A La Crosse County judge in a rare court move has ordered a group of people summoned for jury duty into court to explain why they failed to show for Todd Kendhammer’s trial for his wife’s murder.
The 12 potential jurors must provide a reason why Circuit Judge Todd Bjerke shouldn’t impose a fine under state statute. Each faces a fine of not more than $500 if they skip the Jan. 23 court date set by the court.
State law allows a judge to fine potential jurors who fail to report no more than $500 after a hearing for the juror to explain why she or he should not be held in contempt for failing to comply with jury service.
The fine would offset juror costs.
Kendhammer, 47, of West Salem faces life imprisonment in the Sept. 17, 2016, death of his wife, Barbara, when he returns to court for sentencing on March 9.
The judge could find him eligible for release after a minimum of 20 years.
The West Salem man early Sept. 16 fatally beat Barbara Kendhammer and then tried to cover up her murder by staging a traffic crash that couldn’t have happened. She died the next day.
Kendhammer testified during his nine-day trial in December that claimed the couple was driving north on Hwy. M in the town of Hamilton when what he thought was a bird but determined was a pipe rolled from an oncoming flatbed truck and impaled the passenger side of his windshield.
He offered multiple versions of where the couple was driving that morning and tried to convince jurors that he rendered aid to his wife, but his account of the freak crash couldn’t explain Barb’s extensive head injuries. Witnesses also debunked Kendhammer’s story and prosecutors argued the evidence showed that Kendhammer inflicted his wife’s injuries, then took the pipe from the trunk and drove it into the windshield while she was dying on the ground.
A jury found Kendhammer guilty of first-degree intentional homicide after nine hours of deliberations. He remains jailed.