Subscribe for 33¢ / day

There were courtroom benches reserved for those who would sit in support of Barbara Kendhammer.

Todd Kendhammer

Todd Kendhammer

Barbara C. Kendhammer

Barb Kendhammer

But no one did.

“All the while, the seats in support of her murderer overflowed,” Kendhammer’s cousin Gerianne Buchner-Wettstein said in court Friday. “One cannot blame Barbara for not confiding in anyone about the fear for her safety. As we have sadly seen, who would have believed her? Who would have stood up for her?”

Early Sept. 16, 2016, Todd Kendhammer fatally beat Barbara, his wife of 25 years, and then tried to cover her murder by staging a freak car accident that couldn’t have happened.

La Crosse County Circuit Judge Todd Bjerke


La Crosse County Circuit Judge Todd Bjerke on Friday sentenced Kendhammer to life imprisonment, but granted him the opportunity to petition for release in 30 years.

“You deny you did this,” the judge said. “To me, you snapped on that date. You lost it. You committed this horrific act … You are the one responsible for her death, not some pipe falling off a truck.”

Kendhammer, of West Salem, 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 10-pound galvanized steel pipe rolled from an oncoming flatbed truck. He claimed he lunged forward and punched the window with one or both of his fists trying to deflect the pipe before it impaled the passenger side of his windshield and struck his wife.

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

Kendhammer said he was driving to pick up a truck owned in turn by Justin Heim, then later Ben Pfaff and finally Jarrod Loging to repair a windshield at the same time his consistently punctual wife was supposed to be at work at West Salem Middle School.

All three men testified during the trial, telling jurors they had no arrangements to meet Kendhammer that day.

A passerby on Bergum Coulee Road, where Kendhammer stopped the car 200 yards from where the pipe was supposed to have hit his car, testified he saw the couple’s Toyota Camry in the ditch, its windshield intact, in the minutes before authorities believe Kendhammer took a 10-pound pipe from the trunk and drove it through the windshield.

Barbara suffered three bone-deep cuts on the back of her head, among a host of other injuries.

Tim Gruenke


“She died a horrible death. A beating,” District Attorney Tim Gruenke said Friday. “She died … scratching and clawing for her life, alone with her killer: her husband.”

Authorities found Kendhammer sweating and bloody, with knuckles injured and scratches on his neck and chest.

“Those very scratch marks were her last communication to those of us in this world so we would seek the truth about her death, no matter how painful that truth might be,” Buchner-Wettstein said. “Barbara found the courage that day to fight back.”

A jury found Kendhammer guilty of first-degree intentional homicide after nine hours of deliberations and a nine-day trial in December.

Buchner-Wettstein asked the judge to sentence Kendhammer to life in prison without the option for release, while Kendhammer’s supporters called for release eligibility after the minimum 20 years.

“Please understand that my parents were a very big part of our lives, and we would like the opportunity to share more of our lives with my dad,” the couple’s daughter, Jessica Servais, said.

Barbara’s mother stands by her son-in-law, while Kendhammer’s mother called him an involved father who cared deeply for his wife.

“This is why we all support Todd,” Patricia Kendhammer said. “This is why we will continue to support Todd.”

But Kendhammer’s family and other supporters ignored the evidence to focus on their experiences with him, Gruenke said.

“The people who are supporting Todd don’t believe the physical evidence that is right in front of their eyes,” he said. “People cannot go on believing that there was a phantom truck that dropped a pipe that floated that caused these injuries.”

Kendhammer was controlling and domestic violence is a crime that festers in private, Gruenke said.

“Plenty of people look fine in public, but things are not fine behind the scenes,” he said. “The fact that he wasn’t mean to you, or wasn’t mean to Barbara in front of you, doesn’t mean that he was good to her.”

From the start, Kendhammer lied to police and blamed law enforcement, the State Crime Laboratory, medical examiners, prosecutors, jurors, the judge and the media of conspiring to convict an innocent man. His family members, while trying to be supportive, “are just feeding his delusions,” Gruenke said.

“To be perfectly frank, they need to get their head out of their ass,” Gruenke said. “They need to start looking at this in reality and not in Mr. Kendhammer’s delusional world where pipes fly and media will conspire and police will frame innocent people because that’s not what happened here.”

Gruenke argued that Kendhammer serve life without the possibility of release, consistent with the recommendation made in a pre-sentence investigation report.

“He never will face up to what he did,” Gruenke said. “He did not give Barbara any mercy. I don’t think he deserves any mercy at this point.”

Jonas Bednarek


Defense attorney Jonas Bednarek asked the court to grant Kendhammer an opportunity to ask for release in the minimum 20 years, citing Kendhammer’s strong family support, lack of criminal history and character traits that are “very much different than the verdict in the case.”

“Twenty years is an exceedingly long time,” he said. “For anybody to say that in that 20-year interval Todd Kendhammer is beyond ability or capability to rehabilitate is, in my opinion, flawed logic.”

Bednarek, who lost his father during the trial, said Kendhammer asked daily about his father before his death.

“He thought of my struggle over his struggle,” Bednarek said. “That’s not a man that is beyond repair. Not in my opinion.”

Kendhammer thanked his family and friends for their support but did not repeat his claim of innocence in his brief statement to the court.

The judge called Kendhammer an “enigma” — a man whose first and only conviction is for intentional homicide.

“All of the people in support of you have absolutely no idea what goes on behind closed doors,” Bjerke said. “And here we are.”

Kendhammer will be 77 years old when he can apply for release. But before he does, he must accept responsibility for his wife’s murder, Bjerke said.

“If you don’t do that,” he said, “I doubt that any judge would ever release you.”


Police and courts reporter

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 or 608-791-8224.

(13) comments


Also, thank you for writing this article. It needed to be said!!! If it opens at least one person's eyes, it will have been worth it. I have no relation to this case and don't know anyone involved but it doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out that he has manipulated so many people and continues to play the victim. He makes my skin crawl. I actually used to feel sorry for his kids, I no longer do. They sat in support of him through this whole trial and sentencing and not one of them sat in support of Barb. I would be heartbroken if I were her. Rest assured she is in heaven shedding many tears.


The Prosecutor was correct advising people to get their head out of their A$$.Watching people excuse away this horrible act , while the person responsible for it thanks them for support! Really ?


What a sad day for humanity. A sick psychopath kills his wife, stages an accident very poorly, forensic science shows a violent beating death beyond a reasonable doubt, justice is served by a jury at a fair and expensive trial with a conclusive verdict of guilt. The sick psychopathic liar has no remorse, honesty, or care for his victim, their children, grandchild, victim's extended family but only states his "thanks" for their support? The only honorable victim impact statement came from Barb Kendhammer's cousin(s), read by Jerianne Buchner Wettstein. Barb's pathetic brother, Dave Adams didn't even stand up against Todd? What a pathetic moron! Looks like Kendhammer is going for that Charles Manson look in Waupan, though I don't think it's 'gonna work for him, when the Big Bubba's hear his femme, weak voice. Todd will rot to death in Waupan, as he should, before his 30 yr. chance for parole is up. Toodaloo, Todd, you sick, conniving prick!


Having been in an abusive situation, all these factors are so common. The fear, denial, defending the perp, kids/extended family not aware. These guys are clever, they inflict the pain when the children or others are absent, parents of the abuser are in denial and offer no help - blame the victim. Each time I read about these horrific occurrences I relive it all over which isn't a good thing. I escaped fortunately along with my children and had a restraining order immediately. Attorneys were in denial as well. They did not help me when they should have. My church told me to pray, go back 'where I belong'. I ended up relatively poor while he is a multi-millionaire. But what the heck, I'm alive. He has NEVER APOLOGIZED or even acknowledged his abusiveness. Society needs to educate themselves about the signs of abuse - children, mothers, wives, husbands - wake up.


I thought for a minute there we would not hear from the numerous wannabee judges in our area.

Buena Vista

Man... I think this guy is innocent.


“When are you going to get your head out of your a**.” The Kendhammer family needs to answer this question. I hope you have come to realize your mother, daughter, daughter-in-law, sister, sister-in-law, aunt and special friend was brutally murdered by her husband. Anyone who read the coroner’s report had to come to this conclusion and yet you continued to support her husband. I am sure Barb has shed a lot of tears in Heaven as she watched all of you disrespect her. I wish you well while you come to terms with reconciling your attitudes.


The fact that he was given a chance of parole, even after 30 years, is a crock. He has shown no remorse and he is still trying to manipulate his own family. Her family, especially their children, deserve better than that. I know someone who is sitting 30 years for FAR LESS!!! This is not justice. He should never have the option of seeing the light of day. I realize that he probably won't make it in there for 30 years but he has a chance to be released when he is 77 years old. That means he would still have some life to live if he does get out. Barbara wasn't given that option because he chose to take that from her. Sick.


he looks as evil as charles manson...was he glaring , with a dumb a$$ grin on his face, at barbara's family, when he was leaving court...


Good job Judge, you put the trash in the trash bin.


Well done Judge!! I would have made him serve life with no parole. Barb was given a choice to live or die. He made that choice for her. This is a great case to use to argue for the reinstatement of the death penalty. I for one believe in it for heinous crimes, such as this was. The facts and DNA evidence prove he killed her. It's too bad he has manipulated his family into believing his fantasy. He is a manipulator, watch out for this when talking with him.


I doubt that he'll be manipulating much in prison.


I don't agree with him ever having a chance for parole, then I think about it and realize that he will never be released. If he makes it 30 years, which he likely won't, the absolute only way that he will be released is going to be if he finally comes to terms and admits what he has done. He will NEVER do that. He has everyone on his side, he is a master manipulator and he will never stop trying to play the victim. With all of those wonderful characteristics, he won't be getting out....EVER!! No parole board in their right mind would give him freedom. Although, I have seen worse.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.

Thanks for reading. Subscribe or log in to continue.