Two men were charged with felony theft Thursday after they took two bicycles worth a combined $7,000 from a La Crosse hotel.

Jacob Kessler


Jacob W. Kessler, 39, and Alex J. Hayter, 23, neither with a permanent address, are accused of stealing a bolt cutter from Walmart about 10:56 p.m. May 2 and using it to cut the lock on the bicycles outside The Charmant Hotel early the next morning.

According to the complaint, Kessler and Hayter went to Walmart and were seen on security cameras cut the barcode on a metal brush, putting it on the bolt cutters instead, using the self-checkout to pay $1.88 for an $11.88 item.

They then went to downtown La Crosse wearing clown noses and were spotted cutting the bike lock off the bicycles — one worth $3,000 and another worth $4,000 — in the Charmant’s valet lot, according to the La Crosse Police Department. Two La Crosse police officers who were mere blocks from the hotel responded to the call at 12:04 a.m. May 3 and split up, one following Kessler and the other following Hayter, according to the report.

Kessler gave police his name, then a false first name before admitting he attempted to lie, and had a Walmart receipt in his pocket, according to the complaint. He admitted to police he cut the lock on the bicycles, saying “he was walking past the bicycles in the lot and could not believe that that caliber of a bicycle was just sitting there on the back of someone’s vehicle to be taken,” according to the criminal complaint.

Police say Kessler abandoned the bike a few blocks away and ran from police on foot, before he was caught. “You got me,” Kessler told police, according to the report.

Hayter rode southbound on the other bike, before crashing it while attempting to jump a curb, according to police. He told officers he was helping Kessler out in exchange for a place to stay.

Kessler was charged in La Crosse County Circuit Court with theft as a party to a crime, felony bail jumping, criminal damage to property as a party to a crime, obstructing an officer and retail theft as a party to a crime, all as a repeat offender.

Hayter was also charged with theft as a party to a crime, felony bail jumping, criminal damage to property as a party to a crime and retail theft as a party to a crime, all as a repeat offender.

Both men have a history of misdemeanor convictions, including retail theft, and Kessler has been convicted of five felonies, including uttering a forgery and burglary in 2016.

Kessler was issued a $1,000 signature bond; however, he remains jailed on a probation hold. Hayter was released on bond May 3 on the condition he sign up for drug testing with Justice Support Services.

The bikes were returned to the owners.

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


City government reporter

Jourdan Vian is a reporter and columnist covering local government and city issues for the La Crosse Tribune. You can contact her at 608-791-8218.

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