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Crime
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Woman sentenced in shooting of estranged husband

A woman who shot her estranged husband in the face in 2019 was sentenced Friday to eight years in prison.

In addition to the prison sentence, Nova Rickelmann will serve eight years of probation and was ordered to have no contact with the victim she had separated from after a marriage fraught with domestic and custody battles.

Rickelmann, 45, of Monona, formerly Nova T. Suarez, pleaded guilty in August to one count of first-degree reckless injury while armed and one count of discharging a firearm toward a vehicle in October 2019.

Rickelmann was initially charged with attempted first-degree intentional homicide while armed as an act of domestic violence, which could have carried a 65-year prison sentence. In August, she reached an agreement with prosecutors on reduced charges.

During Friday’s hearing, Judge Barbara McCrory withheld judgment on the charge of discharging a firearm toward a vehicle, which lowered Rickelmann’s possible sentence from 33 years to eight years in prison and three years of probation.

On the night of the incident, Rickelmann approached her ex-husband while he was attempting to withdraw cash to pay a babysitter at a drive-thru ATM outside a bank on Center Avenue in Janesville.

According to the bank’s security footage, Rickelmann pulled up alongside the passenger side of the victim’s car and fired a shotgun loaded with birdshot through the window of his vehicle.

The victim fled on foot to a nearby convenience store for help. He was treated at Mercyhealth Hospital and Trauma Center, Janesville, for birdshot pellets that penetrated into his forehead and parts of his lips and cheeks.

The victim might have avoided more serious injuries because the passenger-side window of his vehicle was rolled up and he was wearing glasses at the time, a prosecutor said at an earlier hearing.

Assistant district attorney Mark Jahnke said the victim was “lucky he’s here today to explain his perspective and describe the emotional and mental anguish” the incident caused.

Rickelmann’s attorney, Kevin Smith, argued his client’s character was “impeccable, except for 2019.” Smith told McCrory that Rickelmann was struggling with mental health issues at the time.

“It’s an unaddressed mental issue that contributed to this significantly,” he said, adding Rickelmann attempted to seek counseling while she was incarcerated.

McCrory was empathetic to Rickelmann’s emotional and mental battles but said the crime’s premeditated nature was inexcusable. Prior to the October 2019 incident, Rickelmann stole the shotgun from a friend’s home, later practiced shooting it to avoid harming her ex-husband and then drove an hour and a half to confront the victim on the night in question, according to McCrory’s account.

“It’s clear that you had a plan, you wanted to scare him (and) thought shooting your husband was a way to get his attention,” she said.

In an impact statement, made by the ex-husband at the hearing, he said around a dozen pellets from the shotgun still remained in his face and head.

“I have my X-rays that show all the pellets in my head,” he said.

In her statement, Rickelmann seemed to show remorse for her actions and claimed she did not intend to hurt him severely.

“I hate that. That’s not what I wanted,” she said of her ex-husband’s facial injuries. “The fact that he has to live with those makes it worse, and I am very sorry.”

McCrory was not swayed by Rickelmann’s apology.

“Your actions were deliberate and malicious,” she said, adding, “Guns are not a way to settle marital disputes, at all.”

“Everyone says what you did was out of character,” McCrory concluded, “but that incident was not just a snap decision.”


Local
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Kids fill their bags to the brim on Halloween 2021

JANESVILLE

Children dressed as TV, movie and video game characters; traditional monsters; and at least one little old lady hit the streets Sunday night to get their fill of fun-sized candy bars and other treats for Halloween.

Many families headed out in groups to celebrate the season and also visit some local houses that are known for decorating to the nines.

One home that had its fair share of visitors on North Oakhill Avenue on the city’s west side was that of Brenda Hessenauer, who sets up her own cemetery every year.

Nicole Weeks accompanied her granddaughter Natalie, who was dressed as Elsa from Disney’s “Frozen,” through Hessenauer’s neighborhood and was pleased the weather—windy and cool but dry—cooperated in 2021.

“It’s a lot more fun, and the weather is a lot better than two years ago,” Nicole Weeks said. “I do wish there would be a little bit more houses in our area (that participate). I know in the richer area, there’s a lot more. Every single house has their lights on.”

Anthony Wahl 

Natalie Weeks cruises past the decorated home of Brenda Hessenauer while out gathering Halloween candy with family Sunday along North Oakhill Avenue in Janesville.

Natalie rode a mini toy tractor to each house to trick-or-treat and ran up the front steps to get some candy at the Hessenauer house.

There were plenty of kids like Natalie in a variety of costumes: Patrick Star from “SpongeBob SquarePants,” Carole Baskin from the Netflix docuseries “Tiger King,” many vampires and Raptor from the video game “Fortnite.” Noel Hewlett, 6, dressed as an old woman—curlers in her already-curly hair and spectacles resting at the tip of her nose—and ran door to door with her walker to get her candy.

Another group of siblings was excited to be out for their baby brother’s first Halloween experience, even if he had to be pushed along in a stroller.

Two doors down from the Hessenauer home, Laura James had carved pumpkins in a variety of patterns displayed on a table waiting for kids to stop by.

“We’ve done this for a good 20 years,” James said. “We made some different pumpkins this year. I did a white one with the drill. We’ve been doing it since our kids are little and it’s fun. I like it—it’s my holiday.”

Anthony Wahl 

Laura James hands out candy Sunday to Appyl Yoeun while out trick-or-treating along North Oakhill Avenue in Janesville on Sunday.

James has her pumpkins out every year. She recalled last year when she used a tennis ball launcher to pass out candy to limit close face-to-face contact with trick-or-treaters amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We put the candy in little Ziploc bags and put them in the gun and then showed them to the kids down there and they would catch them,” James said.

One woman who has been going all out with Halloween decorations for more than 60 years is Cyndie Hoiberg on Randolph Road.

“This year it’s the biggest,” Hoiberg said. “Everyone gets together and has a little party and puts it all up. My son will come out and he does all the lights. I’ve been doing it forever and hopefully can do it even longer. It’s been amazing.”

Hoiberg’s garage and basement are filled with tons of Halloween décor including killer clowns, witches, vampires and her favorite, the Headless Horseman.

“The Headless Horseman has been my favorite thing since I was 2 years old,” she said. “Every year the kids (her children) get me one, so I have the horse. The pumpkins tell the story of the Headless Horseman. Those are my favorite. Then everybody else likes the killer clowns because that’s my grandson’s big deal.”

Hoiberg said she was hoping to get around 800 visitors this year but said they might fall short. In 2019, she had around 500 visitors, and 400 or so last year.

Anthony Wahl 

One trick-or-treater takes in the variety of Halloween decorations at Cyndie Hoiberg’s home on Randolph Road in Janesville on Sunday night.


Obituaries and death notices for Nov. 1, 2021

Virginia R. (Russell) Harnack Benash

Susan Fay Blasier

MaryAnn Decker

Jerome “Jerry” Gust

Stacy B. Hermann

Michael R. “Mike” Klotz

Gerald “Jerry” Lux

Rodney L. Martin

Joe McIntyre

Timothy F. McKearn

Benjamin C. Olvera Sr.

Patrick F. Ryder

Donald Thornton


Education
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Janesville School Board seeks proposals from consulting firms in search for new superintendent

JANESVILLE

The Janesville School Board is seeking proposals from consulting firms to help select the next district superintendent.

The current superintendent, Steve Pophal, will retire June 30, 2022, more than five years after he was hired in January 2017. The school board at the time were so impressed with Pophal during the hiring process that the board cut it short, hiring Pophal more than two weeks ahead of schedule after calling off a second round of interviews with other candidates.

The board hopes to select a successor by April 15, 2022.

“This is a collaborative process,” school board President Cathy Myers said in an email. “We will work with our consultant to develop a profile of the qualities we are looking for in a candidate. The consultant will likely also reach out to our stakeholders for its input. By selecting a candidate in April, we will have plenty of time to onboard them by the time Superintendent Pophal retires, June 30th.”

The board has asked firms that submit a proposal to include a two- to three-page summary of their preferred superintendent search processes. In its request for proposals, the board said summaries should include how the firm determines candidate qualifications, strategies for developing a list of qualified candidates, how the firm would choose from that list, any post-appointment services and any fees.

The board requests that proposals be submitted on or before Nov. 23 and expects to interview potential consultant firms starting Dec. 14.

Patrick Gasper, the district’s public information officer, said the last time the district went through a superintendent search they hired a consulting firm to help develop desired characteristics in the next superintendent.

Before becoming the Janesville School District superintendent, Pophal was director of secondary education at the D.C. Everest Area School District, where he worked since 2002. Pophal was given the Association of Wisconsin School Administrators Distinguished Service Award in 2008.

Pophal received his bachelor’s degree in broad field social studies with a minor in sociology from UW-Madison in 1983. He received his master’s in educational leadership from Marion College in 1991 and completed his superintendent license requirements in 2014 at Edgewood College.

Firms that want to submit proposals can send them to Assistant Board Clerk Denise Jensen at the district’s Educational Services Center, 527 S. Franklin St., Janesville, WI 53548; email djensen @janesville.k12.wi.us; or call 608-743-5055.


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