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Onalaska church shooter granted release after decades in mental hospital



An Onalaska man, who shot and killed three people at a local church in 1985, is being granted conditional release from the Mendota state hospital.

Bryan Stanley’s request for release was approved Monday at a brief court hearing in La Crosse, before Judge Ramona Gonzalez. Stanley will live under supervision in Eau Claire, Wis. He is ordered to stay away from La Crosse County.

“He had been at Mendota for quite a while,” La Crosse District Attorney Tim Gruenke said, “and reached a point where he was released from Mendota daily, able to go off campus by himself, had employment, had free time, and reached a point where there was nothing more to gain therapeutically by being at Mendota.”

Stanley is in his 60s now. He was 29 on Feb. 7, 1985, when he went to St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Onalaska, and shot the Rev. John Rossiter, lay minister Ferd Roth and custodian Bill Hammes, after a church service.

Stanley reportedly had been upset because girls were being allowed to take the place of boys in certain church ceremonies.

He was found not guilty because of mental disease and was committed to Mendota, where he has mostly lived since the shootings, except for a brief period of release ordered by an appeals court in 2009.

Stanley was sent back to Mendota in 2012 after having violent thoughts.

“He’ll be on supervision for the rest of his life,” Gruenke added. “As long as he’s alive, he’s going to be monitored by the Department of Corrections, and any point they have concerns, they have the ability to take him back into custody.”

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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  1. Carol Herlitzka

    March 28, 2023 at 8:00 am

    This person went into a church. killed a priest and a janitor. This is what is wrong with country
    This cou!d happen again? Who is the blame for this to happen again. The judge that let him go???
    Heaven help this Country!

  2. Nancy Schreier

    March 28, 2023 at 8:53 am

    It’s just a matter of time until this will happen again. Because he was deemed mentally impaired by the handful of psychiatric doctors , it’s a shame those of us who were there when this happened still live in fear, more so than before when we knew he was locked down. This person is considered ok? Then spend the rest of his life in prison, where we know he will never harm anyone again.

  3. Edward Laxton.

    March 28, 2023 at 2:57 pm

    What is wrong with this system we call law. what is wrong with the Judges are they not concerned with public safety. We people in Onalaska will never forget about what Happened but apparently the Law has. So it is that He is never to enter Lacrosse County again when did they quite making cars or buses. Who is going to check every day were he is. THE JUDGE. HAHA. Come on when is this going to end. Take a look at the people taking care of the LAW.

  4. M. Gallup

    March 28, 2023 at 3:52 pm

    He and Terrance Shaw should live together!!! Terrance Shaw murdered Susan Erickson and is now living in Onalaska, WI. Mike Mulroy stated that he would never be released for that heinous crime. I am still in shock that he is now a free murderer. Remember that you cannot change the spots on a leopard. Should be an eye for an eye. No questions asked.

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