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Northeast Wisconsin's local news coverage.

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    GREENVILLE, WI (WTAQ-WLUK) - Some waited at Appleton International Airport Sunday for family to arrive, and others headed out of state for the holiday- leaving a few days early to beat the holiday rush.

    Abe Weber, Airport Director at Appleton International, tells FOX 11 that's the right idea.

    "If you're going to travel during the holiday season its best to maybe travel ahead of time."

    Stephanie Gunderson was headed to North Dakota with her sister and two nephews to see family.

    "It’s just easier flying out on a Sunday and we have all this week off so… it’ll be easy to get through security."

    The Transportation Safety Administration says 25 million people will travel through security screening checkpoints to get to their Thanksgiving destinations.

    According to AAA, more than 54 million people will travel 50 miles or more from home--that's 2.5 million more than last year.

    It's expected to be the busiest Thanksgiving travel holiday in over a decade. Weber has seen an increase in air travelers all year.

    "We’ve seen a significant increase all year and so no doubt we’ll see a very big holiday season this year."

    Weber says to avoid delays, TSA.gov has detailed information about what can and cannot be taken on an airplane.

    When bringing gifts, make sure they aren't wrapped. Food is OK to carry on but Weber says to be safe liquids should be in checked luggage.

    "If you just have to take them to make sure they're below 3.4 ounces."

    He says arrive early, especially those who don't travel often.

    "We have some ambassadors that will help out in the parking lot and getting in the terminal building."

    And he says don't be afraid to ask for help.


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  • 11/19/18--02:08: Cooking Up A Future
  • OSHKOSH, WI (WTAQ-WLUK) - Behind the prison walls of Oshkosh Correctional Institution, chefs are in the making.

    “We are actually inmates, we are frowned upon but we are human, we are people just like everyone else," said Terrence Cloyd.

    Cloyd tells FOX 11 he’s turning his life around one meal at a time.

    “I love to cook, there's no problem with me coming in and getting the job done."

    The culinary program is just one of the 40 apprenticeship programs the state’s Department of Corrections offers.

    "They would complete what's called the related instruction side of it, which is the schooling portion, which is part of an apprenticeship. It's 10% part of apprenticeship and 90% on the job training," said Joshua Johnson with the state's Department of Workforce Development.

    Johnson tells FOX 11 participants are less likely to end up back in prison.

    "They learn to take responsibility that's another thing I like about it, gets them focused on future, what they're going to do to be there for families, to provide for families as well as themselves," said Judy Smith, the Oshkosh Correctional Institution warden.

    The state's unemployment rate is at or below 3 percent which means there are not enough workers to fill open positions but employers tell me the apprenticeship program here will hopefully change that.

    “There’s a huge demand in the workforce," said August Hoppe, the president for Hoppe Tree Service.

    Hoppe works in the tree industry and tells FOX 11 he’s turning to inmates in the gardening apprenticeship program as potential workers.

    “I think it's wonderful to have programs like this so people can re-enter the workforce I'm really excited to look at ways we can link the horticulture and arborist program."

    While prisoners are learning skills, Cloyd said it also offers him hope.

    “Going forward I'll be able to open my own business and run it properly and know the ins and outs about everything."

    Forty-five inmates in Oshkosh have completed a registered apprenticeship program in the last five years.


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    GREEN BAY, WI (WTAQ) - The Green Bay Police Department took to the streets on Monday to deliver baskets of holiday cheer.

    It was the 3rd annual Badges Giving Baskets initiative in which community officers team up with Feeding America and are able to deliver baskets of Thanksgiving food to those in the community that need some help this holiday season.

    Green Bay Police Captain Kevin Warych says they aren't simply "the bad guys."

    "Police work is many things and police work is not all about writing tickets and taking people to jail," says Captain Warych. "Police officers serve the community in a million different ways."

    He's glad when these opportunities present themselves so members of the community can have the opportunity to interact with a police officer in perhaps a more positive circumstance than would be typical.

    "People see police officers on their worst day and we want to make sure they see police officers on their best day," explains Captain Warych. "If we can bring a food basket to them then they'll think that the police officers aren't that bad."

    Jennifer Fonseca of Green Bay, one of the basket recipients, echoed the connection that such a small gesture can have in creating a bond between officers and the community.

    "This was a really nice helping hand for us," she says. "To see that there are actually police departments that really do care."

    Some of the foods in the basket were Thanksgiving staples, such as stuffing mix, while other featured items included cereal and hot chocolate mix. For Fonseca, this little gift will go a long way.

    "It'll help out a lot, considering we have such a large family and we don't always have the help," she explains.

    A major source of fiduciary support for the initiative comes from the Packers Foundation, which provided the department with a grant in 2017.

    "We took that money and we purchased the food through Feeding America - Eastern Wisconsin out of Appleton," explains Captain Warych. 

    The gift baskets were provided by Hobby Lobby and Green Bay officers took time to hand tie the bows included on each basket.

    "This is a collective effort, this is not just one person doing all the work," says Captain Warych. "The department as a whole came together to really spread this goodwill during the week of Thanksgiving."

    For them, it was well worth it to make sure everyone is able to have some joy this holiday week.

    "We want to show the community that we care and that we want them to have a smile on their face and make sure that they know that we can serve them in different ways," Captain Warych says.

    On Monday participating officers were able to hand deliver about seven baskets of Thanksgiving food to various families across the area.


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  • 11/19/18--13:35: K9 Cop
  • OSHKOSH, WI (WTAQ-WLUK) - The newest member of the UW-Oshkosh police department is furry and walks on all fours.

    K9 officer Skylar was sworn in as part of the team on Monday after being fully certified and trained to be a detection, tracking and search and rescue dog.

    Skylar is the first K9 officer to join the department. Officials say that it took around two years to get the departments K9 unit started.

    "I appreciate the community’s support and everything they did to help bring this program to campus and we look forward to serving the community and keep it a safe place," university police officer and Skylar's handler, Ben Kohlman, told Fox 11 News.

    The hope is that Skylar will also bring a sense of calmness to the university's campus and help deescalate situations between staff and students. 


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    OSHKOSH, WI (WTAQ) - A man charged in a fatal home fire pleaded not guilty on Monday.

    29-year-old Vernon Williams is charged with neglect following a September 6 fire in Menasha that resulted in the death of an 18-month-old child.

    Williams has admitted that he was sleeping while the fire started.

    Court records show that he'll be back in court on January 28 for a pre-trial conference and no trial date is set.

    A 5-year-old girl told investigators that she and another 3-year-old child were playing inside an apartment, with the 18-year-old nearby, according to the criminal complaint. The 3-year-old set a blanket on fire with a lighter and the 5-year-old helped that child get out, but couldn't carry the baby.

    The complaint shows that a later blood test reveals Williams had a blood alcohol level at the time of .257.

    Burns covered seventy percent of the child that died in the fire.


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    GREEN BAY, WI (WTAQ) - A suspect in the presumed murder of a Green Bay man was in court on Monday to have a trial date set.

    19-year-old Brandon Guyton-Denn of Green Bay is being charged with first-degree reckless homicide and party to a crime.

    Court records show that his trial date has been set for March 18.

    The charges come after Jovanny Puga was beaten and left for dead in the Milwaukee River last year.

    19-year-old Shawn Leitner of Manitowoc and 19-year-old Jaleel Schultz of Milwaukee are also being charged with first-degree reckless homicide and party to a crime. 19-year-old Emma Brud of De Pere is being charged with aiding a felon.

    Schultz remains at-large and an arrest warrant has been issued. 

    Brud returns to court on November 29 for a plea hearing, while Leitner is scheduled to stand trial on February 11.

    Investigators first learned of reports of a man beaten to death and thrown into the Milwaukee River in March of 2017, according to the criminal complaint.

    The criminal complaint states that three of the four suspects were arrested in March of 2017 when a vehicle that was reported stolen out of De Pere by Brud's mother was stopped by police.

    Phrases such as "Lincoln Park Milwaukee satellite view", "Milwaukee deaths last night" and "Milwaukee deaths in the river," were found following internet searches of the suspect's cellphones. 

    The complaint states that according to Brud, she and Guyton-Denn were dating and following a dispute they "wanted revenge" on Puga. According to prosecutors, Puga was brought to Milwaukee by Brud and she knew that he would be beaten. The complaint reads that Puga was undressed after being beaten and then tossed into the river.

    The complaint states that Brud was instructed to take Puga's clothes to Green Bay in order to burn them. Puga's body has never been found.


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    ASHWAUBENON, WI (WTAQ) - A Green Bay couple has been selected to donate a tree for the Packers 13th annual Festival of Lights at Lambeau Field.

    The tree will come from the yard of Joe and Jan Monday.

    The couple has been living at their Green Bay residence for 45 years.

    They have been decorating the now 45-foot tall tree for years, but now it is too tall.

    The new temporary home for the tree will be on Harlan Plaza and will be decorated with more than 10,000 lights for the event on Saturday, December 1st.

    The Festival of Lights is hosted by the Packers and Festival Foods. 

    The event will begin at 5:00 p.m. in the Lambeau Field Atrium and will feature holiday movies, cartoons, holiday card making and area high school choirs performing holiday music as well as photo opportunities with Santa.

    During the event, toys will be collected for Toys for Tots. The lighting of the tree will take place at 6:30 p.m.


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  • 11/19/18--15:41: Fatal Rollover Crash
  • TOWN OF STILES, WI (WTAQ) - A vehicle rollover crash in the Oconto County has resulted in the death of a 62-year-old Whitelaw area man.

    Sheriff officials were called out to Highway 141 and Highway 22 in the Stiles Township Monday morning just after 9:30.

    Reports state the vehicle left the roadway and ended up rolling down an embankment.

    The man was found unresponsive in the vehicle and was transported to a local hospital where he later died.

    Alcohol does not appear to be a factor in the crash.

     


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    APPLETON, WI (WTAQ) - Motorists will be forced to utilize alternate routes as they travel through Appleton Tuesday night while the city's 48th annual Christmas Parade is underway. T

    The annual event kicks off at 6:55 PM and starts at the intersection of State Street and College Avenue.

    A parade map can be found here.

    Signs restricting parking will be posted early Tuesday and it's recommended for drivers to avoid the downtown area from 5 to 10 PM.

    Vehicles along College Avenue will be ticketed and towed if not removed prior to 4 PM.

    South State Street closes at 4:30 PM to traffic for parade setup. Also closing at the same time are side streets between Fourth and West College Avenue.

    Additional traffic restrictions can be found here.


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    MANITOWOC, WI (WTAQ) - Manitowoc Police are offering a $500 dollar reward for information that leads to an arrest of those responsible for a burglary at UW-Manitowoc.

    Officials say the burglary occurred between November 9 and November 11.

    An office door was forced open and some money was taken.

    Anyone with any information is encouraged to contact The Manitowoc Police Department or Crimestoppers.


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    GREEN BAY, WI (WTAQ) - Cal Fire officials say the massive Camp Fire in Northern California will likely not reach full containment until at least November 30th, but the American Red Cross is sending help now.

    Damage totals are soaring with nearly two-thousand additional structures to the destroyed list, for a total of just under 16-thousand.

    At the start of the week, 12 people from Wisconsin were either in California or on their way.

    "They are out there doing anything from sheltering to helping with mental health issues to driving the emergency response vehicle."

    Justin Kern, Communications Officer for the American Red Cross of Wisconsin says some are from Northeast Wisconsin and it is just the start.

    "I do think especially with the holidays and everything that there will be another wave of people and a lot some of those people will come from Wisconsin."

    The fact that nearly a thousand people are still unaccounted for means they are working to help families reunite and they are leaving many resources available in case they need to help more.

    "We really are open to help thousands of people if needed, but some of that is due to a big question mark of how many more people are unaccounted for?"

    Kern says over the weekend, they had 1,300 people at 16 shelters, but they are keeping each shelter to under capacity in case they do have to help more."

    The Red Cross also encourages anyone who has been displaced or has family missing to log onto safeandwell.org to help with the reunification process.

    He says a response for wildfire is quite a bit different than a response after a hurricane.

    "It could happen at any moment and it can happen fast and big."

    Those interested in helping the cause are encouraged to make a monetary donation to the Red Cross for the fire relief.

    "We can turn that money into what is directly needed on the ground."


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    GREEN BAY, WI (WTAQ) - Opening weekend for the 9 day gun deer season has wrapped up, and the DNR is looking at the numbers.

    While the numbers are an interest to many, they are not enough for DNR officials to get worried or excited about.

    "About half of the gun season harvest will have happened on the opening weekend.

    Jeff Pritzl, District Wildlife Biologist says the conditions were right for a successful weekend, and it is the first step of telling the 9-day gun season story.

    "Did the opening weekend of the gun season kind of meet expectation? 

    He says the single biggest input will be if the deer harvest was on track with what was predicted and says they should be similar or better than last year due to it being a good weekend for hunting.

    "Weather conditions this opening weekend was probably some of the best that we can remember in some time."

    Without looking at the numbers, Pritzl says they remain optimistic. 

    "I think we can expect that things will at least be as good as last year if not better. Just an observation, we saw more deer in vehicles and hanging at home and at camp and it just seems like people had a good weekend."

    The DNR will be compiling the harvest numbers that had to be in by 5:00 Monday night. 


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  • 11/19/18--16:27: Tales from Opening Weekend
  • LUXEMBURG, WI (WTAQ) - The start of gun deer season also means great hunting stories and there's plenty of them across the state following opening weekend.

    Some are true and some are "slightly" exaggerated, nonetheless, everybody who ventured into the woods for opening weekend has a story to share.

    Jessie Jorgenson of Sugar Bush is no exception.

    She tells the tale of nabbing a 12-pointer in Kewaunee County.

    "I actually saw it from a distance and it was going in and out of the woods so I couldn't get a good shot because it was going into my neighbor's lot," says Jorgenson. "I shot it and the sunlight was in my eyes so I didn't know exactly where it is or I dropped it and it went into the woods.

    It took a little bit of patience before Jorgenson could find out if she was successful or not.

    "We waited about an hour and then and we tried tracking it and we found about 20 yards into our neighbor's woods and that's when I actually got it," she says.

    And after doing some calculating, she's pretty proud of herself.

    "It was actually 258 yards away so it was a great shot," says Jorgenson.

    DNR officials say about half of the overall harvest numbers will come from the opening weekend of the nine-day gun deer season.

    Officials are expecting good harvest numbers due to overall favorable weather conditions.


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    GREEN BAY, WI (WTAQ-WLUK) - A Green Bay Girl Scout troop leader says she has been dismissed from her position for her role in organizing a vigil and collecting money for the families of three Girl Scouts and a scout mother who were killed.

    The Girl Scouts of the Northwestern Great Lakes isn’t saying why it ‘permanently suspended’ Liz Steffel, but parents also believe it was for her role in organizing the vigil.

    The vigil at the Brown County Courthouse in downtown Green Bay on November 10th was done by the troop on its own. Similar vigils were held throughout the state and country.

    The Girl Scouts of the Northwestern Great Lakes says it supports each troop in how it honors the victims but was not involved in these vigils.

    Steffel, a social worker, has been with Troop 4029 for three years. She says the group currently has 54 girls, mostly from west side schools.

    Members of the troop were emotional while talking about Steffel’s suspension.

    “First thing I think is it's really stupid,” said Ruby Snyder, an 11-year-old and 6th-grade student at Franklin Middle School. “She did what's right.”

    What Snyder believes is right was Steffel's effort in leading the vigil and money collection.

    “At first we were met with resistance,” said Richard Schultz of the vigil.

    Schultz, a co-leader of the troop, tells FOX 11 Girl Scouts of the Northwestern Great Lakes repeatedly sent messages that made the troop feel it was not supported in its efforts.

    Schultz and others believe it is because the troop decided to give the money raised directly to the victim's families instead of to the Girl Scouts of the Northwestern Great Lakes to disperse.

    “There were several methods and we as a troop had discussed what is the best method for us, where do we want this money to go when we host our vigil,” said Becky Gulcynski, a co-troop leader.

    “We wanted that money to directly to go towards these girls.”

    On its website, Girl Scouts of the Northwestern Great Lakes “recommends family donations be made through alternate avenues" including a GoFundMe account.

    “If an individual chose to donate to our organization in honor of the impacted troop or girls, those funds are segregated to support our Council’s efforts in delivering the Girl Scout mission to girls in the Western Region of our Council, specifically the Chippewa Valley,” wrote Lee Snodgrass, Director of Communications for Girl Scouts of the Northwestern Great Lakes, in a statement.

    Steffel showed FOX 11 the letter she received notifying her of her suspension. It does not provide a specific reason, but the Girl Scouts group lists areas of concern that it says Steffel refused to improve. The list includes 'responsible for what I say and do', 'to respect myself and others-respect authority', and 'courageous and strong.'

    “As an organization, our policy is to not comment on an individual’s employment or volunteer status or to discuss why an individual has chosen to leave or has been separated from our organization,” wrote Snodgrass in the Girl Scouts’ statement.

    “I will not keep my girls with an organization who ethically and morally doesn't hold the values that they expect from other people,” said Gulcynski.

    Many of the Girl Scouts say they feel the same way.

    “Obviously I'm not going to want to be in it,” said Snyder.

    If Steffel isn't reinstated, parents say they'll explore other ways to gather without the Girl Scouts' involvement.

    The troop says it collected more than $200 in donations at its vigil. However, it is believed at least $10,000 was raised through special patches for the victims.

    Troop parents say Steffel helped coordinate the patches and they also say the money went directly, not through the Girl Scouts organization, to the victims' families.


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    NEENAH, WI (WTAQ-WLUK) - Parents were upset to find out a volunteer at a Neenah elementary school was identified as a sex offender.

    The volunteer was a father who came to his son's class at Washington Elementary School.

    The school district said a background check was not required but is taking action to change that.

    "It's very disappointing that this hasn't been thought of ahead of time," said Joshua Vanden Heuvel, a parent of a child attending Neenah School District tells FOX 11.

    "I hope we don't come across anything more like this."

    Superintendent Mary Pfeiffer said the sex offender was a parent who volunteered 3 times last month, for half an hour at a time.

    Pfeiffer said the volunteer never went on any field trips or had additional contact with students.

    The superintendent tells FOX 11 while the volunteer was in the classroom, he was always in the presence of multiple staff members.

    "There was no deviation between him going from the office to the classroom, but that's not an excuse so, I don't want to make it sound like it wasn't serious because it is very serious of what took place."

    Pfeiffer said the district currently doesn't recommend a background check for volunteers who are under direct supervision of staff members.

    "For those who were minimally supervised or take children in a small group alone, then we currently do a background check."

    Pfeiffer first became aware of the volunteer's background earlier this month.

    "When it was brought to my attention, that immediately stopped, we pressed pause and said that this cannot happen."

    She sent out an email to parents briefing the situation.

    School leaders are now recommending a policy change which would include: background checks on all volunteers and it would prohibit any identified sex offenders to volunteer.

    "It's better late than never but it’s shocking," said Vanden Heuvel.

    Parents say they're glad action is being taken and hope nothing like this happens again.

    The school board will vote on the policy changes during today's board meeting.


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    KIMBERLY, WI (WTAQ-WLUK) - Residents of a senior living facility are making a difference for troops overseas.

    Both veterans and residents of the Aspire Senior Living in Kimberly are putting together holiday care packages and making greeting cards for service men and women.

    Catie Riebe, Heritage Aspire Life Enrichment Director, tells FOX 11 the public is also asked to join in on the efforts.

    "We all decided we wanted to give back because we actually have 35 veterans living right here in Aspire and because of what they did for us it was wonderful to give back to those that maybe don't have a lot when they are overseas."

    Community members can donate items, such as toiletries, books/magazines, socks, and non-perishable food items to be packaged by noon on Nov. 19 at the facility on Cobblestone Lane.


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    GREEN BAY, WI (WTAQ-WLUK) - The tradition is 11 years strong. The Botanical Garden hosted its 11th annual tree lighting ceremony Monday night.

    The 50-foot tree is decorated with 20,000 lights, making quite the centerpiece.

    The tree lighting commemorates the 22nd annual Garden of Lights.

    Eileen Metzler, the garden's sales and events manager, tells FOX 11 staff and volunteers spent hundreds of hours lining the garden with more than 300,000-holiday lights.

    "WPS Garden of Lights is Botanical Garden's largest fundraising event of the year. We are 100 percent community supported, non-profit organization. So special events like WPS Garden of lights help us live out our mission of education in horticulture.".

    The Garden of Lights officially opens to the public this Friday.


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    GREEN BAY, WI (WTAQ) - A former Green Bay woman accused of filing more than 50 false federal income tax returns has pleaded guilty.

    40-year-old Alma Ramirez is charged with wire fraud, assisting in filing false tax returns, seeking fraudulent tax refunds and aggravated identity theft.

    Prosecutors say from March 2013 to May 2016, she and others working at her direction, prepared and electronically filed with the IRS more than 60 false federal income tax returns, fraudulently obtaining more than $300,000 in federal income taxes.

    Officials also say Ramirez admitted she stole the identity of third parties and used those identities by falsely claiming them as dependents on tax returns.

    Ramirez faces up to two years in prison on the aggravated identity theft and 20 years in prison on the wire fraud charge. She has also agreed to pay $301,000 in restitution to the IRS.

    She will return to court February 19th for sentencing.


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  • 11/20/18--10:40: Successful Opening Weekend
  • GREEN BAY, WI (WTAQ) - The 9-day gun deer hunting opening weekend numbers show a more successful first two days than last year. 

    The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources reported that hunters killed 13,454 more deer on opening weekend than they did last year.

    In all, hunters took 65,388 antlered and 53,282 antlerless deer for a total of 118,670.

     

    Waupaca County once again led the state in the total opening weekend harvest with 3,952 registrations. Shawano County was second with 3,800 deer registered.

    While the opening weekend numbers interest many, DNR officials say additional seasons and 7 days left of hunting means there are more numbers to wait for before they can make any actual evaluations.


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    APPLETON, WI (WTAQ) - Tuesday is the start of the Appleton Fire Department's "Keep the Wreath Green" campaign.

    Wreaths will be displayed at Appleton fire stations lit with green bulbs and for each commercial or residential fire that takes place within the city, a bulb will be replaced with a red one.

    The goal of the campaign is to reduce the number of holiday fires and to increase fire safety.

    The fewest number of red bulbs ever displayed was in 2011 when only one was replaced.

    Last year there was six.


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