Editor's note: Baraboo News Republic news staff used a voting process to develop the list of 2011's top 10 stories. The No. 1 story will be announced in Saturday's edition.
In December 1989, Terry Vollbrecht was taken from a Sauk County Courtroom to a prison cell, where he was slated to spend the rest of his life for the murder of 18-year-old Angela Hackl.
Vollbrecht had been confined for more than 20 years this January when a Dodge County judge granted him a new trial.
Today, Vollbrecht is free on bail and living in the village of Prairie du Sac awaiting another chance to prove his innocence.
That story kicks off this installment of the Baraboo News Republic's four-day countdown to the top story of 2011.
No. 4: Vollbrecht gets new trial
Attorneys for the Wisconsin Innocence Project represented Vollbrecht in his bid for a new trial.
In a decision filed Jan. 10, Dodge County Circuit Court Judge Stephen Bauer granted their motion, saying "the real issue has not been fully tried."
Hackl was found hanging from a tree west of Sauk City in June 1987. She had been shot in the back several times.
Vollbrecht's attorneys claimed the evidence used to convict their client at trial was circumstantial and that other suspects deserved more scrutiny.
Bauer wrote in his decision that there was some evidence pointing to Kim Brown, who was convicted of a similar murder in Adams County the same summer. Brown stated in 1987 "he liked to chain women to trees, light them on fire and shoot them."
After the new trial was granted, Vollbrecht's attorneys asked that their client be granted the same pre-trial presumption of innocence as any other defendant, and they requested a chance to make his case for release on bail.
Although an attorney from the state Department of Justice argued that Vollbrecht was a flight risk, Bauer set his bond at $425,000.
A Prairie du Sac businessmen, Curt Mueller of Mueller Sports Medicine, Inc., later posted bail for Vollbrecht. A new trial date has not been set.
No. 3: Shelter's foundation crumbles
The generous contributions of individuals and businesses helped Homeless Haven of Sauk County open a new Baraboo shelter in January 2010. But six months later, the shelter was closed, and donors were left to wonder what happened.
The organization announced in March of this year it would disband.
A months-long investigation by the Baraboo News Republic uncovered the questionable financial decisions, disorganization and internal strife that led to the non-profit's failure. The newspaper detailed its findings in a three-part series.
After Homeless Haven dissolved, a group of concerned citizens formed a steering committee intent on starting a new organization to provide services and operate a shelter in the Baraboo area. That process is ongoing.
No. 2 : Highway bad for business
Drivers headed from Baraboo to Wisconsin Dells have four slick new lanes to move them along.
But while the new U.S. Highway 12 bypass, which opened in September, may help drivers get from point A to point B faster, the businesses bypassed by the project have struggled.
"Since the bypass opened, we've been down about 50 percent in our sales," Don Carroll, vice president and general manager of Baraboo Candy, told the Baraboo News Republic in October.
The stretch of road formerly known as Highway 12 became County Highway BD with the opening of the bypass. Some have also complained that the roundabouts the state Department of Transportation installed are confusing for motorists.
"People need to see the business to stop in and then we can possibly catch a project from those passersby," said JoAnn Trager, owner of Backyard Expressions, Trager Construction and Stonemill Creek Laser Engineering. "That business is going to take a hit."
More recent controversy has involved a revised sign ordinance that would prevent billboards from being erected on portions of the bypass that fall under Sauk County zoning. Despite a 2003 agreement with the state that said the bypass would remain free of billboards, the county has already permitted one billboard and several others are in the works.
The Sauk County Board may consider the revised ordinance as soon as next month.
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