RACINE — A change of venue is being requested in the upcoming jury trial of Dalquavis Ward, the Milwaukee man charged in the fatal shooting of Racine Police Officer John Hetland.
In court Friday, attorney Carl Bradford Johnson, who represents Ward, 26, said that he plans to file such a motion on Ward’s behalf. The trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 3 in Racine County and is estimated to run for a week.
Among those in attendance at Friday’s hearing were Racine Police Chief Art Howell, as well as 10 other members of his department, Racine District Attorney Tricia Hanson and members of Hetland’s family.
Ward was not present at the hearing, as an order to transport Ward from the Kenosha County Jail, where he is being housed, was not received by jail staff.
Hetland, a 24-year Racine Police Department veteran, was killed the night of June 17 at Teezers Bar & Grill, 1936 Lathrop Ave., while trying to stop an alleged robbery. He was off duty at the time. Prosecutors say Hetland and Ward got into a struggle after Hetland tried to intervene in the robbery. Ward reportedly fatally shot Hetland once before fleeing on foot.
Ward was arrested June 27 in Milwaukee, the day after Hetland’s funeral. The Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department, which lead the investigation as an outside agency to avoid potential conflicts of interest, said DNA evidence left at the scene tied Ward to the robbery and shooting.
Ward was released from prison on June 13, four days before Hetland’s shooting, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
Ward, is charged with felony counts of first-degree intentional homicide with use of a dangerous weapon, armed robbery and possession of a firearm by a felon. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison on the homicide charge alone.
Racine County Circuit Court Judge Wynne Laufenberg is scheduled to decide whether the jury trial will remain in Racine County on Dec. 19 at the Racine County Law Enforcement Center, 717 Wisconsin Ave.
A former firefighter who is alleged to have twice burned down his aunt’s homes in Illinois before setting fire to a couch where she slept at his parents’ Pleasant Prairie home blamed a gambling addiction for his actions
“My intention was never to hurt anyone,” Keith Kauppi said at his sentencing this week. “It is sad to see what an addiction can do to someone.”
Kauppi, 30, pleaded guilty in September to first-degree recklessly endangering safety and attempted arson for the June 2017 fire at his parents’ home in Pleasant Prairie.
Kauppi had worked as a firefighter in Winthrop Harbor, Ill., before his arrest.
He admitted he had poured gasoline on the couch and set it afire while his 70-year-old aunt was asleep on it.
The woman had taken refuge at the home of her brother — Kauppi’s father — after she had a second home in Illinois burn down within months in Lake County, Ill. In one of those fires in Illinois, she suffered serious burns.
After setting fire to the couch, Kauppi woke up his parents and then put out the fire.
His aunt was initially arrested for arson, with police believing she had set the fires. She spent several days in Kenosha County Jail until investigators in Illinois learned that Kauppi had set the fires at her homes.
He had been stealing money from his aunt and set the fires to try to cover up evidence of the thefts.
Kauppi was initially charged with attempted homicide. He has been in jail for more than two years while the case was pending.
At his sentencing Thursday, his parents asked the judge to sentence Kauppi to probation, saying that his gambling addiction and debts led him to steal from his aunt and then to set the fires.
“What I’m really asking, what is most important, is for my son to get help,” his mother Donna Kauppi said.
Kauppi’s attorney Eugene Detert said that while the aunt did not want to speak at the hearing, she also was not pushing for a prison term.
“She forgives him. She knows he did not want to cause her death,” he said. “She wants him to get the help he needs for his gambling addiction.”
Judge Bruce Schroeder said he did not believe Kauppi was trying to kill his aunt in setting the fire in Pleasant Prairie.
But he said Kauppi behaved “horrendously” in stealing from her “and then these ghastly events where he did really endanger this woman’s life” and allowing her to be jailed for his own actions.
Schroeder sentenced Kauppi to five years and six months in prison, followed by seven years of extended supervision for the arson charge.
On the other charges, he withheld sentence and placed him on four years of probation. He will receive credit for 843 days spent in jail since his arrest.
Kauppi is also facing criminal charges in Illinois for allegedly burning down his aunt’s homes there.
A father and daughter charged in connection with a fatal shooting outside a Pleasant Prairie restaurant each pleaded not guilty Thursday.
Shawn Amelio Sr. 44, of Kenosha, is charged with second-degree reckless homicide for the shooting death of 19-year-old Khaled Alchaar of Pleasant Prairie in May.
Amelio’s daughter, Christina Amelio, 19, is charged with drug-related charges and obstructing police.
At hearings Thursday afternoon, both the father and daughter waived their right to a preliminary hearing and pleaded not guilty to their charges.
According to the criminal complaints in the case, the father and daughter told police they went to the parking lot in the 10300 block of 77th Street to meet Alchaar on May 20, with Christina planning to sell Alchaar marijuana.
The Amelios contend that Shawn Amelio shot Alchaar after the younger man robbed Christina and threatened her with a gun.
According to the criminal complaint, Shawn Amelio told police he shot Alchaar after Alchaar exited Amelio’s vehicle.
A family in the parking lot at the time told police they heard shots and saw a man believed to be Alchaar running across the lot. They also said they saw a man who fits the description of Amelio standing near a vehicle.
Pleasant Prairie Police began focusing their investigation on the Amelios because security video showed their vehicle had been in the parking lot, leaving immediately after the shooting.
Alchaar’s family has disputed the account in the criminal complaint, saying no gun was found at the scene with Alchaar, and that money he had had earlier was missing when he was found.
Shawn Amelio has been held on $250,000 bond since he was charged after turning himself in at his initial court appearance Oct. 8.
On Thursday, he answered the court commissioner’s questions with a whisper, his speaking voice hampered by a tracheotomy tube in his throat that he had at the time he was taken into custody.
In addition to the homicide charge, Amelio is charged with four counts of recklessly endangering safety for shooting near the family that was in the parking lot.
Christina Amelio is free on $2,500 bond. They are both expected to next appear in court on Jan. 29.
A 22-year-old Racine man is being held on a temporary $1,000 bond, facing a felony charge related to the Huffhines family’s alleged black-market vaping operation.
Jordan Lynam will be charged with manufacture and delivery of THC over 10,000 grams, according to statements at his bond hearing Thursday.
He will be the fifth person charged in relation to the large-scale THC vape manufacturing and delivery business allegedly run by Tyler Huffhines, 20, along with his mother and older brother.
Lynam turned himself in to police Tuesday, his attorney said. He has no previous criminal record.
The state had planned to charge Lynam Thursday, but was delayed by a computer problem, said prosecutor Lesli Boese.
Boese, deputy district attorney in Waukesha County, has been handling the prosecution in the case as a special prosecutor. The case began with an investigation by Waukesha Police.
Lynam is now scheduled to have his initial appearance on the formal charge Oct. 25.
Second worker charged
Lynam is the second person charged for working for the Huffhines family.
The second worker, Hannah Curty, 19, of Racine, was charged Oct. 3 after she canceled an interview with detectives working on the case.
Boese, who appeared in court by phone, said Lynam’s case is similar to Curty’s, with two witnesses telling investigators that he was seen filling vape cartridges at both Courtney Huffhines’ real estate office and at a condominium in Bristol.
At least two other workers have cooperated with investigators and are not facing charges.
Tyler Huffhines, 20, his 23-year-old brother Jacob Huffhines and their mother Courtney, 43, all of Paddock Lake, are alleged to have been operating a large-scale THC vape manufacturing and distribution business from a rented Bristol condominium and Courtney’s real estate office in Union Grove, along with their Paddock Lake home. The business is alleged to have used 10 workers to manufacture the vapes, using THC oil purchased in California.
An investigation that began at a Waukesha high school eventually led investigators to the family.
Officers with the Kenosha Drug Operations Group had the Huffhines brothers under surveillance and monitoring their social media before serving warrants on their home and the Bristol condo.
They found guns, drugs and evidence of drug dealing at the Paddock Lake house. At the condo, they found 31,200 vape cartridges, each filled with one gram of liquid THC, 98,000 empty vape cartridges, 57 mason jars filled with liquid THC and 18 pounds of marijuana.
The business was allegedly producing 4,000 to 5,000 THC vape cartridges a day that, according to court documents, the brothers were selling in Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota.
Material seized in the investigation has been sent to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for testing to see if the vapes they are alleged to have been selling are related to an outbreak of vaping-related illnesses and deaths.
All three members of the family have been charged with multiple felonies.
Courtney Huffhines is free on $100,000 bond.
Tyler, alleged to have been the leader of the operation, is being held on $500,000 bond.
Jacob is being held on $50,000 bond along with a probation hold. Jacob was on probation for a previous felony drug-dealing conviction at the time of his arrest.