie of meth and a pipe.
DNA samples were taken from the rifle, scope, stock pad, which rests on the shoulder when firing a weapon, and sling, and all matched to Nitek.
More than 50 years after his death, Lt. j.g. Jerry Irwin hasn’t been forgotten — either by his family or his fellow veterans.
On Wednesday, members of American Legion Post 65, based in the Adams County town of Rome, presented Irwin’s family with a portrait of the late naval aviator during a ceremony at the Wisconsin Veterans Home at Chippewa Falls, where his mother, Doris, is a resident.
The painter was a 95-year-old World War II veteran, Alexander Yawor, a Marine who began painting after he returned from the war, according to Legiontown.org.
From photos that feature the veteran’s face, along with details from the family and a physical description, the Pennsylvania resident tries to capture the person’s likeness.
Since he began the project, Yawor has painted 163 portraits, said Paul Kahr, a member of Legion Post 65. Of those, 14 have been Wisconsin veterans.
To have someone who never met her older 26-year-old brother recognize him after all these years means a lot to Diane Weggen of Stanley.
“It was a total fluke this happened,” said Weggen, whose late husband, Don, served in the National Guard and son, James, served in the Navy like his late uncle. Her brothers Bob and Tom Irwin also served in the armed forces; Bob in the Army and Tom in the Air Force.
Weggen has known Jim Kitchen, commander of American Legion Post 65, for several years, and at one point, she mentioned her late brother. Soon, she got a message from Kahr.
“They were talking about a 95-year-old man in the state of Pennsylvania who was going to paint Jerry’s picture,” she recalled. “I figured it would never happen.”
But it was important to Kahr and Kitchen that it did.
“The people who never forget (the loss of a veteran) are the family,” Kitchen said. “These portraits are our way of saying, ‘We remember and thank you.’”
Irwin, the oldest of Morris and Doris Irwin’s nine children, grew up on a farm south of Cadott. Upon graduation from Cadott High School in 1959, the 17-year-old Irwin flew to San Diego to begin a three-year enlistment in the Navy. He spent the last two years at the naval air station in Norfolk, Va.
At the end of his enlistment, Irwin joined the Naval Reserve and entered River Falls State College for one year and then Stout State University in Menomonie, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial technology.
While a student at Stout and a member of the reserves, weekend trainings gave Irwin flying time out of the Naval Reserve base in Minneapolis. To the delight of his younger siblings, including his youngest brother, Tom, he would dip down over the farm for waves from the family.
“People ask me how I got interested in flying, and I tell them driving a John Deere tractor,” said Tom, a retired commercial pilot who lives in Hudson, recalling an overcast day where his brother initially appeared as a speck in the sky and buzzed him.
Following graduation, the oldest Irwin rejoined the Navy, entered flight training at Pensacola, Fla., and won his wings as a naval aviator on July 1, 1967, in Corpus Christi, Texas.
“He was thrilled with the excitement of ‘landing blind’ on aircraft carriers … (and) flying in close formation and dreamed of becoming a member of the Blue Angels,” Weggen said in a short bio she crafted.
Irwin joined his first squadron, VA-85, then aboard the USS Independence, an attack aircraft carrier, off the coast of Vietnam. The 26-year-old aviator and his bombardier/navigator were killed on March 20, 1968, in a crash of their A-6A Intruder, a twin-jet attack aircraft, while flying a formation off the carrier USS America in the Caribbean Sea, about 100 miles south of Puerto Rico.
His brother Bob Irwin, who lives on the home farm south of Cadott, tried to reach him to let him know he had a nephew, Gregg, but Bob, who was living in Red Wing, Minn., then doesn’t know if his older brother ever got the message.
“It was just awful,” he said of losing his oldest sibling. (Bob, Tom, Weggen and sister Pat Gehrking attended Wednesday’s ceremony.)
“Jerry was doing exactly what he wanted to be doing, but losing him was so unreal,” Weggen said. “I have never gotten over it, so I know our mother hasn’t.”
The portrait of Irwin was hung in his mother’s room Wednesday.
“Today, I’m going to be sending a thank-you note and a Christmas card to Alex,” she said.
Some facts, schedules and other information you might want to know for the 2018 Christmas holiday:
The holiday weekend will bring dry and pleasant conditions to the Chippewa Valley.
Saturday’s high will be 32 with mostly cloudy skies.
Highs Sunday through Christmas Day will be in the upper 20s with partly cloudy skies.
The annual Pay It Forward-Christmas Breakfast will be from 8 to 11 a.m. Tuesday at The Community Table, 320 Putnam St.
The free breakfast includes scrambled eggs, pancakes, French toast, sausage, ham and beverages.
The event includes a visit from Santa Claus, gifts, groceries and personal items.
Holiday travelers will find gasoline prices lower than last Christmas.
The average price for regular unleaded in the state is $2.19, 32 cents lower than a month ago and 17 cents lower than Christmas 2017.
Other average prices in the region: Illinois, $2.30; Iowa, $2.11; Minnesota, $2.23; Michigan, $2.22.
AAA Wisconsin forecasts more than a third of Americans will travel this holiday season.
A record-breaking 112.5 million travelers will take to the runways, roads and rails, a 4.4 percent increase over last Christmas and the most since AAA has been tracking holiday travel.
Strong economic growth fueled by robust consumer spending continues to drive strong demand for seasonal travel, AAA says.
As usual, weather will be a big concern for drivers. Call 511 to check road conditions in Wisconsin or visit 511wi.gov.
Financial institutions with personal service will be closed Christmas Day.
Chippewa Valley Museum in Carson Park is closed Monday and Christmas Day.
Because Christmas falls on Tuesday, trash pickup for the area’s two largest waste disposal companies — Advanced Disposal Services and Waste Management — will be a day later than normal for the rest of the week.
The Eau Claire, Chippewa and Dunn county courthouses are closed Monday and Tuesday.
City halls in Eau Claire, Menomonie, Altoona and Chippewa Falls are closed Monday and Tuesday.
L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library in Eau Claire will be closed Monday and Tuesday, as will the Chippewa Falls, Menomonie and Altoona public libraries.
In the NFL on Sunday, the Green Bay Packers play at the New York Jets and the Minnesota Vikings play at the Detroit Lions. Both games are at noon on FOX.
For basketball fans, the NBA will feature five games on Christmas Day. The Milwaukee Bucks play at the New York Knicks at 11 a.m. on ESPN. The Oklahoma City Thunder play at the Houston Rockets at 2 p.m., the Philadelphia 76ers play at the Boston Celtics at 4:30 p.m. and the Los Angeles Lakers play at the Golden State Warriors at 7 p.m. All three games are on ABC. The Portland Trail Blazers play at the Utah Jazz at 9:30 p.m. on ESPN.
— compiled by Dan Holtz