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Matthew Kinstler charged with first-degree reckless homicide in La Crosse parking lot death

Matthew Kinstler charged with first-degree reckless homicide in La Crosse parking lot death

From the What you missed this week in notable La Crosse crimes and court cases series

The La Crosse man accused of fatally beating a 79-year-old man in the Menards parking lot was charged Monday with first-degree reckless homicide.

Matthew L. Kinstler, 50, was arrested last week in connection with the death of Russell Paulson after a May 1 altercation at 223 Lang Drive. He is being held on a $100,000 cash bond in the La Crosse County Jail. Kinstler faces a maximum of 60 years in prison if convicted.

According to the criminal complaint:

The incident began when Paulson and his wife, Constance, drove to Menards to buy a fan and parked in a handicapped-accessible spot to the left of a small blue SUV. Paulson got out of the vehicle, and a woman in the SUV told him to learn how to drive, according to a statement from Constance Paulson.

Witnesses told police Kinstler, 50, walked up to Russell Paulson and loudly accused Paulson of dinging the SUV, and then began yelling as Paulson denied hitting the vehicle.

Several witnesses said Kinstler escalated the altercation by getting into Paulson’s face, tipping his cowboy hat off of his head. Paulson slapped him, and then Kinstler took Paulson’s walking stick and struck the left side of his head, causing him to fall to the ground.

Police arrived to find Paulson bleeding from his head, ear and mouth, and he was rushed to Mayo Clinic Health System by Tri-State Ambulance Service, where he was diagnosed with multiple skull fractures and bleeding around his brain.

Investigators had a tough time asking Paulson for his side of the story due to his injuries and his failing hearing. With help from Paulson’s wife, they were able to get an answer to one question: “Did I give him permission to hit me? Hell no. Hell no,” Paulson told police.

He later lost consciousness and died May 4.

Kinstler told police he acted in self-defense, saying he was asking whether Paulson hit the SUV, and Paulson became upset.

“Out of nowhere, he immediately starts punching me in the face. He punches like a little girl. It hardly even hurt. Just maybe a one or a two (on the 10-point pain scale),” Kinstler told police.

Kinstler said Paulson swung the walking stick at him, and he ducked, and the force of the swing caused him to fall. He said he never had the cane in his hand.

Kinstler told police there was previous damage to his own car, so in order to tell whether his car was struck, police would need to look at Paulson’s vehicle.

Kinstler will be back in La Crosse County Circuit Courty Friday morning after public defender Araysa Simpson asked for time to talk to Kinstler, saying Kinstler was quarantined as part of a jail procedure put in place due to COVID-19, which has made communication difficult.

Jourdan Vian can be reached at or follow her on Twitter at @Jourdan_LCT.


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