A Western Wisconsin man, who was the target of a murder for hire plot, is taking his story to state lawmakers

Melanie Schrader is behind bars, her intended target says that's not enough
Schrader Melanie S 10 23 71
Melanie Schrader

CHIPPEWA COUNTY, Wis. (WKBT)- A Western Wisconsin man, who was the target of a murder for hire plot, is taking his story to state lawmakers. 

Derek Gerke’s former girlfriend tried to have him killed during a child custody battle. She’s in prison. Gerke says that’s not enough. 

The evidence was overwhelming. Investigators recorded the phone calls and meeting Melanie Schrader had with an undercover police officer she hired to kill Derek Gerke; her daughter’s father. 

Schrader faced 60 years in prison, but prosecutors offered her a plea. She was sentenced to just seven years behind bars. Schrader had accused Gerke of sexually abusing their daughter. Chippewa County District Attorney Wade Newell says none of the allegations were substantiated. But; he was afraid a parent on the jury would see things differently. “Her argument would be, I talked to law enforcement, they didn’t help me. The system let me down and didn’t help my daughter so I was the one who had to save my daughter,” says Newell.

 “We’re not happy with it,”, says Gerke. Gerke can’t change Schrader’s sentence, so he wants to change the law. “This is no joke. When people make the allegations, there needs to be some consequence when they are not true,” says Gerke.

Gerke and the non-profit Wisconsin for Families and Children are asking state lawmakers to make reporting false accusations, to gain leverage in a custody battle, punishable with a fine. “We think that, if you just let people know there could be a penalty repercussion to that, I think you will just naturally weed out the people who are doing it solely to get leverage,” says WFC President Tony Bickel.

A similar law is already on the books in Iowa, but Attorney Newell doesn’t want Wisconsin to follow suit.I would never, ever want a child or a parent working on behalf of a child or anyone else feel that they could not come forward with suspected abuse,” says Newell. Newell says the majority of people who make abuse allegations have good intentions; they want to protect kids. Newell won’t support any law that could keep their loved ones silent. “I want to make it clear, that’s the clear minority. There is no indication that everyone shouldn’t start out with premise that we are going to believe kids when they talk about abuse allegations; whether it be sexually or physical.”, says Newell.

It’s not clear whether lawmakers will support Gerke’s bill, but he feels some comfort knowing he’s safe. And; because of all the evidence investigators collected, the court ruled when Melanie Schrader is released from prison she will not be allowed to contact their daughter. The no contact order will end, when Schrader’s daughter is 19 years old. When she’s an adult and the court believes she can decide on her own whether to see her mom.

Wisconsin for Families and Children has chapters state-wide, including one in La Crosse. You can find more information here.