UPDATE: Felon moved from Baraboo to secured facility in Town of Winfield

By: Max Hess - Email
By: Max Hess - Email
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UPDATED Tuesday, August 19, 2014 -- 10:00 p.m.

Cathy Lanser, spokesperson for the health care management company Care Wisconsin, tells NBC15 that a convicted felon we first reported about last year has moved from a secured residential facility in Baraboo to another one in the Town of Winfield, near Reedsburg.

The man, who has a mental disability, has a frequent history of violence, including a felony conviction for strangulation and suffocation.

He now requires constant supervision by caretakers, who he has also attacked numerously.

In a written statement, Lanser explained that the move "follows a well-established community residential placement," and gives their client a change to integrate into the community.

Lanser also said that the plan "has been developed with the continued safety of our members, staff, and community in mind."

Many community members in Winfield are not happy about the move, which is why Chairman Ron Churchill called for a special town hall meeting Tuesday evening.

"He's been known to be... violent," Churchill said.

"Hopefully we can stop it, but I don't think we can," he added, explaining that legally there is little they can do.

Churchill said nobody alerted him about the move, and he ended up finding out because people from his community called him.

The violent man's attorney, however, says that informing the community about such a move is not protocol.

"There is no requirement under the law that requires any sort of notification," Attorney Kristin Kerschensteiner said.

In fact, Kerschensteiner explained, the Fair Housing Act prohibits individuals from releasing such information.

She also said that there is a bigger picture to it all, and that the man was moved because his behavior had recently improved.

"He is not at this time been any threat to the community."

The house, located off of County Road WD, in no way resembles a prison and is very similar to houses normal people live in, according to the man's attorney.

For Barb Steinhorst, who attended the meeting and lives nearby, that is no excuse.

"I'm highly opposed to bringing any dangerous people like that into a community... I think they should be somewhere more secure," she said.

Steinhorst said that while she has sympathy for those with mental problems, there are exceptions when she feels public safety is threatened.

"They need to be in a more secure facility."

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UPDATED Friday, July 26, 2013 --- 3:15 p.m.
Reporter: Phil Levin

Workplace safety officials are now investigating the Dungarvin home and reports of staff injuries.

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration launched their examination Thursday at the request of the Baraboo Police Dept., which asked for an investigation in May.

Area Director Kim Stille tells NBC 15 the investigation, which she hopes to complete in a few weeks, will likely include a visit to the facility as well as meetings with the employer and other interviews.

Baraboo Police say at least ten staff members have been sent to the hospital by a violent occupant who moved in February. Stille says OSHA has a six month statute of limitations, which means it does not investigate safety concerns prior to that window. Documents obtained by NBC 15 show the reported incidents began February 11 when the man hit and bit staff and broke a window in a struggle with his caretakers. That incident, and others since, would fall within the six month time frame.

Baraboo Police are continuing to work with state legislators in pursuit of a process where similar facilities would need state licensing or certification oversight.
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POSTED Thursday, July 18, 2013 --- 11:45 p.m.
Reporter: Phil Levin

Neighbors are wondering why a violent felon is locked in a Baraboo home and fear he might escape.

The home has fortified windows, a padded cell and doors that lock from both sides. Staff carry panic buttons and wear bite sleeves, but since the man was moved to the facility in February at least ten staff members have suffered injuries in altercations. Police reports indicate employees sustained broken bones, bites, scratches and other injuries trying to contain the man.

"If we have ten incidents where this individual has sent people to the hospital, how many times has he been injured?" asked Baraboo Police Department Lt. Rob Sinden. His team has increased patrols in the area and is even drafting a crisis plan should the man break free.

The home is run by Dungarvin, Inc. In Wisconsin the group says they currently care for more than 200 people with disabilities. Sinden says the 26-year-old man is a ward of the state, meaning he has a court-appointed guardian helping determine his placement. Dungarvin State Director Julie Josephitis tells NBC 15 a guardian might be able to ask for a different placement.

Many nearby residents only found out about the home's new occupant when a former Dungarvin employee passed out fliers across the neighborhood. Particularly concerning to some are Dungarvin's plans to build a fenced-in outdoor space for the man to use, just feet from homes with children.

"It's a really quiet neighborhood," said Jason Hobler, whose home borders the facility. "We enjoy the peace and for something like this to pop up it's disturbing. We don't know how we should protect ourselves."

Jason and his wife Holly say they no longer let their 6-year-old son outside without supervision. Police share their fear about the possible outdoor space.

"By ordinance the fence can only be so big," said Lt. Sinden. "Our fences that are built in Baraboo are not designed to house prisoners."

Care Wisconsin First, Inc. is the state contractor responsible for hiring Dungarvin. Staff declined to answer specific questions from NBC 15 about the Baraboo home or why that particular residential placement was chosen instead of alternatives.

Wisconsin Department of Health Services Deputy Secretary Kevin Moore said in a letter to legislators that the state pays Care Wisconsin $3,432.43 per month per member, but resources committed to each individual can vary. The man in Baraboo is watched by at least four staff members 24 hours per day.

Prompted by concerned neighbors, Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) and Rep. Fred Clark (D-Sauk City) are wondering why the state does not require licenses for violent felons like the man in Baraboo and whether an alternative placement would be safer for the man and his neighbors.

"Any time you can get someone with disabilities into a community setting, that's the best thing for everybody, it's a win-win for everybody," said Erpenbach. "In this particular situation with the violent nature of this individual, and I can't stress this enough this individual requires four staff members within this house dressed in kevlar so they are not harmed to deal with this particular individual, there might be a better way to deal with the whole situation."

Josephitis says the home currently has two residents. Lt. Sinden, who has toured the facility, says it is sparsely furnished with a locking cell in its interior. He says many of the altercations begin when the man is assigned a "time-out" in the padded room. Reports and staff indicate the man has broken doors and windows and sometimes maneuvers behind staff in apparent attempts to try and strangle them.

Dungarvin instructs staff to call a manager or supervisor and ask permission before calling police.


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