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Motorcyclist pleads guilty in homicide

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Ted Sullivan
February 11, 2011
— James Humphrey cried and wiped his eyes with tissue while sitting in Rock County Court on Thursday.

With his lips quivering, Humphrey barely muttered the words, "Guilty," to the felony charge of first-degree reckless homicide.


He then closed his eyes and buried his face in his hands, tearfully whispering to himself.


Humphrey, 45, Janesville, admitted guilt in the June 4 fatal shooting of Sam Aegerter, 30, Janesville. Humphrey was riding a motorcycle near Five Points intersection when he is suspected of having a confrontation with Aegerter, who was in a Jeep.


Humphrey pleaded guilty as part of a plea agreement. Two felony charges of first-degree recklessly endangering safety were dismissed.


The Rock County District Attorney's Office will recommend Humphrey be sentenced to 20 years in prison and 20 years extended supervision at a hearing April 14.


Judge Kenneth Forbeck does not have to accept the recommendation. The maximum penalty Humphrey faces is 65 years in prison.


Assistant District Attorney Scott Dirks would not comment on why the state offered Humphrey the plea agreement. He said the reasons would be obvious at the sentencing hearing.


Wearing an orange Rock County Jail uniform, Humphrey was emotional the entire hearing. He had trouble gathering himself to answer the judge's questions. The courtroom was nearly full.


Humphrey's plea happened about a month after Forbeck denied Humphrey's motion to suppress a statement he made to an investigator.


Humphrey admitted to the shooting in a comment to a detective after his arrest, the detective testified at the motion hearing.


"He said he didn't mean to shoot anybody," Rock County Sheriff's Detective Darrell Knutson said. "He said he was drunk and that he shot at the car just to scare them."


Humphrey's attorney, Robert Junig, asked Forbeck to suppress the statement as evidence at trial.


The judge decided Humphrey's statement would be allowed, saying Humphrey initiated contact with Knutson and that he knew his rights and waived them.


Knutson is the husband of Humphrey's ex-wife and is the stepfather of Humphrey's son, Knutson said. The two have known each other for about 15 years.


Junig also filed a motion for a change of venue to get jurors from outside Rock County, claiming Humphrey couldn't get a fair trial because of pretrial publicity.


Forbeck ruled against the motion, noting news reports in the Gazette and WCLO radio were appropriate.


During the preliminary hearing, Richard T. Hall testified he and Humphrey had alcoholic drinks at four bars the night of the homicide. He said the Jeep that Aegerter was in drove by and nearly hit their motorcycles on West Milwaukee Street.


The motorcyclists chased after the Jeep, Hall said. The Jeep stopped at Five Points intersection and words were exchanged.


The motorcyclists chased after the Jeep, then Humphrey shot at the vehicle, Hall said. The bikers fled to Humphrey's house.


Hall said he lied to police and helped cover up the crime. He testified he helped bury the gun and dumped ammunition in the Sugar River near Albany.


Police said the gun was never recovered.


Aegerter's family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Humphrey, accusing him of being responsible and liable for Sam Aegerter's death.


Humphrey remains in the Rock County Jail pending his sentencing.



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