The case of a man accused of huffing from an aerosol cannister, then driving his pickup truck into a group of five people, killing four, on Nov. 3, will be delayed for more than two months while attorneys wait for toxicology results.
Colten R. Treu, 21, 1060 Joseph St., is charged in Chippewa County Court with four counts of homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle, four counts of hit and run-involving death, and one count each of hit and run-causing great bodily harm, intentionally abusing hazardous materials and bail jumping. Treu reportedly struck a group of Girl Scouts and one of their mothers.
Treu appeared via video Wednesday from the Chippewa County Jail, joined by his two attorneys. His attorneys requested the delay.
“At this time, we would ask to put this on the calendar for a preliminary hearing, and keep this moving forward,” said defense attorney Carly Sebion.
“Everyone is waiting on toxicology reports, is that correct?” Judge James Isaacson asked the attorneys.
Chippewa County district attorney Wade Newell said it is likely 60 days before the toxicology reports come back from the state lab. Isaacson set the return date for the afternoon of April 12, allowing for up to three hours of discussion that day. No trial dates have been set.
Treu remains incarcerated on a $250,000 cash bond. He did not speak during the short hearing. He previously waived all time limits on future proceedings in his case.
Several family members of the victims attended the hearing.
According to the criminal complaint, a group of five adults and seven children from Girl Scout Troop 3055 were picking up trash on Highway P in Lake Hallie, south of the Highway 29 overpass, when Treu’s truck struck the group at 11:40 a.m. Nov. 3.
The four deceased people are Jayna S. Kelley, 9, Autum A. Helgeson, 10, both of Lake Hallie, Haylee J. Hickle, 10, and her mother, Sara Jo Schneider, 32, both of the town of Lafayette.
The fifth person injured was Madalyn Zwiefelhofer; she was hospitalized for three weeks, but has since been released and is back in Chippewa Falls.
Treu admitted to police he saw the troop of Girl Scouts, describing them “as wearing highly visible reflective vests,” moments before he crashed his black Ford F-150 pickup truck into five people, killing four.
Treu told authorities that he and his roommate, John Stender, had just purchased Dustoff, a keyboard cleaner, and began “huffing” the chemicals to get high. Treu said he took “two short huffs,” and Stender had taken a few more huffs. Huffing involves inhaling fumes and sprays typically from an aerosol can for the purpose of achieving a high.
Treu claims “he lost control of the vehicle and fishtailed after Mr. Stender grabbed the steering wheel from him,” according to the criminal complaint.
It is unclear if Stender will also be charged. No charges have been filed at this time.
Police obtained a written statement from Stender, who admits he grabbed the wheel of the vehicle to correct Treu’s driving, but Treu yelled at him, grabbed the wheel and swerved hard, causing the truck to cross over Highway P, enter the ditch, and strike the five people.
Treu did not stop after striking the five individuals. He drove his black truck to his home, put it in the garage, and placed another vehicle in front of it.
However, an officer who arrived at the scene was able to locate a “fresh fluid trail” which he followed for 1.8 miles, taking him to the garage at 1060 Joseph St., to an apartment shared by Stender and Treu. The truck had “significant front-end damage, with weeds observed stuck in the front bumper,” the criminal complaint states.
Treu and Stender were not at the house when officers arrived; Treu turned himself in at 4:33 p.m. that afternoon.
Treu is also charged in a similar incident recently in Rusk County. On Sept. 30, Treu appeared to be intoxicated while driving in Rusk County, went into a ditch and rolled his vehicle. Officers noticed Treu’s impairment during a field sobriety test. During a search of Treu’s car, officers found meth and marijuana. He returns to court there on Feb. 12.
The criminal complaint states that Treu has one drunk-driving conviction from 2014, plus the recent incident in Rusk County.
The deceased girls attended Southview Elementary and Halmstad Elementary in Chippewa Falls.
A 67-year-old Bloomer man died in a house fire that was reported Tuesday night.
According to a press release from the Chippewa County Sheriff’s Department, Dale M. Channing lived at the residence alone and was “more than likely in the house when it caught fire.”
The Chippewa County dispatch center received the call of a fully-engulfed house, located at 9100 Highway AA between New Auburn and Bloomer, at around 9:20 p.m. Tuesday.
The Bloomer Fire Department responded to the scene. The house’s frame was still standing, but the house was fully engulfed.
The firefighters fought the blaze for three hours in temperatures that ranged from 24 to 26 below zero without the wind chill, but because of the frigid conditions, they ceased operations. They returned to the scene Wednesday morning, using a backhoe to move through the rubble.
“They found him in what they believe to be the bedroom,” said Chippewa County Sheriff Jim Kowalczyk.
“At this point, no foul play is suspected. The Division of Criminal Investigation, state fire marshal, is assisting us in the investigation.”
Kowalczyk said no one else was in the home at the time.
Kowalczyk said further investigation will attempt to determine the cause of the fire.
Anyone that may have any information in regard to the fire is asked to call the Chippewa County Sheriff’s Department at 715-726-4568.
A 22-year-old Cornell man was sentenced in Clark County Court to six years in prison for having sexual contact with a 15-year-old girl. He also is facing an additional prison term after he was convicted of a separate sexual assault in December in Chippewa County.
Tomas J. Hoyle, W10945 Hixwood Road, pleaded guilty in October in Clark County Court to one count of second-degree sexual assault of a child. Charges of exposing his genitals to a child and using a computer to facilitate a child sex crime were read-in and dismissed.
Clark County Judge Lyndsey Brunette ordered the six-year prison sentence, along with nine years of extended supervision.
According to the criminal complaint, a woman informed a Stanley police officer in August 2017 that she discovered her 15-year-old daughter was having sexual contact with Hoyle. The woman found sexually explicit pictures her daughter had sent to Hoyle on the girl’s phone, and Hoyle had sent nude photos of himself. He sexually touched her on a couple of occasions in July 2017.
Last December, Hoyle was convicted by a Chippewa County jury of four counts of second-degree sexual assault of a child, including two of sexual assault by use of force.
Judge James Isaacson ordered a pre-sentence investigation. Isaacson set sentencing for March 26.
According to the criminal complaint, Hoyle drove up to a mobile home park in the town of Sigel and offered to give the girl a ride. They headed toward Cadott, and parked on a dead-end road west of town. Hoyle and the girl climbed into the back seat of the car, where Hoyle sexually assaulted her. The girl admitted she was under the influence of alcohol and pills at the time. He drove her home afterward and threatened her.