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A judge this summer will decide whether the statements of the man accused of killing a Black River Falls woman can be used at trial following a hearing that recounted his interaction with law enforcement immediately after his arrest last year.A Friday hearing requested by the defense for John B. Cook presented evidence to help assess whether his methamphetamine level impaired his ability to waive his right to remain silent and also evaluate whether he invoked his right to a lawyer while in custody shortly after the homicide.Cook, 24, is accused of stabbing 30-year-old Jacinda Muir to death in May 2015 at the pet park in the town of Brockway. Jackson County Sheriff’s Capt. Kelly Bakken was one of the first witnesses called at the hearing and said she arrived at the jail following Cook’s May 17, 2015, arrest by a BRF police officer and noted that...

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When the General Inland Fishing Opener began Saturday, the fish were definitely biting.Don Roscovius, owner of Rosco’s Live Bait Shop, said opening day was awesome, fishermen were out, fish were biting and it was a bright, sunny day.“From reports, a lot of fish were being caught on Saturday, especially on Saturday,” he said. “Trout, bluegill and crappies and bass were caught. I didn’t hear too much on the northerns, but locally the other species were doing well.” Some of the fish brought into the shop were a six pound bass, three pound bass and a two pound bass.Chris Abbott, manager of Hatfield Sports Shop, said opening day also was fantastic as the weather cooperated and fish were being caught.“A lot of limits of crappies (were caught),” he said. “Guys were catching walleyes, a lot of little ones, but some keeper ones were caught both in the lake...

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The leader of Wisconsin’s short-staffed prison system said Thursday that he plans to hand out millions of dollars in raises each year in the hopes of boosting recruiting and retention.Department of Corrections Secretary Jon Litscher issued a news release saying that starting June 26, all correctional officers, sergeants and youth counselors will receive 80 cents more an hour.Correctional officers and sergeants at maximum security prisons in Waupun, Green Bay and Portage will get an additional 50 cents per hour from May 29 through Jan. 7. Counselors at Lincoln Hills/Copper Lake, the state’s youth prison in Irma, also will get the additional 50 cents per hour during that span. Corrections employees who won’t get a raise will be eligible for merit bonuses. The news release said the raises are expected to cost about $10 million annually and will be covered by existing funds. The release didn’t say where...

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Jackson County is searching for a new health and human services director after the recent resignation of Beth Smetana.Smetana’s last day is Friday and she will go on to a new position in the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Social Work.“I just had an exciting opportunity because of the nature of the work – I felt very excited about trying for it, and it was just a change that I wanted to make,” said Smetana, who served in her county position since 2012. “It’s really been four years of a period of a lot of work and a lot of excitement, and I really do think that this time somebody else coming on can probably take it to another level. “I’m proud of what I’ve done, but I think that somebody else can take it and probably run with it.”The county currently is recruiting for the director...

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Nothing could keep these 24 high school seniors down.Graduates from area high schools were honored and presented with scholarships at the 20th La Crosse Tribune Extra Effort Awards last week Wednesday evening at Viterbo University.Students honored overcame disability, disease, family tragedy, bullying and other hardships and their accomplishments were honored by Viterbo President Rick Artman who gave the keynotes address. Each Sunday when he gets the Tribune, Artman said he looks first for the Extra Effort stories. During his remarks, he spoke about times he had been truly humbled during his 10 years leading the university, with his first Extra Effort awards being one of the moments.“I am humbled to be in your presence,” he told the students. “We pale in your sunshine.”Servant leadership is one of the important niches for Viterbo. Humility is an important tenet of the servant leader, who Artman said is only granted...

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A lightning strike was the cause of wildlife fire that started near a propane tank in the town of Adams last week.Firefighters were dispatched about 7:30 p.m. to N7404 Highway F on May 3 after the report of the fire that started during a thunderstorm. Three 1,000-gallon liquid propane tanks had been hit by the lightning strike, which ruptured an underground copper gas line that ran from the tank to the home at the address, according to the Black River Falls Fire Department. The gas leaking from the ruptured LP gas line was on fire, but there was no wildland fire. The LP tank was turned off and the fire from the ruptured line went out, according to the department.Further investigation revealed the nearby single-family wood-frame home had smoke coming from the eves. The department then requested assistance for a full response. Fire was...

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The River Valley Media Group’s weekly division has expanded the role of one of its editors and added two news editors.Houston County News editor Ryan Henry will also take on editor duties for the Coulee News and the Onalaska Holmen Courier-Life. He takes over for longtime Coulee News and Courier-Life editor Randy Erickson, who has moved to cover arts and entertainment and county government for the La Crosse Tribune.Jackson County Chronicle reporter Cassandra Colson and Vernon County Broadcaster news editor Angie Cina have been named news editors for all the group’s weekly papers. Both will maintain their duties at their respective publications but will increase their roles with the group’s eight weekly newspapers. “Ryan, Cassie and Angie have done great work for us over the years and really have embodied community journalism that our readers depend on and look forward to,” said Matthew Perenchio, co-publisher of the...

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Officials at the Tomah Veterans Administration Medical Center are happy with the results of a 100-day plan to improve the operations of the facility but are still looking for personnel to reopen the psychiatric unit and a permanent director.Tomah VA interim director Victoria Brahm addressed those issues during a press conference at the medical center last week.She said the hospital has made significant progress since it was shaken by reports of patients being prescribed excessive dosages of painkilling drugs. “I am really excited that we have done so well with this,” Brahm said. “We’re on our way to a much healthier environment, a trusting environment, a quality environment and a positive experience for our veterans. I am so proud of our staff. I can see them have energy again.”She said the main goals of the plan are to restore public trust, improve employee engagement and address the...

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The Ho-Chunk Nation has taken steps to preserve its language.The nation’s Hoocak Academy language division has created a language course — the Hoocak Language Pathway Program.Over the course of nine to 12 weeks, students from three locations — Black River Falls, Tomah and Wisconsin Dells — have participated in the program. A celebration was held last week at the Ahuco Community Building to recognize the students who have finished the nine-week day classes at the Tomah location.Six students completed the course in Tomah.Angelica Greendeer, Hoocak Academy Program Manager and teacher, said the students in Tomah did well.“It takes a lot of time and energy to come here every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday ... in the middle of the day,” she said. “They did really well, those that completed the program.”The program and preserving the language couldn’t be done without those who want to learn, Greendeer said.“I think...

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Tourism generated $19.3 billion for Wisconsin’s economy in 2015, Gov. Scott Walker said during a stop in Kendall Friday.The governor, along with Department of Tourism secretary Stephanie Klett, spent nearly an hour at the Kendall Depot along the Elroy-Sparta Bike Trail. It was one of four stops to promote tourism and the state’s efforts to attract tourism dollars.Walker said tourism in Wisconsin has grown by $4.5 billion, or 30 percent, since 2011. Walker credited the gain to an increased state tourism budget, which has risen steadily during his five years as governor. “A few years ago, we made a significant investment ... and it has paid off,” Walker said. “When times are challenging, that’s exactly the time when you need to put more into advertising and promotion.”Walker said every $1 spent on tourism promotion brings $8 into the state. He said tourism supports 190,000 jobs, directly or...

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Registration is under way for the 12th annual Karner Blue 5K-10K-Half Marathon on Saturday, July 2.The date is earlier this year as the race has been moved to the same weekend as the inaugural Karner Blue Summer Festival in Black River Falls. An estimated 250 runners are expected to compete in the races, which are sponsored by the Black River Area Chamber of Commerce. The half marathon begins at 7 a.m., the 5K and 10K at 8 a.m. and a free kids race for youth 11 and under starts at 9 a.m.Registration is $45 for the half marathon until June 24 and will increase to $50 for late registrants. Cost is $25 for the 5K and 10K races which will increase to $30 after June 24. Teams of five runners can sign up for the Corporate Challenge. Corporate registration is $100 and $125 after June 24. Entertainment,...

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