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UPDATE: Vollbrecht pleads no contest, found guilty in Hackl murder

By: Dana Brueck and Chief Photojournalist Curt Lenz Email
By: Dana Brueck and Chief Photojournalist Curt Lenz Email

UPDATED Thursday, October 10, 2013 --- 4:46 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A Sauk Prairie man accused of killing a young woman 26 years ago has pleaded no contest.

Terry Vollbrecht was initially convicted in 1989 of first-degree murder and sexual assault in connection with the death of 18-year-old Angela Hackl. Her body was found in the woods outside Sauk City in 1987.

A judge granted Vollbrecht a new trial in 2011. That proceeding was set to begin in March. But the state Justice Department says Vollbrecht entered a no-contest plea to second-degree murder in a deal with prosecutors Thursday.

Judge Steven Bauer sentenced Vollbrecht to 25 years in prison, but since he has already served 22 years he has reached his legal mandatory release date. Bauer ordered him to serve 35 months on parole.

Vollbrecht's attorney didn't immediately return a message.

Copyright 2013. The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Thursday, October 10, 2013 --- 11:07 a.m.

A Sauk Co. murder case from 1987 has come to an end.

In 1987, Terry Vollbrecht was convicted of murdering 18-year-old Angela Hackl in the woods outside of Sauk City.

Vollbrecht maintained his innocence for two decades, and two years ago attorneys brought new evidence that led to a retrial.

Vollbrecht has been out on bail since then.

Today, Vollbrecht pleaded no contest to second degree murder.

He was found guilty and received the maximum sentence of 20 years, plus five years because the murder involved a weapon.

Since Volbrecht already served 22 years in prison, the judge decided he will serve the remaining three years on parole.

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UPDATED Wednesday, July 25, 2012 --- 9:15 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A Wisconsin Appeals Court says there is enough evidence to warrant a new trial for a man convicted in 1989 of killing a woman and hanging her body in a tree 25 years ago.

The Second District Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that a jury could find reasonable doubt that Terry Vollbrecht was guilty of the 1987 slaying of 18-year-old Angela Hackl.

Dodge County Circuit Court Judge Stephen Bauer last month ordered a new trial in January 2011 after attorneys with the Wisconsin Innocence Project argued new evidence suggests another man killed Hackl.

The state argued new evidence discovered by Vollbrecht's attorneys did not warrant another trial.

But the appeals court agreed that it was compelling and would present the jury with a viable alternative suspect.

Copyright 2012. The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Monday, February 28, 2011 --- 7:00 a.m.

Bond posted for man getting retrial in '87 killing

BARABOO, Wis. (AP) -- A Wisconsin businessman has posted $425,000 bond for a man who won a new trial on charges he killed a woman and hung her body in a tree 23 years ago.

The Baraboo News Republic reports the move came Friday, a day after 49-year-old Terry Vollbrecht's attorneys got a judge to release him into the custody of the Sauk County Sheriff's Department.

The newspaper says Curt Mueller of Prairie du Sac-based Mueller Sports Medicine wrote the bail check. It says Mueller declined to comment and calls to Vollbrecht weren't returned.

Vollbrecht was convicted in 1989 of killing 18-year-old Angela Hackl. But Dodge County Circuit Court Judge Stephen Bauer last month ordered a new trial. Attorneys with the Wisconsin Innocence Project say new evidence suggests another man killed Hackl in 1987.

The Baraboo News Republic story can be found at:
http://bit.ly/ePEFIw

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED: Monday, January 10, 2011 --- 9:11 p.m.

Twenty one years after being sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Lone Rock teenager a convicted man gets one last chance to prove his innocence.

Today we find out a case that created controversy 23-years ago will once again be in the spotlight.

In the summer of 1987 the body of 18-year-old Angela Hackl is found in the woods outside Sauk City, a tire chain around her neck, her naked body hanging from a tree with three bullets in her back.

It put the Sauk City community on edge and two years later Terry Vollbrecht was convicted, sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison.

Attorney Keith Findley says, "This case goes back a long way."

Now thanks to Findley and the Wisconsin Innocence Project Vollbrecht will get a new trial.

Findley says, "I'm thrilled, thrilled with the outcome and thrilled with the opportunity this presents for Terry Vollbrecht."

Vollbrecht has long maintained his innocence and last summer attorneys argued new evidence suggests another man killed Hackl and confessed to a prison inmate.

Today a judge granted Vollbrecht a new trial saying the new evidence raises reasonable doubts

Findley says, "It's exceedingly rare. The system is designed to make it difficult to overturn convictions."

Tonight Vollbrecht isn't the only one celebrating this chance at a new trial. On campus several groups of students have worked very hard to give him this shot.

And while it will once again be up to someone else to decide if Vollbrecht is guilty, those with the Innocence Project have their opinions.

When asked if he's convinced of Vollbrecht's innocence Findley says, "Well sure, he's always maintained his innocence."

The verdict has long been a point of controversy in the Sauk City community and today Vollbrecht's brother tells me he's glad Terry is getting a new trial and he thinks this is something that should have happened a long time ago.

Tonight the Department of Justice issued a statement saying, "The State spent significant time and effort to uphold the conviction of Mr. Vollbrecht and our reasons for opposing a new trial are detailed in our circuit court filings. Because those filings, and Judge Bauer's decision, speak for themselves, we aren't going to comment any further. However, today's ruling is not the end this matter."

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UPDATED Monday, January 10, 2011 --- 1:40 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A judge has granted a new trial for a man convicted of chaining a girl to a tree and shooting her to death 23 years ago.

Terry Vollbrecht was sentenced to life in prison in in 1989 in connection with the homicide of Angela Hackl, who was found dead two years earlier outside Sauk City.

Wisconsin Innocence Project attorneys have argued new evidence suggests another man killed Hackl. They say the man made statements that he liked to chain women to a tree, shoot them and light them on fire and confessed he killed Hackl to a fellow prison inmate.

Circuit Judge Steven Bauer says in a decision issued Monday the new evidence raises reasonable doubts about Vollbrecht's guilt and granted him a new trial.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Monday, January 10, 2011 --- 12:45 p.m.

Terry Vollbrecht has been granted a new trial.

He was convicted in 1989 of the rape and murder of Angela Hackl in 1987.

In today's ruling, Circuit Court Judge Steven G. Bauer wrote the "Court grants the defendant a new trial on the grounds of newly discovered evidence."

NOTE: You can read the ruling by clicking the link above marked "STATE OF WISCONSIN V VOLLBRECHT 2011."

The new evidence includes: Norman Pepin‟s testimony that Kim Brown informed him in 1993 that he killed Angela Hackl by shooting her three times, and then hanging her in a tree with a tire chain at “the Pines” in Sauk City.

Also listed as new evidence: James Schultz‟s testimony that sometime around 1992, he overheard Brown tell another inmate that he raped, shot, and tied Angela Hackl to a tree, put brush around her and was going to light her up and the lighter failed and he just threw the lighter away. Plus, the DNA evidence that an unknown third party‟s semen was found on the sleeping bag, and on the vaginal swab taken from Hackl‟s body.

Bauer wrote in today's ruling: The Court believes that the probability is somewhat higher than 50% that a jury would still convict Vollbrecht after hearing all of the evidence. However, the Court also believes the probabilities are close, and that the addition of this newly discovered evidence undermines the confidence in the jury‟s guilty verdict at trial. Therefore, the Court grants the defendant a new trial on the grounds of newly discovered evidence.

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***PREVIOUS COVERAGE:***

UPDATED Thursday, February 25, 2010 -- 3:00 p.m.

The hearing for Terry Vollbrecht resumed Thursday morning in a Sauk County courtroom.

Vollbrecht is seeking a new trial. He was convicted in 1989 of the rape and murder of Angela Hackl two years earlier.

Testimony began Thursday with William Hoeffler, by phone.

The defense's motion for a new trial for Vollbrecht says Hoeffler shared a cell with Kim Brown, before Brown was convicted of the murder of Linda Nachreiner in Adams County.

The Nachreiner murder also happened in the summer of '87.

The motion cites conversations Brown allegedly had with Hoeffler and another inmate, during which Brown allegedly said, about women, he liked to "chain them to a tree, light them on fire... "

Hoeffler was questioned Thursday about a journal he kept while in jail with Brown.

His testimony was cut short when his call was lost but it was expected to resume Thursday afternoon.

In its motion, the defense says the Nachreiner and Hackl murders were similar, and evidence in the Nachreiner case was never turned over to the defense in 1989.

A DNA analyst with the State Crime Lab took the stand later Thursday.

She was questioned at length about DNA obtained from the sleeping bag near where Angela Hackl's body was found and about DNA obtained from vaginal swabs.

No DNA testing was available at the time of the murder, she testified.

The first DNA testing of some of the evidence was conducted in 2002.

In its motion, the defense points out DNA from other males was found on the victim and in stains on the sleeping bag.

Court records and the witness say Vollbrecht's DNA was found in vaginal swabs. (Vollbrecht says he had consensual sex with Hackl the night she disappeared.)

Under cross examination, the witness testified the DNA could not be matched to either of the men the defense wanted to identify at trial as alternate suspects. In 1989, the court barred Vollbrecht's team from introducing evidence against a former officer and Kim Brown.

The Wisconsin Innocence Project at the UW Madison Law School is representing Vollbrecht. The Department of Justice prosecuted the case originally and is handling the current motion before the court.

Friends and family of Vollbrecht filled the courtroom, as they have all week.

The hearing was scheduled to wrap up Thursday but is expected to take additional time, but future dates are yet to be determined.

Additional witnesses were expected Thursday afternoon.

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UPDATED Tuesday, February 23, 2010 -- 6:15 p.m.

A convicted murderer takes the stand in Sauk County.

Now, what he has to say about another murder.

A man convicted of a Sauk County rape and murder in 1987 wants a new trial.

Tuesday was day two of the hearing for Terry Vollbrecht.

The Wisconsin Innocence Project has filed a motion seeking a new trial for Vollbrecht, who's serving a life sentence for the murder of Angela Hackl in 1987.

The motion cites new evidence and evidence, the defense says, never turned over to Vollbrecht's original defense team.

Late Tuesday afternoon, another man convicted of another murder took the stand.

"Did you kill Angela Hackl?"
"No," Kim Brown replied on the stand under cross examination.

"Did at any time, did you tell that you had anything to do with killing Angela Hackl?"
"No."

That's Kim Brown, convicted of killing Linda Nachreiner in Adams County the summer of 1987, shortly after the murder of 18-year-old Angela Hackl, in Sauk County.

Under cross examination by the state, Brown says he did not kill Hackl.. but the defense's motion says another inmate says Brown confessed to him to killing Hackl.

The defense today also called a man who shared a cell with Brown in '87... after Brown was arrested for the Nachreiner murder.

Court records show the man told investigators at the time... Brown had talked about chaining and burning women.

Hackl was found chained to a tree, but the Innocence Project's motion says the defense in '89 never knew about these statements.

Brown's one of two men the original defense team wanted to introduce evidence against as alternate suspects... but was barred by the court.

The other was a Sauk City Police Officer at the time.

Today, two women testified to harassing behavior by the officer.

"... sit outside of my window, watch at my window, run car plates who was at my house ... " one woman, a former law enforcement officer herself, said on the stand.

Earlier in the day, the defense questioned a semi-retired special agent with the Department of Justice about an interview he did with a woman back in '89 who says she saw Hackl in the officer's squad car the night Hackl disappeared.

The defense says the report of the interview never was turned over to Vollbrecht's trial attorney... and could've provided the necessary link to introduce evidence at trial, against the officer.

For the 2nd day, a number of Vollbrecht's friends and family were in court.

The hearing's expected to last at least a couple of more days.

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UPDATED Monday, February 22, 2010 -- 5:30 p.m.
By NBC15's Dana Brueck

"There's no way I can believe any of this stuff," Nyla Barreau, a friend of Terry Vollbrecht, says.

Friends and family of a former Sauk County man, convicted of murder, turn out to support his move for a new trial.

He was convicted 20 years ago of murdering a young woman. Now, he has the Wisconsin Innocence Project arguing why he deserves a new trial.

Attorneys with the project say they simply want a fair trial, based on all of the evidence. But the team from the Department of Justice also saying Vollbrecht has been tried and convicted, making for some tense moments in court.

"We've probably been writing back and forth for about 3 years now," Barreau says.

It's been a long time since many of Terry Vollbrecht's friends and family have seen him. Nyla Barreau remembers him as a hired hand. "If I had lawn mower tiller, he would stay tear it apart... put it together .. the next day."

Vollbrecht's serving a life sentence for the rape and murder of 18 year old Angela Hackl back in June of 1987. The teen was last seen leaving Hondo's bar in downtown Sauk City with Vollbrecht. But, he's back in Sauk County, listening closely to evidence in his motion for a new trial.

First to take the stand: a law firm partner of Vollbrecht's original trial attorney.

"...As case was being worked... one option was to present the possibility that someone else committed the crime," Robert Christensen testified.

Christensen testified to how much his colleague wanted to introduce evidence against alternate suspects... two men, in particular... but was barred by the court... in part, because the defense couldn't show a direct connection between one of the men, a Sauk City officer, and Hackl...

"...Were I aware of report like that ... ought to present to Judge Wolfe.. because here's the connection... "

The report at issue is an interview with a woman who says she saw Hackl inside of the officer's squad car when he responded to a local service station the night Hackl disappeared.

"Would've been critically important... because a line of defense would've then been available."

But the Innocence Project says the report was never turned over to the defense by prosecutors before the original trial.

Family of Vollbrecht believe these proceedings should've happened a long time ago... saying they simply want a fair trial...

"I think it's about time he gets this new trial," Barreau says.

Keep in mind, this hearing is all about the defense introducing its evidence for another trial.

Other testimony centered around Kim Brown, convicted of another woman's murder the same summer.

The defense is expected to introduce testimony this week from an inmate who says Brown confessed to him to killing Hackl.

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UPDATED Monday, February 22, 2010 --- 7:35 a.m.

A man convicted of murder more than 20 years ago gets another day in court. A hearing starts today for the man seeking a new trial in a 1987 murder case.

Terry Vollbrecht was convicted of the rape and murder of 18-year-old Angela Hackl of Lone Rock.

She was shot three times in June of 1987 and found in a wooded area outside of Sauk City.

Now, the Wisconsin Innocence Project has filed a motion for a new trial, citing new evidence Vollbrecht's team says was withheld at trial.

Hackl was last seen with Vollbrecht leaving Hondo's Bar in Sauk City.

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Posted November 16, 2009 --- 10:00 p.m.

The summer of 1987 was witness to the murders of three local women -- all of the slayings reportedly unrelated to each other.

Two of the cases were solved; two different men sentenced to prison.

But was one of them wrongly convicted?

Or is he indeed a cold-blooded killer who, today, could have a shot at freedom?

In this riverfront village, a closed case still leaves open wounds.

"Some people think absolutely he's guilty. And some people say absolutely no way," Kathy Carpenter says.

"There's no single piece of evidence that makes this case," the special prosecutor said back in 1989.

It is the bizarre murder case of 18-year-old Angela Hackl.

" ...the missing woman had just graduated from River Valley High School... "

The body of the Lone Rock woman was found Monday, June 15th, 1987 in a pine woods. A tire chain around her neck, her naked body hanging from a tree with three bullets in her back...

"I could never figure out why Angie was left this way," special prosecutor Matt Frank said at trial 20 years ago.

It would take almost two years for prosecutors to charge Terry Vollbrecht with the rape and murder of Hackl.

"The sheriff ordered tight security for the initial appearance of Terry Vollbrecht..."

It would take about two hours of deliberations for a jury to convict him in October of 1989.

"It was a circumstantial case, but a very strong circumstantial case," Then-Assistant Attorney General Matt Frank said.

Twenty years later...
" ... it was one we knew had generated a lot of controversy... "

Vollbrecht has a team helping him with a heavy burden.

"As you can see from the boxes, there's a lot of material to go through..."

... the burden of proving what he says is the truth.

"Terry has always insisted that he's absolutely innocent of this crime," Keith Findley says.

UW Law School Professor Keith Findley is co-director of the Wisconsin Innocence Project. Ten years ago, when the project began, he agreed to take a look at Vollbrecht's claim.

"His case has made it through a rather rigorous screening process to get to this point."

Today, Findley and his students have filed a motion, seeking a new trial for Vollbrecht, based upon new evidence and evidence, he says, withheld at trial.

"There is in fact some pretty important new evidence that has emerged that does support his claim of innocence," Findley says.

At trial, Vollbrecht's attorney, Warren Kenney, wanted to defend his client by introducing evidence against alternate suspects.

"...a police officer and two other men..."

-- a Sauk City police officer at the time and a man convicted of another murder.

But Findley says the court denied Kenney the opportunity, saying he lacked evidence showing a direct connection between the officer and the victim.

"Turns out that evidence did exist and the state had that evidence, it just failed to turn it over," Findley says.

Findley says he and his law students have discovered in reports a witness who says she saw Hackl in the officer's squad car the night she disappeared when the officer responded to a local service station.

"For whatever reason, we don't know, that was never disclosed to the defense, and our allegation in the motion is that was in violation of the rules of due process established by the U.S. Supreme Court."

But initial reports by investigators suggest the witness was unsure of the actual date in June.

Weeks after Hackl's murder, another woman, Linda Nachreiner, was found partially naked, shot to death, in a wooded area of Adams County.

Her murder, combined with the disappearance of Barbara Blackstone in Juneau County and Hackl's death put the area on edge.

"...rumors of a serial killer were rampant..."

Kim Brown of Oxford was convicted of the Nachreiner murder. Findley says Vollbrecht's original defense team was told Brown was at work when Hackl was killed.

"But we found out after trial that in fact, Kim Brown was not at work.
And in fact, was a very viable suspect for a lot of reasons that were never pursued at trial because the defense was derailed by this misinformation."

Hackl was last seen with Vollbrecht, when the two left Hondo's Bar in Sauk City one morning, days before investigators found the teen's body.

"The evidence will show the defendant was familiar with the crime scene."

Vollbrecht testified the two had consensual sex in a marsh area along the Wisconsin river ...

"What did she do...
Well she even got closer to me yet," Vollbrecht testified at trial.

Then, he said Hackl dropped him off at his vehicle downtown, but jurors didn't buy it.

"It became obvious he was an out and out liar," one juror said.

Since trial, analysts have identified Vollbrecht's DNA as well as DNA evidence of other men either on the victim or, on the sleeping bag found at the scene.

"What's really important is that somebody else's DNA is there too," Findley says.

But does what the Innocence Project uncovered warrant another trial?

"This is his best shot... This is his chance to vindicate his claim of innocence," Findley says.

Back in Vollbrecht's hometown...

Kathy Carpenter remembers him as a friend ... as the man who came to fix her lawnmower shortly after the murder ... instead of the man who committed it.

"I hope they can solve it... and get the right answers and find the right person ... cause I really don't think he did it," Carpenter says.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice is preparing its response to the motion... but declined to discuss the case because it is pending.

A spokesman for the attorney general issued a statement, saying...

"Terry G. Vollbrecht stands convicted of first-degree murder and first-degree sexual assault. Since 1989, no reviewing court has seen fit to reverse those convictions."

-- Bill Cosh
Attorney General's Office

Also, the Wisconsin Innocence Project is getting almost 650-thousand dollars in grant money for post-conviction DNA testing.

The grant will allow the project to identify individuals incarcerated whose cases could benefit by DNA testing. In Wisconsin, at least six people have had their convictions reversed by post-conviction DNA testing. The project itself has freed 12 individuals in its 11-year history.


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