2014 brings legal gay marriage to Wisconsin

December 21, 2014

   
      

In this Feb. 6, 2014 file photo, a $5 million Stradivarius violin is displayed at the Milwaukee Police Department in Milwaukee, a day after police recovered the instrument stolen on Jan. 27, 2014 from a concertmaster. Two men were accused of using a stun gun on the concertmaster of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra to steal a 300-year-old, $5 million Stradivarius violin. The instrument was missing for nine days before police found it in good condition in a Milwaukee home. One of the men was sentenced him to seven years in prison, the other 3 1/2 years in prison.

MILWAUKEE Wisconsin's top story in 2014 was a historic one, as the state joined the ranks of those that allow gay marriage. But plenty of other headlines are worth remembering from the year that was, including Gov. Scott Walker demonstrating his resilience by winning his third election in four years, the theft of a 300-year-old violin and the disturbing case of the Slender Man stabbing.

SAME SEX MARRIAGE

A federal judge in Madison uncorked same-sex marriage in June when she struck down the state's ban. Gay couples across the state rushed to wed over several days before opponents stopped it temporarily. Four months later, the U.S. Supreme Court re-started it when it rejected appeals from gay marriage opponents in five states including Wisconsin, and hundreds of couples rushed to courthouse to exercise their right to marry.

SLENDER MAN

Much of Wisconsin heard of the spooky character "Slender Man" for the first time when he was evoked as an explanation for a horrific attack on a 12-year-old girl. Two of the girl's 12-year-old classmates were accused of stabbing her 19 times in a wooded area in Waukesha in what they said was an attempt to curry favor with the fictional Slender Man. The victim survived her wounds, and the girls were charged with first-degree attempted homicide.

       

In a Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014 file photo, Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker gives a thumbs up as he speaks at his campaign party, in West Allis, Wis. Gov. Scott Walker, after surviving a recall two years earlier, won his second term in November by easily beating former Trek executive Mary Burke. Walker soon confirmed what had long been speculated that he would explore a run for president. Meanwhile, Republicans grew their majorities in both the Senate and Assembly.

WISCONSIN GOVERNOR

Gov. Scott Walker, after surviving a recall two years earlier, won his second term in November by easily beating former Trek executive Mary Burke. Walker soon confirmed what had long been speculated that he would explore a run for president. Meanwhile, Republicans grew their majorities in both the Senate and Assembly.

DOE INVESTIGATION

Walker continued to be dogged by an investigation into whether his campaign during the 2012 recall illegally coordinated with conservative groups. A federal judge in Milwaukee halted the probe in May after a conservative group filed a lawsuit alleging the investigation violated its free speech rights. That ruling was subsequently overturned by an appeals court, but the probe remains on hold after the judge overseeing it quashed subpoenas investigators wanted to issue. This year also saw the release of more than 100,000 pages of emails and other documents collected during a now-closed investigation into activities in Walker's county executive office.

      

In this June 6, 2014 file photo, Jill Winkler, left, and Pamela Dietzler kiss after they were married at the Milwaukee County Courthouse, in Milwaukee. A federal judge in Madison uncorked same-sex marriage in June when she struck down the state's ban. Gay couples across the state rushed to wed over several days before opponents stopped it temporarily. Four months later, the U.S. Supreme Court re-started it when it rejected appeals from gay marriage opponents in five states including Wisconsin, and hundreds of couples rushed to courthouse to exercise their right to marry.

MILWAUKEE PARK SHOOTING

A Milwaukee police officer checking on a man in a downtown park shot the man to death after a struggle in April. Family members said Dontre Hamilton, 31, was schizophrenic but not violent, and challenged the police account of the shooting. Officer Christopher Manney was fired months later after an investigation found what police said was a failure to follow proper procedure. The shooting sparked regular protests, though not on the scale of those in Ferguson, Missouri, over the killing of an unarmed black teen.

VIOLIN THEFT

Two men were accused of using a stun gun on the concertmaster of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra to steal a 300-year-old, $5 million Stradivarius violin. The instrument was missing for nine days before police found it in good condition in a Milwaukee home. One of the men was sentenced him to seven years in prison, the other 3 1/2 years in prison.

MISSING NEWBORN

A Colorado woman was accused of kidnapping her newborn nephew from a Town of Beloit home in February. According to court documents and prosecutors, Kristin Smith took her half-sister's 4-day-old son, Kayden Powell, early on Feb. 5 and then abandoned him in a plastic tote outside an Iowa gas station as police closed in. The boy was found alive and well despite 29 hours in the cold, and Smith was eventually sentenced to 25 years in prison.

FORMER POLICE OFFICER CHARGED

A former West Allis police officer was charged in Kenosha County with the 2012 death of Jenny Gamez, a 19-year-old college student from Cottage Grove, Oregon. Steven Zelich, 52, was also a suspect in the death of a Farmington, Minnesota, woman. The women's bodies were found in June in suitcases dumped about an hour southwest of Milwaukee in Walworth County. Zelich allegedly told investigators that he met the women online and killed them accidentally during sex.

WISCONSIN UNIONS

The fight over Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's signature policy achievement, a law effectively ending collective bargaining for most public employees, ended in July with the state Supreme Court declaring it constitutional. Passage of the law in 2011 put Wisconsin at the center of a nationwide battle over union rights and fueled Walker's rise to national prominence.

VOTER ID

The U.S. Supreme Court blocked Wisconsin's voter photo identification law from going into effect less than a month before the Nov. 4 election.

MILWAUKEE ARCHDIOCESE BANKRUPTCY

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee filed its reorganization plan in its bankruptcy case in February, proposing $4 million for an estimated 125 victims of clergy sex abuse less than a fourth of those who filed claims. Other victims would receive therapy but no money. Much of the case hinges on a ruling by a federal appeals court in Chicago, which is considering whether a $55 million cemetery fund was properly made off-limits to creditors.