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Todd Kendhammer’s attorneys want the judge who presided over his trial to recuse himself from the case days before he is scheduled to sentence Kendhammer for the 2016 death of his wife.

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Todd Kendhammer

Todd Kendhammer

Barbara C. Kendhammer

Barb Kendhammer

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La Crosse County Circuit Judge Todd Bjerke

Bjerke

Madison-based attorneys Stephen Hurley and Jonas Bednarek accuse La Crosse County Circuit Judge Todd Bjerke of bias and argue that he catered to the media during Kendhammer’s December trial.

They want another judge to impose sentence, according to a motion filed Tuesday.

Bjerke must issue a ruling before Kendhammer’s sentencing can move forward on Friday. He faces a life sentence for first-degree intentional homicide, but a judge could find him eligible for release after a minimum 20-year imprisonment.

Kendhammer, 47, early Sept. 16, 2016, fatally beat his wife of 25 years and then tried to conceal the cause of her death by staging a freak car accident. Barbara Kendhammer died the next day.

The West Salem man claimed he was driving north on Hwy. M in the town of Hamilton about 8 a.m. when what he thought was a bird but determined was a 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.

Kendhammer said he was driving with his wife to pick up a truck owned in turn by Justin Heim, 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 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.

There was no blood on the ends of the pipe, which struck the exterior of the glass before it broke through, and there was no blood on Barbara’s headrest, according to the State Crime Laboratory. She suffered three bone-deep cuts on the back of her head, among a host of other injuries.

A jury found Todd Kendhammer guilty of first-degree intentional homicide on Dec. 14 after nine hours of deliberations.

In their motion filed Tuesday, Kendhammer’s attorneys called pre-trial publicity “extensive” and tainted by “bias in favor of guilt,” singling out the Tribune for coverage that could have biased potential jurors. The newspaper published 12 articles on Kendhammer’s case before trial; the newspaper published 36 articles on Eric Koula’s case before his 2012 trial for the deaths of his parents.

Law enforcement “provided the media” with interviews, crime lab reports, photographs, videos and 911 tapes that the newspaper published “without any critical analysis,” according to the motion by Kendhammer’s lawyers.

The La Crosse County Sheriff’s Department and Wisconsin State Patrol released those records under Wisconsin open record law. Defense attorneys declined to respond to repeated Tribune requests for comment before, during and after the trial.

Bjerke accommodated the media at Kendhammer’s trial by asking attorneys to speak into stationary microphones so reporters could hear proceedings and when he had a podium positioned in a “cattle chute-like configuration” for closing arguments to benefit television cameras, according to the motion.

The judge, they argued, also had Kendhammer move his late wife’s water jug from the railing of the witness stand during his testimony after he received a note the attorneys assumed came from reporters.

La Crosse County judge fines potential jurors who failed to show up for Kendhammer trial

“During trial, the court catered to the needs of the media at the expense of the accused — at the expense of the attorney-client privilege and at the expense of the effective presentation of evidence to the jury,” according to the motion.

Kendhammer’s attorneys will argue at sentencing that he should be eligible for release at the minimum 20 years, citing strong family support, although a pre-sentence investigation recommended no opportunity for release “based on the severity of injuries to Barbara,” according to a brief also filed Tuesday.

Letters submitted to the court by the couple’s children and other family members and supporters shared anecdotes of a family-oriented man known for his kindness.

“I know in my heart that Todd didn’t hurt Barbara,” her mother, Joyce Adams, wrote.


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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 ajungen@lacrossetribune.com or 608-791-8224.

(16) comments

Shushup

Proud Lax Dem, I’m talking about that there was a reserved seating section the whole time of the trial for people that were there to support Barbara and not a single person showed up according to the Tribune which is just unimaginable to say the least since all of these comments are coming that she wanted to leave him but not one person would go on the stand to state that as a fact. If you know something about his despicable behavior which there is plenty from what I hear PLEASE SPEAK UP, don’t let this creep breath another day outside of prison!!

awol2009

Todd Kendhammer has Charles Manson eyes.

Proud LAX Dem

Shushup, who are you talking about? All the comments here are hostile to Todd.

onmymind

Too bad the truth just cannot be told by all of them. Todd, her Mom, and the kids as well. Barb had enough of Todd's controlling ways. After 25 years of it, she wanted to leave him. The family knew this. However, he controlled that too and was not going to let her leave him. So in the end she lost her life, just for finally wanting one. There is so much more to this that did not come out. More questions needed to be asked for closure. Barb’s Mom is in such denial. He had her brainwashed too. Where is Todd’s Mom and brother, etc? Why were they never called to the stand? They knew how he was. Evidentially they were not even there for his trial? This speaks volume. The main person that suffers here now is Barb’s granddaughter and any other future grandchildren. They will never know their Grandma because of what Grandpa did. What a violent death and how she must have suffered. She did her best to fight him off and leave evidence that he did this to her. He is grasping trying not to go to prison. That is where you are going Todd. I stand with Barb!!!! God rest her soul.

Conservative Grandma

People will speak up once he is sentenced to prison for life and they don't need to worry about what he could do to them. Yes, interesting that his own family - sibs, parent were not called to testify. Barb wanted out of the marriage and Todd couldn't handle it. Blessings to her grandchild and any future grandchildren.

Shushup

I wish people would stop hiding behind their computers and quit being afraid of this Lynch mob family and actually stand up for Barbara!!! I can’t believe the cowards in this town to write messages on here and wouldn’t even state what they know in fear for their own selves, how awful, what if this was your daughter, mother, relative?? Stand up for what’s right!!

YellowBee

In the picture of him, he looks like the cat who swallowed the canary!!

manUP

It is so embarassing that he is acting like the weasel he is at the last minute before sentencing.. He is disgustingly guilty and him wasting tax payers money and time on his trial already was pathetic. Now the worm wants a chance to get out around his late 60's? Really?! I bet his wife wouldve loved that chance as well, however HE took that from her. Also I have never commented on family in any situation, but this time I am SO disgusted that I really do not care. The facts are Barbaras mom needs to stop with the rose colored glasses bs. It makes me sick to my stomach thinking of what his wife suffered through, ending in her brutal DEATH, taken from her children and taken from her LIFE at the hands of the weasel she loved for 25years. For her MOM to play STUPID is like spitting in her daughters face. How sick can A person be??!? Her DAUGHTERS LIFE was TAKEN FROM THAT LOSER, AND YET SHE IS GOING TO STAND BY HIM!? She needs mental help immediately. I get it how the children do not want to believe their dad did it, that is much easier for them to go along with him rather than face the truth that the man they love and trusted murdered their mom. I get that. But HER MOM, COME ON!!!!!!!!!! Poor Barbara has to look down and see all of her loved ones,including her own MOM defending him, it is so seriously messed up, I cannot even wrap my head around it. One thing we know about him, is he is the dumbest piece of shi*#@$ on earth. I cannot wait until the prison inmates get ahold of him , ha!

Conservative Grandma

Agree, agree, agree! The attorneys are just pissed that Judge Bjerke made them toe the line in court. After repeatedly asking them to use the microphone so the court reporter and the jury could hear the questioning, Judge Bjerke showed them who runs the court in La Crosse County. This is all just a stall and an attorney strategy to ensure that Kendhammer doesn't come after them for not representing him well. The sooner this is over and Kendhammer is sent to prison, the better it will be. Barbara is at peace (after being controlled by that man for 25 years) and hopefully MOM and kids can get there too.I believe the kids are hanging on to any glimmer of hope there could possibly be; however, both kids have had their moments with their father - ask the daughter about planning her wedding and ask the son about camping trips, just to name a few. Todd has never been told no .... I think that morning or the night before, Barbara spoke up to him and see what happened to her. Maybe the son knows what happened?? So DONE with this!

YellowBee

I agree with you Grandma. Send him to prison for life....no parole. I hope the kids can see through his lies.

canman

Kendhammer is delusional, it’s too bad he has friends and family brainwashed, he’ll love the the attention the hard core cons will lavish on him.

madmen60

This is a legal strategy, probably designed to mitigate an ineffective assistance of counsel claim. Don't read more into it.

awol2009

What a desperate request.

BichonFrise

Changing Judges this close to sentencing is never a good idea!! Most times the 2nd Judge will be harder then the first one.

Conservative Grandma

Oh man .... what a stretch from Mr. Hotshot attorney. The Judge did his job and someone just does;t like the outcome.

Technomom

If he confessed to losing control, they might give him fewer years. The lack of confession will give the judge few alternatives to life in prison. Change of judge is a way to buy time so he can stay in jail longer and put off entering a state prison. My thoughts are with Barbara.

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