A West Salem man charged with killing his wife and trying to cover up the crime by staging a traffic crash will be tried for her death late this year.

Todd Kendhammer’s trial was set Thursday for Dec. 4-15 in La Crosse County Circuit Court.

Prosecutors charged Kendhammer, 46, with first-degree intentional homicide in the Sept. 17 death of his wife, Barbara. He stood mute to the charge and is free on a $250,000 cash bond.

Kendhammer told authorities he was driving north on a straight and flat stretch of Hwy. M just south of Bergum Coulee Road about 8 a.m. Sept. 16 when a 53-inch pipe fell from an oncoming flatbed truck and impaled the passenger side of the windshield, striking his 46-year-old wife, according to the criminal complaint.

Kendhammer said he turned onto nearby Bergum Coulee Road while trying to remove the 10-pound galvanized steel pipe from his wife. He removed the pipe from the windshield and his wife from the passenger seat and tried CPR for three to five minutes before calling 911 at 8:06 a.m., according to the complaint. She died the next day at a hospital.

Extensive blunt impact injuries to her front and back of her head and neck did not match her husband’s description of an airborne pipe piercing the windshield and striking her, according to court testimony.

Kendhammer had scratches on his neck and chest, and injuries on his knuckles he said were the result of working with glass, the complaint stated.

A passerby said he spotted the Camry half in the ditch on Bergum Coulee Road with its passenger door open and no damage to the windshield, the complaint stated. He did not see the couple.

Bloodstain patterns around the passenger seat and on the inside of the windshield are consistent with a physical assault, according to the State Crime Laboratory. There was no blood on the pipe recovered after the incident.

A crime lab analyst also found at least four impact points to two areas of the windshield: two inflicted from the inside and one from the outside that damaged the glass before the pipe penetrated the windshield, according to the complaint.

The spread of glass particles on the passenger seat indicated it was empty when the pipe came through. The analyst also concluded the passenger door was likely open, because there were no glass fragments in the door pocket.

No flatbed truck matching the description provided by Kendhammer is on four surveillance videos within minutes of the scene.

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Anne Jungen covers law enforcement and the criminal justice system in La Crosse County. She joined the Tribune reporting staff in December 2005. You can contact her directly at ajungen@lacrossetribune.com or 608-791-8224.

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