MERRILL - Mark Bucki sat shackled in Lincoln County Court Thursday while prosecutors brought damning evidence against him.
He's the Merrill man accused of killing his wife, Anita Bucki, back in April.
Lincoln County Sheriff's Lieutenant Mark Gartmann told the court about his department's investigation.
Mark Bucki called police to say his wife went missing April 26.
"There was no concern in his voice. I noticed that it was a matter-of-fact type tone. He appeared to be confused about whether or not it was 24 hours before he had to report this, but there was no urgency in his voice," Gartmann said.
Things got even more suspicious when Lincoln County Sheriff's deputies got to the Buckis' home.
"The driveway had been freshly graded, and he did not notice any vehicle tracks or footprints leading up to the residence, which he thought was rather strange," Gartmann said.
Strange - and suspicious enough for Sergeant Chad Collinsworth to call for help.
"I received a phone call from Collinsworth indicating there were some very suspicious circumstances, and I believe his exact words were 'you need to get out here'," Gartmann said.
Gartmann testified about what else deputies found: Anita's car, keys, and jacket left behind.
Carpet ripped out in one of the bedroooms.
A shallow but empty gravesite near the home.
On May 10, a couple walking in the woods in Taylor County found a woman's body.
The woman had seven stab wounds to the chest, and severe bruising around her neck, as though she had been strangled.
Gartmann testified that Bucki didn't call to ask about his wife on May 10, 11, 12, or even 13.
In fact, it was Gartmann that contacted him.
Dental records proved the body was Anita.
Bloodhounds found her husband's scent where her body was found.
Gartmann said that relatives and friends told him that's where Mark Bucki often hunted.
Also in court, we learned why Mark might have wanted Anita dead.
The Lincoln County Sheriff's Office pieced together text messages, emails, and conversations with Bucki to try to answer that question.
Prosecutors point to the Buckis' marital problems as a motive.
Gartmann recounted a conversation where Bucki told a deputy his wife wanted to save the marriage - but he didn't.
"She was adamant about wanting to stay with Mark. She wanted very much to stay with him, and that Mark basically did not want to remain in the marriage, and at some point in time, Mark made the comment that he was okay with the fact that the two of them would go their separate ways, but she was aware of a girlfriend of his, and that she would contact that girlfriend and also the girlfriend's husband," he said.
During his testimony, Gartmann read letters Bucki wrote to his girlfriend from jail.
"It states, 'My to be happiest summer were turned to my worst because of Anita! The feelings I had left for her sure are gone since I been stuck in here'," Gartmann testified on the stand.
Bucki's defense attorneys argued against most of the evidence, because DNA and blood results aren't back from the crime lab yet.
But the judge decided there was enough evidence to go forward with the case.
His lawyers also requested his bond be reduced from $2 million to $100,000.
FLORENCE - In Florence County, more people work in forestry-related jobs than in any other industry.
"It's unbelievable, the way I put it," said logger Jaden Streu. "There are a lot, a lot of jobs and a lot of people that are retiring."
Streu graduated from Florence High School this spring and immediately went to work for his family's business, CTL Timber Harvesting.
Streu was among the presenters at Wednesday's Log-A-Load educational day at Florence.
"I think the big thing is, this industry is changing, from some of the equipment [the students] saw that was working here today. It's highly technical equipment," Florence District Administrator Ben Niehaus said.
"My favorite station was the sawmill," said Florence fourth grader Hannah Holdaway. "I didn't know that they cut it with a machine. I thought they just cut it with a saw."
"I think they leave here with a whole different perspective of, 'Wow, this isn't just a chainsaw and something that looks like a bulldozer that picks wood up and decks it on a log truck. There's a lot more to it,'" Niehaus said.
People like Streu would like to leave a positive impression of the forestry industry on students.
"We hope that they leave [saying], 'This ain't bad. This is a good thing,'" he said.
Hopefully, as Streu sees it, some of these learners will someday become his coworkers in the forest.
"We need the younger generation to come in, like me, to take it over and keep it going," Streu said. "It's a family business and I can have kids, hopefully, and be able to show them and bring them up in it and keep it going generations after generations."
Students from both Florence and Wabeno came to the Log-A-Load day.
EAGLE RIVER - Highway workers do a dangerous job, working alongside traffic with very little protection. A new state law could make those jobs a little safer.
A hand-held cellphone ban for work zones starts statewide Saturday. Drivers cannot make or answer phone calls while in work zones unless they use Bluetooth or some sort of earpiece.
Vilas County Highway Commissioner Nick Scholtes calls the law change a great thing for the state.
"The ones that are on their phones, they seem a little oblivious to what we are doing there at the time," Scholtes said. "They're going through the motions coming through the work zone but it's actually very scary at the same time because if they needed to stop quickly don't know if they could."
STATEWIDE - City, county, and town leaders hope you Turn Out for Transportation Thursday night. Seventy-one of the state's 72 counties will hold public forums for people to learn more about the state's transportation budget.
The idea for the forums comes from the "Just Fix It" campaign, which many counties have supported to encourage state lawmakers to find a better way to pay for roadwork.
You can find the location and time for your county's meeting via the link below.
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