Rhinelander police, Oneida County deputies combine forces to piece together burglary, arson casesSubmitted: 10/12/2017
Lane Kimble
Lane Kimble
News Director

Rhinelander police, Oneida County deputies combine forces to piece together burglary, arson cases
RHINELANDER - Images of a burned down cabin remind Oneida County Sergeant Tyler Young just how far some people will go to cover up a crime.

"It was kind of a growing theme for them of activity," Young said.

Fire destroyed the cabin on Crystal Lake Road in Pine Lake this spring.  Deputies first thought it was a lightning strike until a suspect from a different case started talking.

"When people have a conscience and they're relieving themselves of the guilt they have, they tend to be like a confessional at times," Young said.

Young arrested 19-year-old Nicholas Wilmot on Monday after running a wanted person's check on him and  investigators built a complete case. But Wilmot had been talking about the cabin and some crimes from within city limits months earlier.

Rhinelander police started investigating storage unit break-ins on the city's north side at Beloff Storage in June.  Police say locks were cut and items like fishing gear were taken. 

Officer Chad Brown and Detective Josh Chiamulera used evidence at the scene and security camera footage to track down Wilmot.

Initial conversations with Wilmot and police happened in June, when police told him he wasn't under arrest and were just looking for information.

"They knew what they were doing. This wasn't just a crime of opportunity. You have to plan something like this," Brown said.

Wilmot showed police where he was keeping some stolen items -- including a boat, motor, and trailer -- at a property on Flowage Road. Wilmot then also started talking about the cabin. The suspect said he, 20-year-old Alex Volzka, and 18-year-old Keanu Sneller went to the cabin, smashed plates and windows, then burned it down with kerosene.

The criminal complaint says, "Wilmot's information was descriptive enough to provide details in which only a person who had been at the scene would have known, but his accounts and details when it came to his and the other actor's individual actions remained somewhat vague."

"To go to that level [of burning a building down to cover evidence] that quick at that early of an age, that's concerning," Brown said.

Police then built their case against the three. Sheriff's Deputy James Adams interviewed Wilmot in July after the 19-year-old was arrested on an unrelated case. During that interview, Wilmot "confirmed that he, Alex James Volzka, and Keanu Sneller were at the cabin," the criminal complaint says.

Wilmot got out of jail, then disappeared for several months. Police told Newswatch 12 on Thursday that Wilmot likely went to North or South Dakota for work before returning to the area this fall.

In the meantime, police interviewed Wilmot's mother. She told police Volzka asked her to cash a check from "The Bait Shoppe" in Rhinelander for him. The mother "stated she thought it was odd that he was asking her to cash his check and refused to do so," according to the complaint.

Records also showed Sneller pawned a heater that was stolen from the destroyed cabin at Hodag Gun and Loan. Police say that connected Sneller to the arson case.

"Once somebody does something and gets away with it, they tend to be more repetitive with it until they get caught," Young said.

Wilmot told police he and Sneller smashed dishes and windows at the Pine Lake cabin, left the property, then returned later with Volzka. Wilmot says Volzka wanted to start the fire, noting their fingerprints were all over the cabin.

Now, thanks to police work across two agencies, a string of burglaries and an arson appear to be solved.

"It's a daily occurrence that we're having contact with [police] officers because the people that are committing crimes in the city a lot of times are committing crimes in the county and vice versa," Young said.

"I'm glad we were able to stop that trend that they were going down and hopefully future behavior," Brown said. "We're a brotherhood is what we are. We all wear different colored uniforms, but we all have the same goal."

The trio of suspects all face burglary, theft, or trespassing charges. Only Volzka faces an arson charge, based on the evidence police have at this time.

Volzka faces a combined 56 years in prison, Sneller faces 7 1/2 years in prison, and Wilmot faces more than 16 years in prison. All three are due back in court later this fall.

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WAUSAU - When you think of Wisconsin, two things might come to mind - beer and snow. 

The Granite Peak Ski Area in Wausau decided to combine the two and host an annual brew fest. 

Andy Ledesma is the head brewer at Red Eye Brewing Company in Wausau. The Granite Peak Brew Fest is one of the many perks of his job.

"No other beer fest is like this, that's for sure," said Ledesma.

He definitely wasn't alone serving more than 40 beers on Saturday. 

Jeff Geurink works for South Shore Brewery in Ashland. They've been around for 20 years, but they wanted to make this brew fest a part of their line up.

"Get our name out there and make sure people are enjoying our beer and get as much information as possible out about our brewery so then when they go out and get a beer, they remember us," said Geurink.

Something everyone will remember from the brew fest was the set-up.

"Snow bar?! You can't get that in the summer time," said Roland Bruhnke.

He's right. Most beer festivals are in the summer. But when it's still feeling like winter in March, Granite Peak turns lemons into lemonade, or more appropriately, hops into beer.

"I think it definitely helped that when they get to the bottom of the hill, you see a bunch of beer," said beer salesman Jesse Bartnik.

So even though beer and physical activity isn't the best combination, dozens of people were loving it this weekend.

"The winter, the skiing, the beer, it's all one big package all rolled into one," said Bruhnke.

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RHINELANDER - This time of year, winter activies start to wind down and the summer fun hasn't quite started yet.

That's why Fisher's Resort and Bar on Lake George in Rhinelander enjoys having it's annual ice golf tournament each year.

"In year's past, March is always kind of a slower season up here in the Northwoods so we figured we'd create an event and put efforts towards a local organization," said Fisher's Resort and Bar owner, Russ Fisher.

That local organization they raise money for is the Hodag Sno-trails snowmobile club.

This year, the tournament had it's biggest turn out.

30 teams came to play, including first timer Dennis Herrmann who lives right across the lake.

"This has nothing to do with golf, I can tell you that right now. But it's a challenge for all the obvious reasons. But you do it for the charity, you do it for the fun and it gives everybody the chance to get out," said Herrmann.

This year they cut it down from 18 holes to 13 so people could get inside faster to enjoy the chili and the raffle items after their round of golf.

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TOMAHAWK - Two best friends turned into business partners about a year ago.

Bill Eastwood and Blake McMahon own Outboards Bar and Grill in Tomahawk.

The duo's combined restaurant and business experience helped them hit the ground running.

Fish quality comes first at Outboards.

"Friday night is the night that pretty much everyone goes out to eat. So if you don't have a good fish fry, people around here start talking!" say Eastwood.

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CRANDON - Planners in Tomahawk dreamed about a bike loop around the city starting in the early 2000s.

Two decades later, it's finally about to happen.

After more than 15 years of negotiation, the city bought a critical piece of land from the Canadian National railroad.

It will allow the city to start building a 4.6 mile bike loop around the city.

"It's a win-win for everybody. There was a little frustration from by position, but you just...kept your foot on the gas through the whole process," said Tomahawk Public Works Director John Cole.

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The Crandon School Board voted unanimously Friday evening to change the wording of superintendent Dr. Doug Kryder's absence from the district.

Kryder is now on "paid administrative leave." Originally, he had been "suspended with pay."

The board said it made the change based on advice of its lawyer. The board met for two and a half hours in closed session on Friday.

Kryder is under investigation by the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office.

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PORTAGE COUNTY - Portage County will hold an information meeting to share information about a sexually violent offender that will soon be released.

Gregory Loomis, 43, sexually assaulted two children in 1988 and 1992.

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MADISON - The Conservation Congress plans to ask attendees at its spring hearings whether lawmakers should charge people to use state land and eliminate group hunting.

The congress asks hearing attendees every year for their positions on current outdoors issues. The answers are advisory only.

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