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La Crosse County DA Gruenke discusses Kendhammer murder case, which could be taken up by higher court in Wisconsin

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A Wisconsin court of appeals is scheduled to rule today in a La Crosse County murder case that has received national attention.

The court will announce whether Todd Kendhammer could receive a new trial for the 2016 death of his wife Barbara.

Kendhammer was convicted of fatally beating Barbara with a metal pipe, and is suspected of faking the accident on County M near West Salem. That’s where he claimed the pipe flew off a truck and crashed through their windshield, hitting his wife.

On Tuesday’s La Crosse Talk PM host Rick Solem discussed multiple facets of the case with La Crosse County District Attorney Tim Gruenke, including comparing Kendhammer’s situation to the ex-president.

“He’s trying to overturn his conviction,” Gruenke said. The court of appeals could either say, ‘Yes, your conviction was — not that you’re innocent — but your conviction was wrong. You have to go back to trial again.’ Or they could say, no, the conviction was right and deny his appeal. He could then go to the Supreme Court if he wanted.”

“Could we just jack this up to Donald Trump?” Solem asked. “Is this the same thing Donald Trump is doing, in a way — he’s appealing?”

Gruenke answered, “Yes, exactly.”


La Crosse Talk PM airs weekdays at 5:06 p.m. Listen on the WIZM app, online here, or on 92.3 FM / 1410 AM / 106.7 FM (north of Onalaska). Find all the podcasts here or subscribe to La Crosse Talk PM wherever you get your podcasts.


Two years ago, a La Crosse judge denied Kendhammer’s request for another trial.

The two also discussed why this case has been so popular. It’s been covered by at least two national TV shows. It was the basis of an entire episode of ’48 Hours’ on CBS.

“I think people are drawn by cases of ‘Who done it?’ or circumstantial evidence cases as opposed to just somebody witnessing someone killing somebody,” Gruenke said. “That doesn’t take as long to explain. But there were a lot of pieces that had to be put together. Very small witnesses, small pieces that kind of formed the whole picture, which I think people find more interesting than like a surveillance camera catching something happening.”

Another part of the conversation with Gruenke wa how family is affected by outcomes like this from people with no history of violence. Kendhammer’s children have supported their dad through the trial, believing he didn’t do it. Gruenke said he has seen that a lot, and that it makes sense.

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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