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Strom bound over for trial, pleads not guilty in murder for hire case

by
Jessica Strom
Prosecuting Attorney Ralph Uttke answers reporters questions after the Jessica Strom hearing, 3/13/14  Video: WSAU Radio
Jessica Strom

WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAU) -- The Merrill woman accused of trying to hire someone to kill her fiance has entered not-guilty pleas to the charges. 33-year-old Jessica Anne Strom was in Marathon County court for a preliminary hearing and arraignment Thursday afternoon.

Prosecutor Ralph Uttke called one witness for the preliminary hearing, Wausau Police Detective Jennifer Holz, who outlined how a former classmate and former love interest met with Strom at a Wausau restaurant to discuss and plan the murder of Attorney John Schellpfeffer.  “She suggested that he go to his office, his home office in Merrill, under the guise of setting up an appointment, and then walking in and shooting him.”

The court found enough evidence to bind Strom over for trial. The court also denied reducing bond from $250,000 cash. That decision pleased Uttke.  “Frankly, I thought a $250,000 cash bond was absolutely appropriate if not too low. I’m concerned about the victim in this matter, as well as the confidential informant, and I actually have some concerns for the community as a whole.”

Defense attorney James Runyon pointed out that the confidential informant and the defendant are not only former classmates, but have had a previous intimate relationship. Runyon questioned Detective Holz, asking if she thought his client was serious. Prosecutor Uttke says he and the police believe Strom was indeed serious.  “We have a videotaped conversation between the two parties, which will eventually be evidence in the trial. Those are the things that I look at to see if the elements of the offense were in fact committed, and I believe they were, and I believe the court found that as well.”

Judge Neal Nielson from Vilas County officiated over Thursday’s hearing, since assigned judge Ann Knox-Bauer was presiding over a jury trial in Price County.

(The video of prosecuting attorney Ralph Uttke answering questions for the media can be seen by clicking on the picture above.)

 

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