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UPDATE: Vilas County Sheriff dies after illnessSubmitted: 06/20/2013
Story By Lyndsey Stemm


EAGLE RIVER - The Vilas County Sheriff's Office loses its leader overnight. Frank Tomlanovich gave 34 years of service to Vilas County, and dedicated his life to law enforcement.

The 61-year-old sheriff passed away early this morning. Tomlanovich died in his home after a short illness.

Captain Russ Kennedy says it was a shock for everyone.

"Frank was well liked in the community and extremely well liked by his men; they enjoyed serving under him. Excellent sheriff, a very good man, we'll miss him dearly," says Captain Kennedy.

Captain Kennedy says they are mourning the Sheriff's passing. But the department will have to keep working.

"I've been telling the officers to keep working hard, as always. Keep moving forward, we'll get through this. Ultimately the Governor will have to appoint an interim sheriff to take over the duties that Frank had. He would tell us all the same thing: keep working hard, keep your chin up and move forward," says Captain Kennedy.

The Sheriff started his career at the Eagle River Police Department. Then he was a patrol deputy and detective sergeant with the Sheriff's Office. He became sheriff in 2010.

Governor Scott Walker made a statement today about the sheriff: "Tonette and I send our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Vilas County Sheriff Frank Tomlanovich. Sheriff Tomlanovich dedicated his life to protecting and serving the people of northern Wisconsin. We honor his life of public service and send our thoughts and prayers to all who knew him."



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ONEIDA COUNTY - Within a few hours, a jury found a Fox Valley man guilty of stealing things from the house where Ashlee Martinson killed Thomas and Jennifer Ayers Thursday.

The two-day trial for Mark Spietz, 39, of Kaukauna, finished up Thursday afternoon, following a morning of the defense arguing it was all part of Spietz's job.

Spietz was a contract worker for a company called TruAssets, which secures abandoned or foreclosed homes throughout the country. The company is based in Arizona.

On Thursday, Spietz testified that in September and October, he took ATVs, bows, a John Deere tractor, a trailer and Jennifer Ayers' purse from the house to try and secure it for his employer.

"My experience with the work order is that it is our job to make sure the property is secured," Spietz said. "Obviously if I can open the doors and get into it, anybody can open the doors and get into it. So I ended up removing the ATVs with the trailer and them bringing them back to Kaukauna to lock up in my storage facility where they would be under lock and key for the future for whatever the bank decided they wanted to do with their property."

In the criminal complaint, however, Spietz told investigators he took the purse because he thought his wife would like it.

But the state argued Thursday he technically didn't have permission from the company to be at the house after the first visit. Oneida County District Attorney Mike Schiek presented Spietz with the original work order form TruAssets assigned him. The document specifically stated not to remove any personal property from the house, and that contract workers should submit a bid for the property if they do take it from the house.

Schiek then argued Spietz specifically targeted the empty house because he knew its owners were dead.

"Looking back, what did you think you saw?" Schiek asked Spietz during his cross examination.

"Couple spots on the floor, large, dark spots," Spietz responded.

"Knowing what you know now, do you know what that was?" Schiek asked.

"To the best of my knowledge that's where they were killed," Spietz replied.

Spietz's attorney Brian Bennett said since Spietz is not from the area, he wouldn't have known the homicides happened at the house. He argued there was no sign saying no trespassing, nor had he had any knowledge the house was in probate.

"He used his best judgment based on his experience," Bennett said during his closing argument. "Which makes him quite possibly, if he's a burglar, the worst burglar in the world."

Bennett added Spietz gets little supervision from TruAssets, as Spietz testified he has never met a person from the company.

"It seems like a burden to have to come up here, pick up the stuff, store it, mess around with it, hold onto the titles, make sure it doesn't get stolen," Bennett said during his closing argument. "That's not a jackpot, that's a burden." 

Spietz will be sentenced in October. 

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VILAS COUNTY - Soon snow will be falling. In fact, preparation for snowmobile season starts as soon as next month.
Cross Country Cruisers Snowmobile Club President David Assmann and his crew are just about ready to hit the trails, starting in September.

"We cut all the brush and everything that's low to the ground," said Assmann.

His crew spends a lot of volunteered time making sure 93 miles of trails near Arbor Vitae are ready and safe to use in the winter.

"We have at least five guys going out, sometimes twice a day. We do trails in the morning and then trails late at night," said Assmann.

Many people who live here use the Northwoods trails, but so do a lot of tourists during the winter months.
"We are able to go out, get these trails groomed so that the tourists that come up can go on our trails, can get to the different businesses in the area, and that helps the economy up here," said Assmann.

With so many miles of trails in Vilas County, one of the best parts is that there is equipment made to maintain those trails, right in St. Germain.

Arrowhead Groomers has been in Vilas County since 1976. The company builds equipment that levels out the trails.

"We manufacture the snow groomer drags primarily for snowmobile trails. Some of them end up getting used on cross country ski trails as well," said Walker Equipment owner Dave Walker.

Another local snowmobile club, Bo-Boen, uses the Arrowhead Groomers on their trails as well.

"I have 17 drivers on my staff that maintain 100 miles of trails here in St. Germain. We're very cognizant of the fact that we have to do a good job to bring those people here so they can spend their money and keep our economy going," said the trail boss for Bo-Boen snowmobile club Jim Wendt.

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SAYNER - From its scenic lakes to pristine forests, people might know Vilas County best for its tourism. And with all the people coming there year round, that gives room for plenty of places to stay. Froelich's Sayner Lodge has been around for more than a century, and is still ready today for you to check in.

"It's my home. When we first got here, within the second day, I had all the cottages memorized, I knew where everything was," said Froelich's Sayner Lodge owner Carole Froelich. "I fell in love with it right away. So there was no going back."

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EAGLE RIVER - The Vilas County Sheriff's Office says no one was hurt after a 48-year-old Mark Mayo of Eagle River threatened to hurt himself with a firearm near Eagle River Wednesday night.

Crews responded Wednesday evening near to the area near Deerskin Road north of Eagle River and south of Phelps to reports that a man wanted to hurt himself and was armed with a 9 mm handgun and two magazines. That report came in around 3:55 p.m.

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MADISON - Donald Trump's Wisconsin director is calling on Democratic Senate candidate Russ Feingold to say whether Hillary Clinton's actions as secretary of state were ethical.

Trump's state director Pete Meachum issued a statement Thursday injecting himself into Feingold's Senate race against Republican Sen. Ron Johnson.

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LAKE TOMAHAWK - Fisherman in Lake Tomahawk will celebrate 40 years of the World Musky Hunt this weekend, and the fishing event was enough to attract Gov. Scott Walker to town on Thursday.

Walker said he wants to keep improving fish population in the area.

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BOULDER JUNCTION - There's a lot of things you won't find at Aqualand Alehouse in Boulder Junction that you're probably used to seeing in the Northwoods.

You won't find a deep fryer in its kitchen, you won't find any Miller Lite on tap, and you won't find any fish fry on Friday night's.

But you might just find your new favorite pub.

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