Merrill Police Chief Gerald Plautz and Lincoln County District Attorney gave their approval to a $1,000 reward being offered for information leading to the arrest of the persons responsible for the murder of Katherine Schmidt. Merrill area auto dealers joined together to offer the reward after Schmidt was found dead in her apartment on July 14. Chief Plautz reported his department continues to investigate the murder with full force with leads still coming in every day. He did caution the community that rumors concerning arrests or persons of interest are erroneous at best and without foundation, in fact. Criticism of the local police force’s handling of the murder case comes with the job, according to Plautz, and has no real foundation in his opinion. Auto dealers who joined to offer the reward include: Bloechl Motors, Park City Motors, Sharon Chevrolet, Wilroy Motor Company, and Whitburn Motor Company.
Mr. and Mrs. Paul Gebert have donated 5 acres of wooded land to the city of Merrill. The Gebert’s donated the land in memory of their late daughter June Gebert Morris. The city will construct nature hiking trails throughout the land. According to Paul Gebert, ducks still reside on a pond in the area and deer and a few fox reside there as well. The area also holds one of the only virgin stands of pine, cedar, and tamarack left in the area.
The Merrill Giants crushed the Gleason squad 17-2 in Lincoln County baseball league play on Sunday. Leading the Giants in hitting were Bobby Gruenenwald, 3-5, Daryl Berndt, 2-4, Russ Sukow, 2-3, Tom Klug, 2-3, and Dale Klug who was 2-4. Bruce English pitched the one hitter for the Giants, striking out 13 and walking three. The Giants are scheduled to play in the state tournament at Whittsley on Sunday and will host Stevens Point’s Brewers at Athletic Park next Wednesday. In other Lincoln County baseball action Sunday, Russ’s Bar took both games of a double header with the Knotty Pine Squad. Ole Schneider was the winning pitcher in the first game with Mike Wissen winning the second.
A plant expansion costing $2.7 million is underway at the Merrill dam. The earth is being moved away from the old parking area to make way for two cofferdams – one upstream and one downstream from the existing powerhouse. The work will also include building a new powerhouse on the dam, which will nearly triple the original capacity of the dam.
An attempt to reduce the 16-year prison sentence of Ronald Priebe was denied last week in Lincoln County Court. Judge Gerald Flynn of Racine denied the request following a three hour hearing. Priebe petitioned the court to reduce his sentence from 16 years to eight years; he was convicted in December of 1980 in the fatal beating of his girlfriend, 21 year old Jamie Spamer.
Priebe told the court he had been a heavy drinker since the age of 17 and was drunk the night he killed Spamer and does not even remember the incident which he takes full responsibility for. He noted his leadership role in the alcohol treatment program in prison. Priebe said after the hearing, he believed his status as an attorney and overachiever were factors in why his sentence was so severe as compared to other similar cases.
Did they vote themselves a raise or not? City Attorney John Thiel is seeking a legal opinion to see if the recent vote by the Merrill City Council to give themselves a raise is legally binding. The aldermen voted on Tuesday to increase their pay from $125 a month to $225 a month with special pay for attending meetings during labor negotiations but the vote was 5-3, a simple majority, not the three fourths majority many felt was needed to pass the measure. Thiel said he would turn to the Wisconsin League of Municipalities for guidance. Voting for the measure was Dave D’amico, Ellsworth Plautz, Richard Hayes, Anita Gebert, and Kenneth Plawman. Voting against the raise were Bryan Stimers, Roger English and Elmer Kleinschmidt. The council meeting on Tuesday was one of the shortest in recent memory at only 40 minutes. Mayor Richard Holt presided over the meeting, his first since open heart surgery in June.
Ida Duginski won the $700 bankroll at Drew’s; she is pictured with Shirlane Drew.
A vintage aircraft’s appearance at Merrill’s Airport Days brought back a flood of memories for Merrill’s Willard “Red” Heckendorf. A fully restored Grunman TBF Avenger torpedo plane was brought to the fly in from the Glenview Naval Air Station and allowed Red some time to reminisce about his time in WWII where he flew the aircraft. An outstanding memory he had of his time in service was when his gunnery officer had to buy him a coke on successive days because Red broke 100 straight clay pigeons on the trap range. That gunner officer was Robert Stack, who starred in Hollywood and became famous for playing the role of Elliot Ness of the FBI. After Red’s stints in gunnery schools, he ended up in Florida where he did triple duty as a radio man, radar man, and gunner on the TBF. A shakeup at the base led Red to be assigned to the PBY School at Quonset Point, Rhode Island. There he flew patrol missions 600 feet off the coast on PBY-5A patrol bombers. While on one such patrol in spring of 1945, Red’s crew locked on a German submarine 450 miles off the coast. The PBY dropped its full complement of two 500 pound depth charges on its target. Almost immediately a significant amount of debris surfaced indicating the sub had been hit. Red photographed the debris and it was sufficient evidence for the military that gave Red’s crew a confirmed kill of a German submarine. Heckendorf is now retired from Weinbrenner Shoe Company where he was a foreman. He resides on Liberty Street with his wife Rose.