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Murder victim's mother looking for closure after 20 years
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Angelina Wall was murdered 20 years ago today in Eau Claire County and her mother, Lori Bednarczyk, thinks of her daughter daily and wants closure in the unsolved case with an arrest of the perpetrator. 

EAU CLAIRE — Lori Bednarczyk won’t be making the trip from her Bovey, Minn., home to Eau Claire to mark the 20th anniversary of her daughter’s unsolved murder in Eau Claire County.

But she thinks of her daughter, Angelina Wall, every day and desperately wants closure in the case with the arrest of her killer.

“That’s all I think about,” Bednarczyk said. “I think about the killer. I’m angry. I get angry so bad. I can’t do anything to help her. I just want to let people know she’s still gone. Somebody must know something.”

Bednarczyk drives by Wall’s grave site in Bovey every year.

She is still hopeful somebody comes forward with information or to confess to her daughter’s death.

“It’s been 20 years. I may never find out,” Bednarczyk said.

“I want people to know her killer is still free and her family mourns for her every single day,” she said.

“Why should he be free?” Bednarczyk said of her daughter’s killer. “We’ll never be free.”

The body of 22-year-old Angelina Wall was found at about 5:45 a.m. Jan. 6, 2001, along Highway J, west of Fall Creek. She was found on the snow-covered south shoulder of the highway, south of U.S. 12.

Wall was last seen between 2:35 and 2:40 a.m. on Jan. 6, 2001, at a gas station on Birch Street in Eau Claire. She left work at about 1:40 a.m. from McDonald’s on South Hastings Way. Police believe she was walking toward her home on North Dewey Street when she was abducted.

Sheriff Ron Cramer was on the scene the day Wall’s body was found.

“You feel an obligation to Angelina and her family,” he said. “An unsolved homicide gnaws at everybody who was on the case.”

Bednarczyk is not venturing to Eau Claire this year to mark the anniversary of her daughter’s death because of COVID-19 and her own health issues. She has back problems, and what was a four-hour drive to Eau Claire is now more like a six- or eight-hour drive.

Bednarczyk said she has stayed in contact with the Eau Claire County Sheriff’s Office with updates about her daughter’s case.

“We talk every once in a while, but not much. They tell me they are going to take a second look at the case because there’s new technology. But they say the same thing every year,” she said.

Bednarczyk has her daughter’s death certificate, but doesn’t have a police report or an autopsy report.

“I don’t know what happened to her that night,” she said.

Cramer said his investigators talk to Bednarczyk occasionally, but some information they have to keep close to the vest so as not to compromise the investigation.

“We stay in contact with her to let her know what we can,” he said.

Cramer said his office continues to follow up on leads in Wall’s case and hopes changes in DNA technology can help break the case.

“We’ve taken DNA from people we’ve interviewed. With changes in technology, we’re able to get more off of items with less of a submission,” he said.

And if Wall’s killer is a transient, Cramer said he is hopeful the national DNA databank could link a suspect to the Wall case.

“I’m hoping something similar could happen like what happened in the Marquardt case,” he said.

Bill Marquardt was found not guilty in Chippewa County of killing his mother in 2000.

Then-Chippewa County District Attorney Jon Theisen, who is now an Eau Claire County judge, was unable to persuade a jury that Marquardt killed his mother.

Marquardt was acquitted in his mother’s case in 2006. However, Marquardt suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, and he was serving a 75-year sentence for armed burglary and animal cruelty in the Mendota Mental Health Institute in Madison.

After Marquardt’s acquittal in the murder case, Theisen searched for unsolved cases matching blood evidence on a knife — which also contained Marquardt’s mother’s blood — that the state’s authorities had confiscated.

After additional DNA testing, authorities determined that the blood samples on the knife matched two women in Sumter County, Fla.

Marquardt was subsequently convicted of forcing himself into a Sumter County home and fatally shooting and stabbing a 72-year-old woman and her 42-year-old daughter.

“We’re hoping somebody’s DNA may be in the database now,” Cramer said of the Wall homicide.

Detective Sgt. Mike Mayer is the lead investigator in the Wall case. He plans to retire this spring.

“We’ll re-assign this case file to whoever takes over for Mike,” Cramer said.

Cramer is truly looking forward to making one phone call.

“I would love to call (Bednarczyk) and tell her we have made an arrest,” he said. “But we have to have the evidence or a confession to move the case forward.”

Meanwhile, Bednarczyk said she prays every night hoping that something will break in her daughter’s case.

“All I do is think of her. I have memories all over this house,” she said. “I miss her so badly. I can’t see her smile. I can’t hear her voice. I’d give anything to have her back.”

Anyone with information about the Jan. 6, 2001, murder of Wall is asked to contact Mayer at 715-839-5102, or Mike.Mayer@co.eau-claire.wi.us. Eau Claire County Crime Stoppers can also be reached at 715-874-8477.

Illinois teen pleads not guilty in Kenosha protest slayings

MADISON — An Illinois teenager who fatally shot two people and wounded a third amidst sometimes violent summer protests on the streets of Kenosha, pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to charges including intentional homicide.

Kyle Rittenhouse, 18, entered his plea in a brief hearing conducted by teleconference.

Prosecutors say Rittenhouse, who is white, left his home in Antioch, Illinois, and traveled to Kenosha after learning of a call on social media to protect businesses in the wake of the Aug. 23 shooting by police of Jacob Blake. Blake, a Black man, was shot seven times in the back and left paralyzed.

Rittenhouse opened fire with an assault-style rifle during protests two nights later, killing Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and wounding Gaige Grosskreutz. Rittenhouse has argued he fired in self-defense.

Conservatives have rallied around Rittenhouse, describing him as a patriot who took up arms to protect people and property, and raised enough money to make his $2 million cash bail. Others see him as a domestic terrorist whose presence with a rifle incited protesters. Rittenhouse was 17 at the time of the shootings and charges include illegal possession of a dangerous weapon by someone under age 18.

The Blake shooting happened three months after George Floyd died while being restrained by police officers in Minneapolis, which also was captured on bystander video and which sparked outrage and protests that spread across the United States and beyond.

The galvanized Black Lives Matter movement put a spotlight on inequitable policing and became a fault line in politics, with President Donald Trump criticizing protesters and aggressively pressing a law-and-order message that he sought to capitalize on in Wisconsin and other swing states.

The Kenosha protests damaged businesses in the city of 100,000 near the Wisconsin-Illinois border — authorities ultimately estimated some $50 million in damage.

Challengers emerge in Eau Claire City Council races
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EAU CLAIRE — Three Eau Claire City Council members will face challengers in their bids for re-election this spring.

Three contenders submitted the necessary paperwork to City Hall by the 5 p.m. Tuesday deadline to get their names on the April 6 ballot for the council’s district seats.

Among them is Gabriel Schlieve, a full-time UW-Eau Claire student and disability rights advocate, who has family history in local government.

“I’ve had political experience pretty much my entire life because I lived with my grandparents,” he said.

His late grandparents, Jean M. and Jean F. Schlieve, had each served as supervisors on the Eau Claire County Board.

Gabriel Schlieve said disability advocacy would be his main focus if elected, but he’s also noticed other ways Eau Claire could improve life for everyone in the community as well.

“I feel there are a lot of smaller issues that have been overlooked, and that’s what I want to try and fix if I can,” he said.

Gabriel Schlieve is running against 5th District incumbent Andrew Werthmann, who has been on the council for almost a dozen years.

Werthmann first came the city in 2001 to attend UW-Eau Claire and now runs his own consulting business focused on federal environmental policy. He also champions those issues on the local level.

“I put environmental issues front and center — thinking about the climate crisis and our response to it,” he said.

Werthmann was a founder of a city commission focused on sustainability issues, but also cited his support for downtown revitalization and affordable housing as other efforts he’s proud of.

The district that Werthmann and Gabriel Schlieve are competing for covers downtown Eau Claire, as well as nearby residential areas including the Randall Park neighborhood.

In his bid for a second term representing 3rd District, incumbent Jeremy Gragert will face off against newcomer Josh Stanley.

A native of the area who had relocated to South Carolina, Stanley moved his family back to Eau Claire this past summer to be closer to relatives.

Previously a firefighter and now working as a professional house painter, he emailed the Leader-Telegram about issues he’s campaigning on.

“I’m running because I want us as a city to be always be transparent in how we handle our finances, and how we can help small businesses stay open amid this pandemic,” Stanley wrote. “These are some of the reasons I’m running for City Council.”

A Minnesota native, Gragert first came to Eau Claire in 2000 to get his bachelor’s degree from UW-Eau Claire. A resident of the 3rd Ward neighborhood for 11 years now, he says it’s important for the city to listen to neighborhood associations and he regularly attends their meetings.

“That’s something I’ve taken pretty seriously as representing a district on the council,” he said.

Gragert also successfully fought for reduced bus fare prices for low-income residents and supported the establishment of public input sessions during Monday night council meetings where people can bring new issues to officials’ attention.

All five district seats on the council are on April’s ballot. The council also has a president and five at-large seats, but those won’t be up for election until coming years.

A challenger who ran in the crowded field of hopefuls seeking at-large seats on the council in 2019 is coming back with his sights set on a district centered on Eau Claire’s south side.

Kyle Woodman filed papers to run for the 2nd District seat currently held by Emily Anderson, who is seeking a second term. Woodman came in 10th out of 10 people who ran in the April 2019 election for the council’s five at-large seats.

Initially it appeared Councilwoman Jill Christopherson would face a challenger in her bid for re-election to the 4th District seat, but that did not come to pass. Fellow west side resident Robert Haddeman had submitted a declaration of candidacy, but did not submit other forms necessary to appear on the ballot — including signatures of at least 20 other residents of the district.

Councilwoman Emily Berge, who is finishing her first term representing Eau Claire’s north side, did not have a challenger file papers for the 1st District seat.

Other cities

Incumbents in city council seats representing parts of Altoona, Chippewa Falls and Menomonie will not have challengers on ballots this spring.

In Altoona, only current council members Matthew Biren, Tim Sexton and Susan Rowe had filed the necessary forms to run in April, according to City Clerk Cindy Bauer.

Chippewa Falls Mayor Greg Hoffman and Councilmen John Monarski and Jason Hiess aren’t facing competition for re-election. Incumbents CW King and Paul Olson both decided not to run. Christopher Gilliam and Hayden Frey, respectively, were the only ones to file to run in their spots.

For the six district seats on Menomonie City Council in April’s election, only five candidates have emerged. Incumbents Jeff Luther, Eric Sutherland, Nathan Merrill, Chad Schlough and Randy Sommerfeld all are seeking re-election to their seats. No one filed papers for the 5th Ward seat, which has been vacant since Councilwoman Faith Bullock resigned in March.

Leader-Telegram reporter Chris Vetter contributed to this article.