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Wisconsin appeals court denies West Salem’s Todd Kendhammer a new trial in the beating death of his wife

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A Wisconsin court of appeals turned down Todd Kendhammer’s request for a new trial in the 2016 death of his wife, Barbara.

The high court rejected four arguments made by the West Salem man, who was convicted of beating his wife to death with a metal pipe along a La Crosse County highway. Kendhammer claimed Barbara died in an accident, caused when a pipe fell off a truck and crashed through the windshield of the couple’s car.

Kendhammer made four separate claims that his defense attorneys were ineffective, in part for failing to introduce evidence supporting the theory of a pipe bouncing off the road and striking the car window.

The appeals court ruled that the attorneys reached reasonable decisions not to introduce certain arguments made by Kendhammer backing the flying pipe theory, in order to help his defense.

The appeals court ruling upholds a decision two years ago by former La Crosse County Judge Todd Bjerke to deny Kendhammer a new trial.

The Kendhammer case has been covered by La Crosse area news media, and by at least two national TV shows. It was the basis of an entire episode of “48 Hours” on CBS.

Before the appeals court ruling was announced, La Crosse County District Attorney Tim Gruenke spoke on WIZM’s La Crosse Talk PM about why this case has received so much news coverage.

Gruenke compared public interest in the Kendhammer case to the media coverage of Donald Trump’s recent criminal trial.


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.

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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