Prosecution and defense attorneys examined witnesses and documents in painful detail Tuesday as Terry G. Vollbrecht's appeal for a new trial in the murder of Angela Hackl returned to Baraboo.
Vollbrecht, 48, originally of the Sauk Prairie area, appeared in Sauk County Circuit Court with attorneys from the Wisconsin Innocence Project and facing prosecutors from the Wisconsin Department of Justice. In order to put his case before a jury again, Vollbrecht's team has to convince presiding Judge Steven G. Bauer of Dodge County they have uncovered significant new evidence or the prosecution withheld evidence from the defense during Vollbrecht's trial in 1989.
Hackl, 18, had just graduated from River Valley High School on the evening of June 11, 1987 when she disappeared after drinking with friends at Hondo's Bar in Sauk City, according to court records. Her body was found several days later hung from a tree in a lover's lane area west of the village. She had been shot three times in the back with a .22-caliber weapon, records state.
When interviewed by police before her body was found Vollbrecht freely admitted meeting Hackl and said they drove to the lover's lane area where they had consensual sex. She then drove him back to his car parked in Sauk City, he said.
Though Vollbrecht's defense argues the case was nothing other than circumstantial, law officers and the prosecution focused on Vollbrecht after many months of investigation. He was charged with murder in February of 1989 and a jury found him guilty in October of that year.
Innocence Project attorneys and law students spent a week in February presenting evidence they say casts suspicion on others. They include Kim Brown, who was convicted of raping and murdering a woman in nearby Adams County that summer. They also point to former Sauk Prairie Patrol Officer Tom Perschy, who allegedly had a history of sexually harassing women, as a potential suspect in the Hackl case,
Rural Sauk City native Scott Evert testified Tuesday that in the early morning hours of the night Hackl was killed he was a 15-year-old driving an ATV on a graveled section of Lueders Road southwest of the village. He reported encountering a car similar to the one Hackl was using that night from which a man spoke to him and from which he heard a woman's voice and saw the outline of a woman in the back seat.
The man wore an '80s style short-in-front, long-in back-haircut called a mullet, seemed to be drunk and might have been Vollbrecht, he said.
Another witness was Portage resident David Kenevan, who said he supervised Kim Brown the summer Hackl was killed while Brown worked driving asphalt trucks to construction sites. He described Brown as a "shy, unkempt type of individual."
Kenevan said he heard second-hand from a co-worker and friend of Brown's that Brown suggested it was a good time to tie up women and sexually abuse them.
Innocence Project attorney Ion Meyn took the stand to testify a variety of potentially-important reports from special agents of the Wisconsin Department of Criminal Investigation had not been provided to Vollbrecht's attorneys until April of this year. They included a report of Kenevan's recollection of Brown's comments and an interview with Brown's friend who reported directly hearing the statement.
Assistant Wisconsin Attorney General Gary Freyberg countered that the Innocence Project has acknowledged in a letter they did not received a complete file of documents received by the defense from Vollbrecht's trial attorney, the late advocate Warren Kenney of Madison.
"(Defense) counsel does not know what was and what was not provided to Mr. Kenney," Freyberg said.
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Judge Bauer advised Innocence Project lawyers their contention some documents had not been turned over by prosecutors is an important matter.
"Ultimately, you have to prove the documents weren't in the file," he said.
Late in the afternoon the prosecution began their case including testimony by veteran Sauk Prairie Patrol Officer William Richards.
Prompted by questions from Freyberg, he testified Perschy had been on duty until 2 a.m. the night of Hackl's death. However, SP officers are required to fill out reports of everything they do on a shift and their radio communications are recorded, he added.
One of the witness sightings the defense has argued could tie Perschy to Hackl's murder is a report he was seen at a Sauk City gas station with a blonde woman in his car.
Richards testified Perschy's reported activities that night took place across town in Prairie du Sac and nothing in his reports involves going to the gas station.
Innocence Project attorney Keith Findley asked Richards if an officer could cover up misbehavior by simply leaving it out of his report.
"Yes," Williams said.
After his testimony Williams told the BNR Perschy left the department about a year after the events of summer, 1987 and is living in the Southeastern United States.
When the prosecution's case is done Findley said Judge Bauer will likely take the testimony and written arguments under advisement for a time before ruling whether Vollbrecht gets a new trial.
The prosecutors continue their case today through Friday, according to court records.
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