Bizarre and baffling. The 1980s had moments of stark violence and bewilderment as the normally placid Coulee Region was shocked by five unrelated and unsolved murders of females.
The slayings - between May 1984 and August 1989 - included one in which the victim had both hands removed, another in which the body was decapitated and a third in which a former Chicago prostitute was found strangled and dumped along a rural Monroe County road.
- May 4, 1984 - The body of a woman, believed to have been in her late 60s, was discovered along a gravel road about five miles from Westby. Her hands had been cut off at the wrists. Speculation is that the woman was killed somewhere else and the body dumped along the road. The woman died of head injuries.
- Feb. 18, 1985 - The body of Terry Dolowy, a pretty and popular 24-year-old University of Wisconsin-La Crosse student, was discovered smoldering in a ditch a few miles south of La Crosse. She came up missing four days earlier, on Valentine's Day, from her Barre Mills mobile home.
Authorities never found Dolowy's head, or her white poodle, Suzie.
- April 19, 1988 - Linda Wegner, 31, a nurse-aide at Bethany-St. Joseph Care Center, was found in her town of Shelby home, dead of a slashed throat. Her 1-year-old daughter was unharmed.
A special reward fund of more than $11,000 failed to provide information leading to the identity of the killer.
- Feb. 15, 1989 - Two young boys on their way home from school discovered the frozen body of Bette Jean Kawczynski part way down an embankment along a Monroe County road south of Tomah.
The body was partially clothed and the woman, who police said was a drug addict and prostitute from Chicago, had been strangled with a rope.
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A pathologist estimated the partly decomposed body had been lying beside the road for a month and a half before it was discovered.
- Aug. 6, 1989 - The battered and sexually assaulted body of 9-year-old Jennifer Wesho was found about a quarter-mile east of her home in Sand Pillow Village, a Winnebago housing development about five miles east of Black River Falls.
Rumors that someone, perhaps the killer, was stalking the woods nearby led to beefed-up police and citizen patrols in the area. But neither patrols nor a reward fund has led to solution of the crime.
Three other murders - all solved - deserve mention:
- A fingernail sample found at the scene of the April 14, 1981, murder of Susan Erickson, 29, Onalaska, led to the first-degree murder conviction of Terrrance Shaw. Erickson was stabbed to death in her home and the murderer escaped undetected but left an incriminating piece of evidence at the scene - the tip of his finger and a fingernail. In late 1982, Shaw, then 33 and a resident of the La Crosse area, was convicted of the rape and murder of Erickson and sentenced to life in prison.
- A hostage crisis and double murder on April 28, 1983, climaxed about noon that day on an Ontario steet when a sharpshooter from the Vernon County Sheriff's Department dropped 49-year-old Wayne Tretsven, Cashton, with a shot through the leg.
Earlier that day Tretsven shot and killed his former girlfriend, Rebecca Glunz, 44, rural Westby, and a neighboring farmer, Stanley Flaig, 50, rural Ontario. Tretsven later held two people hostage in an Ontario restaurant before being persuaded to release them and step outside.
Tretsven, whose wounded leg was amputated about a year later, is serving two life terms plus seven years in the state prison in Waupun.
- Michael Tenneson of Holmen is serving two consecutive life sentences in a Colorado prison for murders there. He later pleaded guilty to the March 20, 1987, triple-killing in a La Crosse home.
Tenneson, then 28, was convicted of the murders in Denver months after the La Crosse slayings occurred, and was also sentenced in June 1988 to serve life sentences for the La Crosse gunshot deaths of Lila Bush, 73, her son, Kenneth, 33, and Kenneth's girlfriend, Debra Reget, 35. The La Crosse sentences add at leat 40 years to the 104-year-minimum Tenneson faces in Colorado.