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Investigation continues in Sunday death of UW-W student

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Stan Milam
July 31, 2012

— Investigators say they have no reason to suspect foul play in the death of a UW-Whitewater student found at the bottom of a quarry just south of the city limits, the second death at the quarry in 14 months.

They are investigating how Benjamin R. Fuder died and what he was doing before his death.

The body of Fuder, 21, a junior majoring in international studies, was found at 6:45 a.m. Sunday at the bottom of the quarry below the north rim. He graduated from Edgerton High School, and the university listed an Edgerton address for him, although he lived in Whitewater while attending classes.

Authorities would not release his Whitewater address.

Fuder was reported missing at 11:37 p.m. Saturday, according to police. Fuder had last been seen around 12:30 a.m. Saturday in the area of downtown Whitewater.

"So far, we have seen nothing to lead us to suspect foul play, but this is an open, ongoing investigation," Walworth County Sheriff David Graves said. "This is similar to an incident last year, but we have seen nothing that would lead us to believe they are connected, but I say again that this is an open and ongoing investigation."

The body of 20-year-old Mark J. Wegener, a UW-Whitewater student, was found at the bottom of the quarry May 30, 2011. Police say he left a party about 1 a.m. May 29, 2011, and was not seen again until his body was discovered. Authorities at the time said Wegener apparently fell from a 70-foot ledge. His death was ruled an accident. An autopsy revealed Wegener had a blood-alcohol content of 0.106, which would be above the legal limit to drive.

An autopsy was performed on Fuder's body Monday morning. No autopsy results were available at press time.

Graves said about the only similarity between the two incidents was that both victims appeared to be alone. Fuder's cellphone was found, and authorities are asking the person who found it to contact the Whitewater Police Department.

"Someone found the phone and called one of Ben's friends," Whitewater Police Chief Lisa Otterbacher said. "The friend told the caller to just drop it off at Ben's house.

"We need to talk to the person who found the phone to determine where and when it was found," Otterbacher said. "That could go a long ways in determining what happened to Ben."

Otterbacher said both quarry deaths should remind everybody to not walk alone at night in any neighborhood.

"This is not just about safety from crime," she said. "Walking with a buddy like we've been told since we were kids is a way to prevent accidents, as well.

"For example, you may want to take a shortcut, or you may be unknowingly walking close to a drop-off," she said. "Your buddy could warn you before an accident happens."

The quarry is on Franklin Street just north of the Highway 12 bypass outside Whitewater's south city limits. It can be seen clearly from Highway 12.

There is no fencing around the rim of the quarry, operated by Whitewater Limestone. A worker at the site said Whitewater Limestone is a subsidiary of BR Amon and Mann Brothers of Elkhorn. He said there are no issues with people coming to the quarry to party or hang out and there have been no reports of incidents.

Otterbacher confirmed that her department has not received reports of illegal activity at the quarry.

The quarry would not be a place for after-hours swimmers, said the worker, who asked not to be identified. There is a small pool of water at the bottom of the quarry, but it is continually pumped and not suitable for swimming, he said.

The quarry worker said investigators from the federal Mine, Safety and Health Administration were scheduled to be at the quarry Monday.

Amon spokesman Don Palmer said his company believes the death is a tragic accident, and he extended his condolences on behalf of the company to Fuder's family. He said any other information would have to come from investigators.

The Wisconsin State Journal reported that Fuder's father, Bradley Fuder, said someone told him his son's wallet was found Saturday afternoon at the top of an outdoor staircase. The State Journal reported Fuder said his son was at the Hawk's Nest Bar & Grill in downtown Whitewater and his son's friends told Benjamin to go home because he was intoxicated.

Neither Sheriff Graves nor Chief Otterbacher would comment on those statements.

The Gazette was not able to reach Fuder on Monday.

The Hawk's Nest Bar & Grill is one mile from the entrance to the quarry. A dirt lane under power lines leads to the quarry's north rim. Signs are posted advising "No Entry Without Permission."

The road leading to the bottom of the quarry is gated and locked after hours, the worker said.

Investigators would not comment on Benjamin Fuder's whereabouts Friday night or early Saturday morning. They would only say he was seen in downtown Whitewater and would not comment on where he was or what he was doing.



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