After nearly a full day was needed to select a jury, the first-degree murder trial of Todd Kendhammer officially starts Tuesday in La Crosse.
The 47-year-old West Salem, Wis., man is suspected of fatally beating his wife, while faking a highway accident to explain her injuries.
The jury will be made up of 11 women and four men, as well as three alternates.
That jury’s first duty will be a trip Tuesday morning to the scene of the accident that allegedly killed Kendhammer’s 47-year-old wife, Barbara.
Defense lawyers in the case had tried to prevent the jury from visiting the scene today, out of concern that if there was snow on the ground, the area would not look the same as it did on the day of the alleged accident.
It’s there, on Hwy. M, where he told police that a steel pipe crashed through the window of their Toyota Camry around 8 a.m. Sept. 16, 2016. The pipe, supposedly flew from an oncoming truck and impaled his wife. She died in the hospital the next day.
According to court records, after the pipe hit his wife, Todd Kendhammer said he drove another 100 yards while trying to remove the pipe. He then turned onto Bergum Coulee Rd. and drove another 100 yards before the car rolled backward into an embankment.
After removing the pipe, then his wife from the passenger seat, he said he tried CPR for around 5 minutes before calling 911, the complaint read. A witness who drove by saw the car in the ditch but said the window was not broken. He also did not see the couple before driving on.
Investigators initially tried recreating Kendhammer’s story but were unsuccessful. They concluded that Barbara Kenhammer was not sitting in the car when the pipe broke the windshield.
Police say physical evidence suggests that Barbara Kendhammer was beaten to death and, also, that the accident didn’t really happen.
An autopsy showed the woman died from multiple blunt force trauma injuries including lacerations in the back of her head, a broken nose, a skull fracture and lip contusions.
Sheriff’s deputy Jeff Wolf had questioned Todd Kendhammer about scrapes on his hands.
“He stated that he works with glass and that he gets cut frequently,” Wolf told the court last December.
Prosecutors argued Barbara Kendhammer’s injuries to were too severe and widespread to have been caused by a flying pipe.
Video surveillance was also unable to locate the truck he described.