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Kendhammer verdict

Todd Kendhammer, convicted of first-degree intentional homicide in the September 2016 death of his wife, Barbara, looks toward his children and granddaughter Thursday night after hearing the jury's verdict. He was not allowed to talk to them, as deputies handcuffed him and escorted him out of the courtroom.

Rory O'Driscoll, La Crosse Tribune

Todd Kendhammer faces a life sentence after a jury convicted him of murdering his wife last year.

A panel of 10 women and two men deliberated about nine hours Thursday at the end of the nine-day trial before finding him guilty of first-degree intentional homicide in La Crosse County Circuit Court.

Kendhammer verdict

Todd Kendhammer is escorted from the courtroom in handcuffs Thursday night after being convicted of first-degree intentional homicide in the September 2016 death of his wife, Barbara.

Kendhammer, 47, of West Salem stood for the verdict and sat immediately after the judge pronounced it. His family and supporters wept and gasped at its delivery, and shouted at reporters outside the courtroom.

Circuit Judge Todd Bjerke revoked Kendhammer’s $250,000 bond and set sentencing for March 9.

“From the start, we were just trying to find the truth for Barbara,” La Crosse County District Attorney Tim Gruenke said. “I really feel Barb got some vindication today."

Kendhammer early Sept. 16 fatally beat his wife of 25 years while she fought for her life. He then tried to conceal the cause of her death by staging a freak car accident, Gruenke told jurors in his closing argument.

“Don’t let him get away with it,” he said in his final words to jurors.

Day 9: Todd Kendhammer trial

District Attorney Tim Gruenke makes his rebuttal to the defense's closing arguments during the Todd Kendhammer trial.

Kendhammer claimed the couple were driving to Holmen to pick up a vehicle to replace its windshield when a 10-pound, 53-inch inch galvanized steel pipe rolled from an oncoming flatbed truck on Hwy. M in the town of Hamilton and impaled the passenger side of their Toyota Camry.

He said he continued to drive about 100 yards north and another 100 yards east on Bergum Coulee Road before rolling the car backward into a ditch. He said he tried to help his wife before calling 911 at 8:05 a.m. — five minutes after stopping.

“That’s a lot of time when your wife needs help,” Gruenke said. “There are a lot of blows you can land in three minutes — in one minute.”

While local, state and federal law enforcement hunted for the truth — “whatever it might be” — Kendhammer was lying, the prosecutor contended.

Physics won’t allow a 10-pound pipe to sail horizontally 10 feet from an oncoming vehicle, Gruenke said.

Kendhammer offered three versions of where the couple were going that morning when his wife was scheduled to be at work, including a version he told for the first time during the trial. All three, according to testimony, were lies.

“That shows us the defendant was traveling that way for no other reason other than to find a way to hide what he had done to Barbara Kendhammer,” Gruenke said.

Barbara Kendhammer

Barb Kendhammer

Barb sustained three bone-deep cuts to the back of her head, a skull fracture, a broken nose, bruises and bleeding on the interior of her lips and fractured cartilage in her neck consistent with strangulation — injuries that don’t match her husband’s account of a pipe coming through the windshield.

“They do line up with a beating. A fatal beating,” Gruenke said. “This is a woman who was fighting for her life. This is a woman who was getting beat all over her head.”

Authorities found Kendhammer sweating and bloody, with knuckles injured and scratches on his neck and chest. Kendhammer did not punch the windshield with his fist in the third of a second during which he saw “a bird turn into a pipe,” Gruenke said.

Something happened between the seemingly happy couple that morning, he said. There was a fight inside the Camry. Barbara Kendhammer’s blood was on the center console and on her floor mat.

“Where was there no blood? The ends of the pipe. Pipe never touched her,” Gruenke said.

The evidence shows that Kendhammer inflicted Barb’s head injuries outside the car on Bergum Coulee Road, took the pipe from the trunk of the car and drove it into the windshield while Barb was on the ground, dying. In the minutes before emergency responders arrived, a passerby on Bergum Coulee Road saw the Camry in the ditch, its windshield intact, while Kendhammer was smothering his wife in the ditch, Gruenke said.

“This was a knock-down, drag-out fight,” he said.

On the day before Barb’s funeral, Kendhammer called one of his alibi witnesses seven minutes after investigators summoned him for an interrogation.

“He knew what was coming. He knew they suspected him. He knew he was guilty,” Gruenke said.

In his closing argument, defense attorney Stephen Hurley told jurors that, from the onset, authorities suffered “tunnel vision” in investigating traffic crash that required an interdisciplinary approach involving forensic pathology, forensics, biomechanics and glass fracture patterns.

“The immediate reaction is ‘he beat her’ and that’s where the investigation goes from then on,” he said. “The evidence doesn’t support any cogent theory that the prosecution is trying to get you to buy.”

While driving on Hwy. M, Kendhammer saw what he thought was a bird. In a fraction of a second, he realized it was a pipe and smashed the windshield with his fist, leaving abrasions on his knuckles from glass slivers.

Barb ducked and turned to her right trying to protect herself from the airborne pipe, driving her head into a stainless steel mug in her hands and into the dashboard, Hurley said. The pipe “skipped” across the back of her head, leaving three deep cuts, before she suffered a seizure, he said.

“The state expects Mr. Kendhammer to remember everything that happened in those two seconds,” Hurley said. “He was watching the woman he loved die in front of him, and it is so wrong to ask him to remember what traffic was like, whether someone came down the road.”

The pipe, Hurley told jurors, could have already been in the road, waiting to be “kicked up” by another vehicle.

“We don’t know and the state doesn’t know,” he said.

Day 9: Todd Kendhammer trial

Defense attorney Stephen Hurley makes his closing arguments during the Todd Kendhammer trial.

The forensic pathologist who performed Barb’s autopsy couldn’t explain all of the wide-ranging injuries, which don’t amount to foul play, Hurley said.

Prosecutors want jurors he believe that in the five minutes before he called 911, Kendhammer beat his wife for an unknown reason, intentionally entered a ditch, assaulted her without sustaining defensive wounds and then twice threw the pipe into the windshield, Hurley said.

“And he does it all in a public place,” he said. “It gives him two minutes to do all that. And that’s absurd.”

Hurley faulted investigators for bringing Kendhammer in for his interrogation under false pretenses on the day before his wife’s funeral and prosecutors for failing to prove how Kendhammer killed his wife.

“When you have no motive and all evidence suggests there is no motive, one has to ask where is the proof that this was some intentional assault,” Hurley said. “What reason would Todd Kendhammer ever have to harm his wife?”

“We don’t have to present motive. That fight could have been about anything,” Gruenke said. “I believe Todd Kendhammer lost control, snapped and beat his wife to death for some reason he’s not telling us.”


(34) comments


True. The moral of the story is this is a sad case. I feel for the family. No need to bash each other. Deep down the jury did get this right.




Set a better example for my children? You obviously do not know me. I do not have kids.


No, I don't know you. My point is that when we as adults behave that way, we teach our children (or anybody's child that may be watching) that this is acceptable behavior. And I don't care how in their face the reporter was, it's not ok to shove her.

Buggs Raplin

Judge Bjerke will now assign a pre-sentence investigation to a probation agent, who will interview Kendhammer and his family members on the matter. He/she will examine Kendhammer's life from childhood to current day. He/she will contact the victim's family members for input. Then the agent will write a report for Judge Bjerke on everything he's accumulated. The agent will make a recommendation as to what should happen. Judges generally, not always, go along with the recommendation of the agent. If Kendhammer continues to maintain innocence, the agent will no doubt recommendation life in prison, and Judge Bjerke will rule just that.


This case is sad all around but what really irks me besides another husband killing his wife is that her children and even her own brother were willing to let him get away with it. I don’t buy this they’re in denial bologna. A brutal killing and no one in the family is willing to confront the killer or even acknowledge that it happened. At least Barbara Kendhammer’s elderly mother didn’t get on the stand and defend him.
Thank God for the state because without it, we’d we living in a country like India or Afghanistan where a wife can be killed without punishment.
Good job Mr. Gruenke.


I agree about the family's willingness to give him a pass - that is really appalling! This whole incident was brutal. After 15 years of surviving such attacks, I left with the children and could never allow myself to give another man that opportunity. My and my children's lives were much more important than a marriage that he thought gave him rights by way of the BIBLE. No 'religion' in my life either. Religion is all about control of women according to many religions - enough said.


So it’s ok for a reporter to get in the face of a grieving family after the news they just heard? I do not condone violence, but seriously this reporter was out of line


She was doing her job. There's no excuse for putting hands on anyone. The normal grown up response would be to walk away and say no comment. Out of line or not, she doesn't deserve to be physically assaulted. But neither did Barb, did she? Set a better example for your children!


I saw in another story that was covering the verdict that when Todd's family was walking out after the verdict, a reporter asked for comment and they began shouting expletives and even shoved the reporter. Seems like outbursts and inappropriate physical reactions run In the family. There's no excuse for that sorta behavior.


Not quite sure why "Respect" doesn't feel Todd needs to prove his innocense. His wife's lifeless body was lying in in their vehicle, that alone, demands some kind of explanation. If you looked at the photo of the pipe it's an old partly rusted pipe. Why would anyone waste time searching to find out who purchased such a pipe? Todd's account of the the incident included many improbable actions of the mystery pipe, considering the vast array of injuries on his wifes body. It's as if the pipe had a mind of it's own to do such destruction. Suggest you read the transcripts again.


He doesn't have to prove his innocence. The state has to prove he is guilty. that is how the law works. INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY.


In regards to the pipe; if we knew where it came from we would know its whereabouts prior to the incident. Was it from a renovation Todd was working on? Was it from a barn that had been demolished and on its way to the dump via a flat bed truck? Also, were the bone deep cuts on Barbs head caused by Todd's fist, the ground or a metal object like a pipe? I don't know Todd. I didn't know that he has a history of anger outbursts. I do know of objects going through windshields and killing people. I have also seen the aftermath of an accident and thought, "how in the world did the front tire end up in the back seat...?" I should shut up now, out of respect for the jurors, the judge, and anyone else involved. I am saddened by the tragedy but I know that the true resolution is through Christ.


It was either a freak accident or a loving husband who freaked out and killed his wife. Both are unlikely. Neither Todd or the pipe had motive. The pipe did not have to prove it's innocence. Todd should not have had to prove his innocence either, that is not how the law works. The pipe came from somewhere. Were there any manufacturers identifications on the pipe? Could the pipe be traced back to determine where it was purchased? Or who purchased it? Who's DNA was on the pipe? I hope that the family does not give up. Would hypnosis help Todd remember more? Does he want to remember?


Somewhat true; but Todd does have a history of explosive, emotional outbursts. That is what likely happened. Todd also has a history of lying. He is famous for distorting the truth and not taking any responsibility. "It's always someone else's fault." And that's exactly what he did here. Todd was Todd!


He looks like a young Charles Manson, creepy . How often did he beat her up? He certainly knew where to throw the blows, at her head. Horrible Did any of that come out in trial?

union conservative

WHY on Earth does it take till March 9th to sentence this guy to a mandatory life sentence? It is ridiculous to think he will spend all this time in LaX County Jail knowing he will never see freedom again. While he may deserve his punishment, why is it up to our county to assume the liability for what he might do to himself while in jail? The state prosecuted him they should have that burden. Get him off to his new home!


Barbara fought for her life and the justice system fought for justice. His children lost both parents. A tragedy on many levels. I hope the family asks for an MRI for their Dad to see if this event was the result of an existing neurological injury.


haha what! Domestic violence isn't a neurological injury. It is a result of a controlling, narcissistic and hot-headed jerk.


A sad story that is OVER. I hope the paper can move on now.


Ok folks let's move on...his kids will be fine after the shock wears off. Once he is sentenced he will be moved to Dodge once there he can't have any visits for 6 weeks. He can never touch the money, oh when you visit him , take money so you and he can get a soda or vending food. Take a lot of money , its expensive. You will need to set up a phone account so He can call you. You won't be able to call him. There are other things too but too many to list here!!


lol that's a lie. he can get visits at dodge from family. so maybe research it.


A truly loathsome human being , who took his :"I don"t remember"lie from the Trump/Reagan playbook...
"cept, Trump doesn"t possess a playbook.

you think you know

Of course it has to be made political! Speaking of lie, what was that part about "I did not have sexual relations with that woman"?


He deserves it. Wonder if he'll find the courage to admit it to his kids. May give them closure.

Buena Vista

At first, I didn't think there was enough evidence to find this guy guilty. Too many loose ends, I thought. But now.....all I can say is I would never, ever want to be part of a jury on a case such as this. Too stressful, too heartbreaking.


Sooo much evidence. It was the most pathetic cover up I've ever heard or seen about. And his defense during trial was really bad. There wasn't one reason to believe or see that he DIDN'T kill her.


I am glad you weren't on the jury as well. Not enough evidence? His story of events were absurd. He isn't a smart man. The pipe he says killed her had none of her blood on it. Not enough evidence nonsense.


You're right. The state didn't give enough evidence of him intentionally setting out to kill her.


Right decision, but will a LaCrosse judge give him the time he deserves? Will Judge Ramona give him a ride to the slammer?????????

Buggs Raplin

The judge in this case is Bjerke.


Justice is served, facts are facts. It's just too bad so many lives have been, and will be, wrecked due to one individuals ruthless actions on one day. Whatever the reason. Very sad for all. God bless the family and friends.


Too many "I don't remember" when he had a chance to give his side. Only logical decision


welcome to butt cheek love connection queerboy

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