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BRANDON BERG 

Mallory Sterling


Local
Chippewa Falls killer seeks release from prison

A Chippewa Falls man convicted of a double homicide in 1979 is seeking release from prison.

Charles C. Coogan, 72, shot and killed Chippewa County supervisor Eugene Donaldson and bartender John Murphy at the Four Corners Tavern on April 20, 1979.

On Nov. 2, 1979, Coogan was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of armed robbery. He was given two consecutive life sentences, plus 10 years on the armed robbery conviction.

Court records show that Coogan became eligible for release on Feb. 15.

Department of Corrections probation agent Paul Hasenstab wrote a letter to Chippewa County Judge Steve Gibbs on April 23, requesting a statement from him about the possible release. Gibbs was asked to submit his comments by May 12.

“The Parole Commission will then consider all information before making a decision regarding Mr. Coogan’s release,” Hasenstab wrote. “Mr. Coogan, who is now 72, proposes to live with his brother and his brother’s wife in Green County. They live in a home near Brooklyn, WI, and have agreed to remove all firearms and alcohol from the home before Mr. Coogan were to live with them.”

Gibbs wrote a letter Tuesday urging the release be denied.

“While I was not a judge at the time, I was a resident of Chippewa Falls and I remember this case very well,” Gibbs wrote. “This double homicide shook Chippewa Falls to its core. While the community has tried to carry on from this event, the actions by Mr. Coogan still affect our community.”

Gibbs added: “Words cannot adequately express how strongly opposed I am to any parole of Mr. Coogan. Our community is of the same mindset and is opposed to his parole.”

Coogan has been denied release in the past. Retired Judge Roderick Cameron wrote in 2011 that if Coogan were released, he should not be allowed to live in Chippewa County.

Chippewa County Sheriff Jim Kowalczyk said he was asked to check on the status of seven victims or individuals related to the case.

But with the murder now four decades ago, Kowalczyk said five of those people are now deceased, one is alive, and he couldn’t locate one individual.

According to records, Coogan entered the tavern, pointed a gun at Murphy, the bartender, and demanded money. He shot Murphy in the chest, took money from the cash register, and shot Donaldson, who had moved.

Coogan then drove from the Four Corners Tavern to the Lounge Bar where he was observed buying drinks. When he was arrested, Coogan had $273 in cash on him, and a bank slip belonging to one of the victims. His blood-alcohol level was 0.21.

Coogan, who served in Vietnam, claimed during the trial he remembered little to nothing of the shooting. A psychiatrist testified that Coogan had a mental disorder that was exacerbated by consuming alcohol. The jury found him sane during the committing of all crimes.

In 1986, Coogan filed a motion for a new trial, claiming he was denied effective counsel. However, the state trial court denied his motion, and the court of appeals and state Supreme Court both upheld that ruling. He filed a claim in federal court in 1990, arguing his sixth amendment right was violated, saying his attorney failed to present a witness in support of his insanity plea, according to the written decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals. He wanted a new trial “in support of his claim that he committed his crimes during a flashback to his Vietnam combat experiences.” However, the federal court also determined his constitutional rights had not been violated, and rejected all his claims.

Gallery: Headlines from Charles C. Coogan murder trial
Gallery: Headlines from Charles C. Coogan murder trial

Local
top story
'It's about connecting with people': Valley Art Gallery features two new unique artists in their summer gallery

Two experienced artists are taking center stage for the next few months in one of the area’s premier art galleries.

Lynne Maslowski and Jean Arneson are the featured artists in the Valley Art Gallery in downtown Chippewa Falls for the months of May and June and are looking forward to sharing their artwork with the Chippewa Valley community.

Maslowski has been creating pendants, earrings, leather works and other adornments for almost 20 years, some of the materials being from her own creating. She said she started creating jewelry and other projects in her spare time during her time as a teacher and administrator in the educational system.

“This started as a way for me to relax and do something different,” Maslowski said. “I just love it. I like learning new things and I love creating things. And I only make one of every piece, so if you have a piece of my jewelry you won’t see it anywhere else. It’s a great way to keep making new things.”

Arneson gravitates towards oil painting primarily, which she has been doing now for more than 30 years. Her passion lies in recreating local scenic Chippewa Falls areas, with her favorite location to paint being the historic Irvine Park. In addition to oil painting Arneson dabbles in transferring her work onto notecards, wine glasses and other suitable products.

“It’s always been in my blood,” Arneson said. “I was four-years-old when I started drawing and I picked up painting when I was 18. I just really have a love for the medium and I have a desire to continue to do it. I just enjoy recreating what I see in the community.”

Both artists have been in the gallery since its reopening in September following a multi-year remodel, but are now having their artwork featured in the forefront of the location on N. Bridge St.

In addition to supplying their artwork for the gallery, the 15 total artists in the gallery teach classes at the location. The classes are based around different art projects and are aimed at showing community members a good time and learning some artistic skills along the way. A few examples of some recent classes include zig-zag bead making, paper doll design and Christmas card making.

Arneson grew up in Chippewa Falls and said she hopes her artwork invokes happiness and fun memories from the viewer when they see certain areas of the city.

“I hope it gives people a good warm feeling,” Arneson said. “I hope these feelings remind people of fun memories with friends and family and take them back to the place where they made those memories. There are so many beautiful places in this area, so I hope to capture them in some way.”

While the art itself is essential to hosting and curating a gallery, Maslowski said an often overlooked and underappreciated aspect of creating artwork and collaborating with other artists are the relationships you develop while being involved in the Chippewa Valley art scene.

“The relationships that you create when you do art are really valuable,” Maslowski said. “You end up with a following and I’ve gotten to know people that I never would’ve met otherwise. The connections you make when you do this show that it isn’t just about creating something beautiful, it’s about connecting with people.”

The two featured artists are set to host a reception for the gallery on Saturday, May 18. From 1 to 4 p.m. at Valley Art Gallery and Gifts on 304 N. Bridge St. in Chippewa Falls. For more information on the event and if you’re interested in viewing or purchasing entries in the gallery you can visit Valley Art Gallery and Gifts in downtown Chippewa Falls.

Photo Gallery: Valley Art Gallery May and June

Crime-and-courts
Jim Falls man pleads no contest in deadly accident

A Jim Falls man will be sentenced in July for homicide by drunken driving.

Mavrick John Kolpien, 26, pleaded no contest Wednesday to one count of homicide by intoxicated use of a motor vehicle.

Kolpien had been charged with another count of homicide by intoxicated use of a motor vehicle with a prohibited alcohol concentration.

The sentencing is scheduled for 9 a.m. July 31 with Chippewa County Court Judge James Isaacson.

The charges stem from an accident in May 2018 in the town of Sigel.

According to the complaint, Kolpien was driving with a blood-alcohol level of 0.114 with Zachary J. Evanson, 23, of Cadott, in the passenger seat.

Kolpien made a sudden U-turn in an intersection, attempting to enter the parking lot of The Liner Tavern, according to a criminal complaint.

A vehicle traveling west on Highway X struck the passenger side of Kolpien’s vehicle and Kolpien’s vehicle rolled, pinning Evanson under the vehicle, according to the complaint.

Evanson was pronounced dead at the scene.

According to the complaint, Kolpien told sheriff’s deputies he had had four mixed drinks and two beers, and had smoked marijuana during the evening.

Kolpien was convicted in 2014 of driving drunk in Cadott, where he was driving with a 0.11 blood-alcohol level, according to court records.