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NEWS STORIES

Rhinelander Police officer and lawmakers work on fighting huffing and drivingSubmitted: 03/01/2013
Story By Lane Kimble


RHINELANDER - It can kill you the first time you try it, but kids and adults seem to be doing it anyway. Inhaling aerosol sprays for a simple high. It's called huffing. But it wasn't illegal in Wisconsin until 2005.

"Having a legal thing that people can do made it more appealing that you can just go to the store and get chemical sprays and dusters and get high off that and not face any consequences," Rhinelander Police Sgt. Kurt Helke said. "At least now there's a consequence to that."

Helke helped lead the charge seven years ago to make huffing a crime. Now it's a class A misdemeanor. But his fight is far from over.

About a month ago, a Rhinelander driver named Matthew Taulbut crashed his car into the curb here, on Baird and Dahl streets near the county courthouse. Police found him slumped over the wheel with aerosol cans in his lap.

But ironically enough, Taulbut, who crashed just a block from where the law is upheld, couldn't be charged criminally with his 4th OWI. Huffing isn't defined as an intoxicant. At least not yet.

State Representative Rob Swearingen is a co-sponsor of this bill making its way around the Capitol. Sergeant Helke contacted him and other lawmakers with hopes of amending the drunk driving laws.

"Essentially what we're going to do is open up the word intoxicant and include the word inhalant, like huffing, and include that so that police actually have some teeth when they try to enforce the law," Swearingen said.

Lawmakers from both sides are coming together to draft the bill. The next stop will be in a legislative committee before heading to a hearing. Swearingen thinks the process should be smooth.

"It's highly likely, depending on any opposition, and I don't know why anyone would oppose this, but pending any opposition, something like this is good, common sense legislation," Swearingen said.

That's good news for Sgt. Helke and police everywhere.

"Unfortunately in most places, they aren't aware or there isn't anything spurned until somebody dies," Helke said. "And we don't want to wait until somebody dies until the awareness is risen."

Awareness and a law, that should make the roads safer.

"I think this is a simple fix, I don't think it's a big deal, but it's something that should get done, needs to get done so they can do their job," Swearingen said.

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 IN OTHER NEWS
What We're Working OnSubmitted: 10/01/2014

- Four Wisconsin State Assembly candidates will debate in Wausau tonight. The two Democrats and Republicans will argue about topics like jobs, healthcare and the direction of the area. We'll have a preview of the debate tonight on Newswatch 12.

- Cranberry Fest draws about 40,000 people to Eagle River each year. Organizers think this year will be no exception. They started preparing for this weekend's festival today. Find out more tonight on Newswatch 12.

- The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra will perform tonight in Rhinelander. We caught them earlier today at a special concert for students in Rhinelander. Hear what brought them here and how you can go to their concert tonight.

We'll have the details on this story and more tonight on Newswatch 12 - news from where you live.

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Walker slightly ahead of Burke in new pollSubmitted: 10/01/2014

MADISON - With less than five weeks until Election Day, a new poll shows Gov. Scott Walker is slightly ahead of Democrat Mary Burke in the race for Wisconsin governor.

The Marquette University Law School poll released Wednesday shows Walker with 50.5 percent support among likely voters compared with 44.7 percent for Burke.

That 5.8-point lead is just above the poll's 4.5 percentage point margin of error.

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86th distirct state assembly candidates debateSubmitted: 10/01/2014

WAUSAU - Four state assembly candidates will debate in Wausau Wednesday night. The two democrats and republicans will argue about topics like jobs, healthcare and the direction of the area.

The 86th district covers most of Western Marathon county and a small portion of Wood County. A Republican has held the seat for more than a decade. The city of Wausau traditionally votes for Democrats, but it is nearly entirely in the 85th district. That could mean good things for the incumbent Republican John Spiros.

The race is between Spiros and Democrat Nancy Stencil.

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Man found guilty of murdering parentsSubmitted: 10/01/2014

IRON RIVER, WISCONSIN - An Iron River, Wisconsin man admits to killing his parents last winter.

45 year old Jim Crain Jr. pleaded guilty in Bayfield County to two counts of second-degree intentional homicide.

The state is recommending 15 to 20 years in prison on each count.

Crain was accused of killing his parents, 79 year old James Crain and 76 year old Eunice Crain.

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Minnesota man killed in hang-gliding accidentSubmitted: 10/01/2014

COLD SPRING, WI - Sheriff's officials say a Minnesota man has died in a hang-gliding accident in southern Wisconsin.

Authorities say 57-year-old of Joseph Julik of Taylors Falls, Minnesota, was hang gliding at an airport north of Whitewater on Monday when his glider caught a wind shear, which caused it to pitch to one side and nosedive about 100 feet.

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Money wanted for education campaign on voter identificationSubmitted: 10/01/2014

MADISON - People need to know that they must carry photo identification to the polls next month.

The Wisconsin state elections board wants to spend about $460,000 to educate residents over the next five weeks.

The Government Accountability Board wants state Legislature to make money available.

It would be used for an education campaign on television, radio, and the internet.

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Man faces charges connected to woman's murder & disapperance; Read the criminal complaintSubmitted: 09/30/2014

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WAUSAU - A 34-year-old man will face three charges for the 2010 disappearance and murder of a Wausau woman.

Kristopher Torgerson is charged with first degree intentional homicide, armed robbery and hiding a body. Those charges were filed in Marathon County Tuesday, according to online court records.

Stephanie low had been missing since October of 2010. Torgerson agreed to show police where to find low's body earlier this month.

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