A Janesville woman was stabbed more than 30 times this weekend, and the homicide suspects are in custody in Missouri after police used OnStar to track the victim’s car, Janesville police said at a Monday press conference.
Julian D. Collazo, 21, is the main suspect in the stabbing death of Christine Scaccia-Lubeck, 43, said Lt. Terry Sheridan, who heads the Janesville police detective bureau.
Scaccia-Lubeck’s mother found her dead in the victim’s home at 426 S. River St. at about 4:44 p.m. Saturday.
Police said they had been aware of Collazo, whom they described as a member of a gang from Houston. They said he moved to the Janesville area recently and they had suspected him in three other, smaller crimes here since Oct. 4.
Police had no reason to take Collazo into custody before the homicide, however, Police Chief Dave Moore said. Police were aware of Collazo because Moore said a small number of people commit a large number of crimes, so they monitor “hot spots, hot groups and hot people.”
“We had concerns about him,” Moore said of the man they believe committed Janesville’s second homicide of 2017.
Investigators believe Collazo had permission to be in the victim’s home. They believe the suspect and victim knew each other, but their exact relationship was not confirmed as of Monday morning, Sheridan said.
Collazo has denied involvement, but Missouri police said they found him at about 7:10 p.m. Saturday wearing shoes that appeared to have blood on them. They found blood on clothing he had been wearing and in the vehicle he was driving, police said.
Police executed a search warrant on the car later Monday and found a knife, although they don’t know if it was used in the homicide, Sheridan said.
The autopsy showed the knife used in the stabbing was single-edged, Sheridan said.
Also found in the car were more bloody clothing and a Wii video game console, Sheridan said. Police could not determine whether the victim had previously placed the console in the car or if it got there some other way, Sheridan said.
The other person considered a suspect is Nicole R. Kazar, 23, who told police she was homeless but is last known to have lived in Beloit, police said.
About two-and-a-half hours after the homicide was reported, police were able to track down Collazo and Kazar in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, with the help of OnStar, which provides safety and security features in cars and GPS tracking. Collazo and Kazar were in Scaccia-Lubeck’s 2015 Chevrolet Trax.
Cape Girardeau is about 100 miles south of St. Louis and more than 400 miles from Janesville.
Kazar told Cape Girardeau detectives that Collazo was the main actor in the incident. She told police she was not there and that Collazo picked her up afterward. Sheridan said there is no evidence to suggest the contrary.
“At this time, we believe he acted alone, although we’re not ruling out the possibility that Kazar also was with him,” Sheridan said. “But with the information we have now, it appears he probably acted alone.”
The Rock County District Attorney’s Office will likely issue a felony warrant charging first-degree intentional homicide for Collazo and a warrant charging aiding and abetting a felon for Kazar, Sheridan said. It is unclear how soon the two could be extradited to Wisconsin because it depends if they waive extradition or fight it.
If they waive their right to an extradition hearing, Sheridan said, they could be brought to Janesville in a matter of days, but he said Monday afternoon he does not believe they had decided yet.
Scaccia-Lubeck worked at Grainger in Janesville, and her husband had died recently from a medical condition, Sheridan said.
Police still are investigating what time Scaccia-Lubeck was killed. Sheridan said the last anyone heard from her was via a text message to her sister at about 7 p.m. Friday.
The snow could help police pin down her time of death, however. Sheridan said they believe Scaccia-Lubeck’s car was gone from her home before it snowed Friday night.
It appears the incident began in the bathroom of Scaccia-Lubeck’s home before proceeding through a hallway and into a bedroom, Sheridan said.
“There was some indication of a struggle or fight,” he said.
No one in the neighborhood reported hearing anything, Sheridan said.
Scaccia-Lubeck’s mother checked on her after the sister expressed concern over not hearing from her, Sheridan said.
The Rock County Medical Examiner’s Department on Monday morning identified Scaccia-Lubeck as the victim and said preliminary results of the autopsy show she died from “homicidal sharp force injuries.”
Sheridan said police first learned of the suspects after they were found with the car. Janesville police on Sunday released the suspects’ ages and sexes without their names because he said they did not want to “jeopardize” the investigation before two of his detectives could speak with Collazo and recover evidence.
He also said they waited to release the names because they did not see an active threat to the public.
“We were pretty confident we had the right people in custody,” Sheridan said.
Janesville police’s concern over Collazo stemmed from a handful of incidents between Oct. 4 and as recently as a Dec. 6 arrest on suspicion of retail theft at 3800 Deerfield Drive.
Collazo also has a “lengthy criminal history,” mostly taking place in Texas, where police said he is a member of the “Southwest Cholos.” This history includes offenses related to drugs, burglary and theft of motor vehicles, and assaults.
Collazo was the only member of the Southwest Cholo police were aware of in Janesville, and the gang has not expanded to this area, said Sgt. Chad Pearson of the department’s Street Crimes Unit.
Scaccia-Lubeck’s murder is the first since the May 27 shooting death of Eddie L. Jones, 28, of Markham, Illinois, behind the house at 116 S. Franklin St., which is about half a mile from Scaccia-Lubeck’s home.
Barquis D. McKnight, 33, is scheduled for a January jury trial on charges of first-degree intentional homicide and possession of a firearm by a felon in relation to Jones’ death. McKnight has maintained his innocence, although his lawyer has said he is working on a plea agreement.
Scaccia-Lubeck’s murder is an ongoing investigation. Sheridan asked the public to reach out if they have any tips or information.
What remains unknown or unclear is the motive for the killing, how Collazo and Scaccia-Lubeck knew each other, and why he would have been in the house.
Sheridan said there was no evidence of sexual assault. He said robbery is a possible motive, but as of Monday police had not determined whether anything had been taken.
Man says chief, others lied to police about him
A former Janesville Fire Department employee alleges the fire chief and other fire department employees lied to police that he “might be mentally unstable and dangerous,” according to complaints filed with the Janesville Police and Fire Commission.
The former employee, Donald “Jeff” Bowen, has filed three charges of malfeasance in public office against Fire Chief Randy Banker and one each against Lt. Paul VerHalen and Fire Marshal Sue North.
The commission will address the charges behind closed doors at 4:30 p.m. today.
Banker and other city officials said Friday they could not comment on the complaints.
Bowen was a Janesville fire inspector from April 2015 to April 2017. Throughout 2015, Bowen grew frustrated with Banker’s management practices. Frustration peaked in February 2017 after a disciplinary hearing Bowen thought was unfair, according to the complaints.
Bowen submitted a resignation letter a few days later, but he stayed on staff for at least another two months until a replacement could be hired, according to the complaints.
After leaving, Bowen continued to volunteer as an associate adviser for Janesville Fire Department Explorer Post 555.
The post is a joint effort between the Janesville Fire Department and Boy Scouts of America. The post allows young adults to explore career opportunities in firefighting and emergency medical services, according to the complaints.
On about Aug. 10, Banker learned Bowen still had ties to the Janesville Fire Department through the post and told VerHalen to have Bowen removed, according to the complaints.
VerHalen called post adviser Cathy Erdman and said Bowen needed to be removed because Banker didn’t like what Bowen had said during his exit interview with City Manager Mark Freitag, according to Erdman’s notes within the complaints.
Erdman expressed disapproval with VerHalen’s request and didn’t follow through. On Aug. 28, VerHalen called Bowen himself and told him he was no longer on the post, according to a police report.
According to the complaints, VerHalen’s reason for kicking Bowen off the post had changed from Banker’s disapproval of Bowen’s exit interview comments to complaints the fire department had received that Bowen and the post had damaged a dunk tank at National Night Out.
On Aug. 30, Banker contacted Janesville police and “falsely asserted that Bowen might be mentally unstable and dangerous” and “knowingly mischaracterized Bowen’s work record,” the complaints read.
According to the police report, Bowen had continued to pursue involvement in the explorer post after being told not to. Banker and other fire department employees had concerns with Bowen’s actions leading up to the report being filed, according the police report.
Banker and North showed police an email and personal note, both more than a year old at the time. In the email, Bowen apologized for being irritated at work in June 2016. In the note, Bowen’s wife, Sandy, told Erdman she was frustrated with Bowen at home, noting that he’s like a “landmine around here,” according to the complaints.
Banker and North also said Bowen had left the fire department on bad terms, according to the complaints. However, Bowen staying on staff after submitting his resignation letter until a replacement could be found “is not consistent with the assertion that Bowen was increasingly confrontational, angry and disgruntled or that he left the JFD ‘on bad terms,’” according to the complaints.
Police investigated and found Bowen wasn’t a danger to himself or others, according to the police report.
“Chief Banker’s actions caused harm to this citizen volunteer by involuntarily removing him from an activity he enjoyed participating in,” the complaints read. “Chief Banker’s dishonesty in this matter discredited both the office he holds and the organization he leads.”
The complaints also allege VerHalen and North both knowingly helped Banker with creating the false assertion and “provided inaccurate and demonstrably false information” to Janesville police.