Five months after homicide, suspect to appear in court

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Nico Savidge
Monday, July 8, 2013

JANESVILLE--A town of Plymouth man is scheduled to appear in Rock County Court on homicide charges Tuesday, more than five months after authorities say he shot and killed his neighbor before turning the gun on himself.

Daniel Bellard, 75, had been recovering at a Madison hospital since the February shooting, which left 59-year-old Christine Gestrich dead, Sheriff Robert Spoden said.

Bellard was released from the hospital and booked into the Rock County Jail on Monday, Spoden said.

He is due to make an initial appearance in court Tuesday afternoon.

Police were called Feb. 6 to Bellard's property in rural Orfordville, where they found Gestrich's body in a barn, authorities said.

They later discovered Bellard elsewhere on the property with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head, authorities said.

Bellard was flown to UW Hospital in critical condition, where he stayed with sheriff's deputies guarding him around the clock until Monday.

Deputies took Bellard into custody once the hospital released him, and an ambulance drove Bellard to the jail with a squad car escorting it, Spoden said.

Bellard's arrest means the criminal case against him—on hold as he recovered in the hospital—can finally start, Spoden said.

“We're relieved to have him in our custody,” Spoden said. “Hopefully, we can proceed forward with this part of the justice system.”

Bellard will be held at the jail's medical facility, where authorities are bringing in certified nursing assistants to help staff members care for his continuing medical needs, Spoden said.

Now that he is in custody, the county also is responsible for Bellard's medical bills, Spoden said, which will add to the already large price tag attached to Bellard's case.

Deputies spent more than 150 days guarding Bellard at UW Hospital, Spoden said, racking up overtime hours and mileage costs.

Jail Administrator Eric Chellevold estimated the overtime alone added up to about $50,000 as of late April—more than two months before Bellard was released.

Spoden did not have an update on that cost Monday afternoon but said, “it's not going to be pretty.”

Having Bellard in custody at the jail will reduce what Spoden called “an enormous burden” on the sheriff's office.

Undecided is who will pay for the sizeable medical bill Bellard accumulated over the months he spent at UW Hospital.

Wisconsin PricePoint, which collects data on hospital costs, estimates the daily price for someone with a traumatic head injury to stay at a Dane County hospital runs about $11,238.

Using that estimate--and not accounting for the cost of surgeries Bellard may have received—his bill would be about $1.7 million.

Although deputies guarded Bellard day and night at the hospital, Spoden said he was not actually in their custody, as he is now.

That means the county was not responsible for Bellard's medical care and should not have to pay his medical bills, Spoden said.

“Our position has been … that as long as he was not in our custody, not booked in, we were not responsible for his medical bills,” Spoden said.

Last updated: 6:48 pm Monday, July 8, 2013

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