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Motion to dismiss denied in La Crosse homicide case

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It will be up to a jury to decide if an 18-year-old Ontario man is guilty of murder.

La Crosse County Circuit Court Judge Elliott Levine denied a motion Wednesday that would have dismissed the first-degree intentional homicide charge against Sage Hicke. He is accused in the fatal shooting of 15-year-old Storm Vondrasek outside a La Crosse apartment building May 22.

Hicke’s attorney Andrew Martinez argued that his client clearly acted in self-defense and that much of the exculpatory evidence is contained in two criminal complaints filed by the state. Martinez said there is no dispute that Vondrasek and 18-year-old Jackson Greengrass drove to the 1900 S. Seventh St. apartment building with the purpose of inflicting severe bodily harm on Hicke.

Martinez said the law entitles Hicke to act in self-defense.

“(Hicke) was confronted by two armed assailants,” Martinez said. “Mr. Hicke would have died had he not acted the way he acted. Everything else is secondary.”

La Crosse County Assistant District Attorney Jessica Skemp said the state has sufficient evidence to take the case to trial under a probable cause standard.

“Proof beyond reasonable doubt is a finding that is made by a jury,” Skemp said.

Hicke also faces a misdemeanor count of disorderly conduct with a dangerous weapon.

Levine granted a defense motion to remove Hicke’s address from online court records accessible to the public. Martinez said Hicke has been threatened with reprisals over the shooting.

Levine didn’t set a trial date, but said it won’t happen until “the middle of the year.” Hicke has been free on a $10,000 cash bond since Sept. 2.

The state has also filed charges against Greengrass. He faces felony counts of attempted first-degree homicide and felony murder/battery and misdemeanor counts of possessing a dangerous weapon while under 18, intentionally pointing a firearm at a person and obstructing an officer.

Greengrass is being held in the La Crosse County Jail on a $20,000 cash bond. His next court date is a Dec. 7 calendar call.

A Wisconsin man was convicted Wednesday of killing six people when he drove his SUV through a Christmas parade last year, ending a trial in which he defended himself erratically and sometimes confrontationally. The jury found Darrell Brooks guilty of six counts of first-degree intentional homicide. He faces a mandatory life sentence on each count. The jury got the case Tuesday and deliberated for a total of 3 hours and 15 minutes into Wednesday morning before announcing they had reached a verdict. Brooks drove his Ford Escape into the Christmas parade in Waukesha in suburban Milwaukee on Nov. 21 moments after fleeing a domestic disturbance with his ex-girlfriend, prosecutors said. Six people were killed, including 8-year-old Jackson Sparks, who was marching in the parade with his baseball team, and three members of the Dancing Grannies, a group of grandmothers that dances in parades. Dozens of other people were hurt, some severely. The incident deeply scarred the community of 70,000 people about 16 miles (25 kilometers) west of Milwaukee. Community members built memorials to the dead and held vigils. The anger was still evident Wednesday; someone in the gallery yelled "burn in hell" as the verdicts were read. Brooks pleaded not guilty by reason of mental disease this year but withdrew the plea before his trial began with no explanation. Days before the trial started, he dismissed his public defenders, electing to represent himself. Brooks struggled to mount a defense, launching into meandering cross-examinations, refusing to recognize his own name or the court's jurisdiction over him and muttering under his breath that the trial wasn't fair. He got into such intense arguments with Judge Jennifer Dorow that several times during the lead-up to jury selection she moved him into another courtroom where he could watch the proceedings via video and she could mute his microphone when he became disruptive. Dorow allowed Brooks back into the main courtroom to deliver his closing to jurors face to face. In a rambling, repetitive speech, he tried to raise doubts about whether the SUV's throttle malfunctioned and whether the driver simply panicked. He lamented how he hasn't been able to see his children since he was arrested and insisted he's not a murderer.

La Crosse Tribune reporter Steve Rundio can be reached at steve.rundio@lee.net.

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Tomah Journal editor

Steve Rundio is editor of the Tomah Journal. Contact him at 608-374-7785.

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