CHIPPEWA FALLS — A Chippewa Falls woman accused in a “murder-for-hire” scheme in September 2019 is now headed toward a three-day trial beginning April 6.
Melanie S. Schrader, 48, 438 Olive St., is charged in Chippewa County Court with conspiracy to commit first-degree intentional homicide, which carries a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison and 20 years of extended supervision.
Schrader remains incarcerated in the Chippewa County Jail on a $250,000 cash bond; her previous request for a lower bond level was rejected. A status conference is set for Feb. 4, the last court date slated before the trial.
The case was originally slated to be heard by Judge Steve Cray, who has since retired, and the case was reassigned to new judge Ben Lane. However, Schrader’s new defense attorney, Michael Cohen, filed a request in August for a substitute judge to oversee the case; it has now been given to Judge Steve Cray.
According to the criminal complaint and police reports, Schrader repeatedly asked a friend to set up a meeting with a person who would shoot and kill Derek Gerke, the father of their child, in exchange for $10,000. She met in person with an individual -- who was actually an undercover agent from the state Department of Criminal Investigation -- and brought a down payment and pictures of Gerke, so the hit man would know who she wanted to be killed. She was arrested Sept. 12, 2019. She waived her preliminary hearing June 4, and she entered a not guilty plea at a hearing July 29.
The Department of Criminal Investigation is assisting the Chippewa County Sheriff’s Office and the Chippewa Falls Police Department in investigating the case.
Her original defense attorney, Francesco Balistrieri, sought a lower cash bond last fall, saying Schrader has been taking her court-ordered prescription medication, and she is showing improvement. She also has two children, family in the area, and ties to the community, he argued.
However, Chippewa County District Attorney Wade Newell said Schrader had repeatedly asked to hire a hit man, and “this wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment thing.”