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Half Million Dollar Grant Will Help Investigators And Scientists Take A Fresh Look At Cold Cases
MADISON - As criminal investigations age, the likelihood of a successful outcome is dramatically reduced. Key evidence degrades or is lost, witnesses disappear and memories fade. At the same time, new technologies and techniques can provide a fresh look at a cold case. That is why the announcement today by Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen that Wisconsin's Department of Justice has received a $500,000 federal grant from the United States Department of Justice is so significant.
"Law enforcement agencies across Wisconsin have too many violent unsolved "cold" cases which may have the opportunity to be solved," said Van Hollen. "Using improved investigative strategies and most importantly DNA technology, there is new hope that crimes can be solved and justice can be served."
Agencies already stretched for resources often struggle to keep up with current crimes and may not have the time and manpower to devote to cold cases.
"During a previous grant furnished by the U.S. Department of Justice, four convictions were obtained for cold case homicides, and dozens of new leads were generated in others which continue to be investigated" said Van Hollen.
The majority of funding will be used to hire experienced retired homicide investigators who will be able to devote all of their time to cold case investigations. The cases will be selected based upon solvability factors, including identification of potential suspects and witnesses, and the existence and condition of DNA evidence. Additionally, the grant will fund overtime within the crime lab to ensure cold case priority testing and for the Milwaukee Police Department's major unsolved case unit.
"Investigators will partner with other experts in Forensics, Prosecution, Victim/Witness Service Providers and Intelligence Analysts to bring a more rounded approach and fresher perspective to these challenging cases," said Van Hollen.
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Leesa Jo Shaner
Leesa Jo Shaner was a young mother of two and the daughter of an FBI agent. On May 29, 1973 she went to the Tucson airport to meet her husband who was returning from an overseas military assignment. She was never seen alive again. Her body was discovered four months later outside an army post in Southern Arizona. Court records recently filed in Milwaukee indicate that a prisoner in Wisconsin might have been involved in Leesa Jo Shaner's murder. That prisoner, William Floyd Zamastil, is being held at the Waupun Correctional Institution, currently serving a life sentence for the kidnapping, rape and murder of a woman in Wisconsin.
Dawn Brossard disappeared in October, 1997 and was reported missing after failing to show up for work at the State Financial Bank of Waterford in Burlington. On July 11, 2003 recreational divers found her body in Geneva Lake. Following a cold case investigation in cooperation with local authorities, Dawn's husband David was recently charged in her death.
Lynnea L. Gran
On August 9, 1986, officers responded to Les' Grocery Store in Superior. Upon arrival at the scene, officers found Roger A. Gran outside of the grocery store in a hysterical state, advising that his mother, Lynnea Gran, was inside bleeding badly. Lynnea was an employee of the store. Officers entered the store and discovered that Lynnea was dead, having been severely beaten about the head.
During the summer and early fall of 2004, one of DOJ's cold case special agents reviewed the case. Blood stains and blood splatter were located on a jean jacket owned by Roger Gran. Crime Lab analysts were also able to identify the murder weapon, a hammer.
On October 20, 2006, Rodger Allen Gran was sentenced to 15 years state prison on charges of 2nd Degree Murder for the death of his mother Lynnea.
William G. Schipper
William Schipper was retired and living alone in the City of Manitowoc. When Schipper's wealthy sister passed away, she left him several hundred thousand dollars in her will. Despite receiving the large amount of money, Schipper stayed at his modest residence, living on the first floor and renting out the second.
Casimir (Casey) Leschke was familiar with Schipper's financial condition. Leschke was social with Schipper, and would run errands for him as wells as do odd jobs. In the late morning hours of December 21, 1994, Leschke went to a Manitowoc bar called "Ma's", where he met a local exotic dancer. Based on his relationship with Schipper, Leschke believed Schipper would pay for the exotic dancer to go to Schipper's house and perform. Leschke and the dancer came to Schipper's home and left. Detectives believe Leschke returned later with his friend, Jose Antonio Vega.
That night, a woman who lived in the apartment above Schipper's residence heard a chopping sound, along with Schipper's voice coming through the heat registers in her apartment. The neighbor did not find the chopping sounds unusual since Schipper often used a wood stove in his basement. Later that evening, however, the neighbor discovered Schipper's body in the basement. Schipper appeared to have been bludgeoned to death with a hammer.
Officers on the scene observed wood stacked in the basement and a large ash bucket used for burning wood. Schipper's head was slumped into the bucket. Also in the ash bucket was an empty booze bottle and a cigarette butt.
In the years that followed, tests performed by the Wisconsin State Crime Lab identified a fingerprint on the booze bottle as that of Jose Vega. DNA tests on the cigarette butt identified it as coming from Leschke.
This evidence, combined with Vega's denial of ever having been at Schipper's and witness testimony that placed men matching Vega and Leschke at the scene, led to the conviction of Jose Vega for first degree intentional homicide as party to a crime. On October 24, 2007 Manitowoc Circuit County Judge Darryl Deets sentenced Jose Vega to life in prison.
Suspects or Defendants identified in this press release who have not been tried are presumed innocent. The State bears the burden at trial of establishing guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.