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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Peshtigo Man Gets Life Without Parole For Waschbisch Murder

“I think the community needs protection from you, Mr. Kaempf,” Judge David Miron declared Friday, Jan. 10 in Marinette County Circuit Court as he sentenced 49-year old Brent Leonard Kaempf to life in prison without possibility of parole for First Degree Murder in the April 28 stabbing death of his girl friend Patricia Waschbisch in the home they shared at 526 Thompson Street, Peshtigo.

Waschbisch was well known locally as an ardent advocate for victims of domestic abuse and interim director of Rainbow House in Marinette, a shelter for abused women and children.

Judge Miron ordered Kaempf to pay $13,653.84 restitution, mostly for funeral expenses, plus assessment fees of $682.29, bringing the total to $14,336.53. Anything left from the sale of a home Kaempf owned in Peshtigo after paying attorney fees is to go toward the restitution, as will 25 percent of his prison wages. Judge Miron declined to assess any additional costs against Kaempf, stating he would rather have the money go toward the restitution.

As court adjourned Kaempf was sent on the first leg of his journey to Wisconsin State Correctional Facility at Dodge, to spend the remainder of his days behind bars.

Following the sentencing on Friday, Defense Attorney Jay Jazzgar filed a notice of intent to pursue post conviction relief. District Attorney Allen Brey said later that filing is a routine action almost always taken by defense attorneys.

Brey said Waschbisch family members seemed relieved that the court proceedings are over and they can have some closure.

“I’ve been in law enforcement for more than 25 years and this is the saddest case by far that I’ve ever worked,” Assistant District Attorney Kent Hoffman said after the sentencing.

He and Brey said the district attorney’s office is pleased with the outcome, and expressed appreciation for the good police work that enabled them to put together a very strong case.

He termed it ironic that Waschbisch “died at the hands of something she had spent her life fighting against.”

In November Kaempf had entered a surprise plea of no contest to the First Degree murder charges that had been filed against him shortly after his arrest, so there was no trial. Some statements by his ex-wife and children read into the court records at the time of sentencing indicated that he became violent when drinking, had struck his former wife, choked her during a fight, and tape recorded her telephone conversations prior to her decision to file for divorce.

“I think this information is relevant as to whether I can expect this behavior to be repeated,” Miron told Kaempf, adding he exhibited the controlling, jealousy and violence typical of domestic abusers. “I think this is the culmination of your relationships with women....I think that’s how you deal with women who don’t want to stay with you.”

Before pronouncing sentence, Miron recognized that members of Kaempf’s family had seen him as a kind, loving person, that he was gainfully employed, college educated, had no juvenile record. “It came through loud and clear what your family thinks of you,” Miron declared, then added, “I think there was a dark side to you, Mr. Kaempf, that you kept hidden from family and friends...only your wife and children knew that side... She said you were very controlling, that you used a tape recorder in the garage to record her telephone conversations...finding that tape recorder was the final factor in her decision to seek a divorce.”

Courthouse security was heavy on the morning of the sentencing. No bags or purses were allowed in the courtroom, and everyone entering was scanned. There were perhaps a dozen uniformed officers in the courtroom and the hallway approaching it.

Members of the press were seated in the jury box, and it was full before proceedings began. The courtroom itself was also full, mainly with family members of Waschbisch and Kaempf, and Rainbow House co-workers of Waschbisch, with overflow accommodated in an adjoining courtroom.

Friday’s proceedings began with a notation by Miron that the last time Kaempf was in the courtroom he had entered a plea of no contest to the charge of First Degree Intentional Homicide, which is a Class A felony punishable by life in prison. His three choices were life without possibility of parole, which was the option he chose. The other options were life with possible parole with extended supervision after 20 years, and life in prison with the possibility of parole after some other specified number of years. In each case if parole were granted there would have been a requirement for extended supervision if release were granted.

Miron noted there had been numerous letters to the court, some on behalf of the victim and some on behalf of the defendant.

There were 43 letters on a list submitted by Jazzgar and 40 on Hoffmann’s list, with a total of 64 recognized, of which some were possibly on both lists. Miron said he had read each letter “several times.”

The court on De. 26 also received a packet from the District Attorney’s office that included a victim impact statement. The restitution claim was for $13,653.84.

Jazzgar said he and his client had discussed the matter that morning and agreed he will not dispute the restitution amount.

Hoffman asked to read into the records statements obtained by investigators from Shari Kaempf, the defendant’s ex-wife, and their children, in which he said that the children confirmed that their father became violent when he drank. These statements were not in court records because the case never came to trial but he suggested they should be considered for sentencing. Miron said he would accept the first portion of information obtained from the Kaempf family, because it was corroborated by four other people, but would disregard statements from another individual that were not verified.

Courtney Olsen of Rainbow House read a letter from Waschbisch’s parents, Howard and Pat Skarban of Coleman damning Kaempf and asking for the maximum sentence. “This man must never again be free to destroy another family. He is unpredictable and who knows what he would do if he were ever again released into society,” the letter declared.

Waschbisch left behind a son, Justin, who is soon to become a father for the first time, and a daughter, Alexis, now 14, who was 13 when she came home to find their mother stabbed to death on the bathroom floor.

Kathleen Agresti, a cousin, read a statement on behalf of the Kaempf family, describing him as, “a very good person who did a very bad thing.” She said she would not be afraid to be alone with him, or leave her child with him.

Many of the letters from Kaempf family members referenced the fact that he was taking the drug, Adderol, at the time.

Hoffman reviewed events leading up to Waschbisch’s death. He said the couple had been drinking at a bonfire at the home of friends that evening. Kaempf had told investigators when they returned home she began blaming him for causing an argument between their friends. She began screaming at him and threw her engagement ring at him, then went into the bathroom, Hoffman said.

Kaempf then went into the kitchen and returned with a knife. She kept screaming at him and he went into the bathroom and stabbed her in the neck. Hoffman said Kaempf claims to remember stabbing her only once, but she in fact had 12 knife wounds, some of them defensive, and an injury to her head.

“Patricia Waschbisch died a very violent death,” Hoffman declared. “He (Kaempf) was in a rage!”

She had been on the toilet... “How much more defenseless can a person be?” Hoffman asked. The wounds were to her face, neck, chest, hands.

Then Kaempf went into the kitchen and got a second knife. He attempted to commit suicide by taking sleeping pills and then lying down next to Waschbisch and slashing his own wrists.

Hoffman noted that Kaempf was a well respected college graduate and declared, “This is a classic case of domestic violence. This shows it is not limited to any social or educational level.” He agreed Kaempf was intoxicated at the time, but said the defendant is responsible for his own actions, intoxicated or not.”

In a letter to the court, Tess Meuer a staff attorney with End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin and a good friend of the victim, said the killing had caused many clients to doubt their safety, and said a harsh sentence was needed to reinforce the message that domestic abusers will be severely punished. She too noted the message that no one is immune from the dangers of domestic violence and that domestic violence can transcend all walks of life.

Meuer said clients wondered,“If an advocate as strong and confident as Trish can be killed, will they ever be safe if they leave.”

“Trish’s death is analogus to a law officer being killed in the line of duty,” she said, and added that abuse victims need a strong sentence against Kaempf to serve as an example that abusers will be severely punished.

There had been a previous episode of violence between Waschbisch and Kaempf in 2010, when she filed and then withdrew charges against him. He had been drinking and on Adderol at that time also. She said they would work things out.

Judge Miron expressed deep sympathy for the 13-year-old who had come home alone to find her mother lying dead in a bloody bathroom, and said she will probably never be the same.

“I know there are lot of people watching what we are doing here today,” Miron added. He said his first responsibility is protection of the community, to be sure the crime doesn’t happen again, and referred to the killing as “the ultimate domestic violence” before he ordered Kaempf to prison for the rest of his days.




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