Defendant Todd Kendhammer takes stand in murder trial

Defendant Todd Kendhammer takes stand in murder trial

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - Jurors in the Todd Kendhammer murder trial heard directly from the defendant himself in court Tuesday as he took the stand.

Kendhammer, a West Salem man, is accused of staging a freak accident -- claiming a pipe flew through his windshield -- to cover up the murder of his wife, Barbara Kendhammer.

Todd Kendhammer testified that he doesn't like crying in front of people, but it was hard for him to hold back tears as he spoke about his dead wife.

He kept jurors' attention on the stand as he retold his version of what happened, not backing down when asked if he hurt Barbara. 

But for many of the district attorney's questions, he didn't have answers.

"It's one of those things you know immediately, that's the girl I want,” Kendhammer said, describing the first time he met his wife and their decades-long relationship. He choked up when some of their pictures were shown in the courtroom.

"In 25 years, besides work, were you ever apart?" defense attorney Stephen Hurley asked.

"Very seldom," Kendhammer said.

His 23-year-old son Jordan Kendhammer took the stand, speaking about his parents relationship.

“I would describe their relationship as perfect,” Jordan Kendhammer said, testifying that he didn’t see them argue.

The defendant himself rejected the idea that he and his wife ever argued and said finances weren't an issue.

Kendhammer took back statements he made during his interview with investigators days after the alleged crash, saying he wasn't on his way to Justin Heim's house to fix someone's truck windshield, which Heim disputed in earlier testimony. Rather, Kendhammer said he was actually looking for the truck of another man he hadn’t named before trial.

"And now today you have a third story,” district attorney Gruenke said.

"No, I have a second story,” Kendhammer said.

District attorney Tim Gruenke asked Kendhammer details about the day of the incident. Kendhammer responded with "I don't recall" dozens of times.

"When police noted scratches on your neck ... you first noted it was from working with glass,” Grunke said.

"Correct, I said that,” Kendhammer said.

“That was a lie."

"It wasn't a lie."

"It was not true."

"It was not true."

Kendhammer said he was reacting rather than thinking through his actions during the incident and wasn't in the right state of mind during his interview with investigators days after the alleged crash.

"I wasn't thinking of where I was going or what I was doing,” Kendhammer said. “I was thinking of Barb."

Kendhammer said he didn't have an explanation for why Barbara, usually a very punctual worker, didn't call in when she knew she'd be late for work that morning.

Throughout the day, Kendhammer remained solid on the fact he didn't kill his wife.

"Did you love Barb?" Hurley asked.

“Yes,” he responded.”

"Did you love her on September 16 of last year?”

“Yes, I still do.”

"Would you ever do anything to hurt Barb?"

“No, I never have, ever." 

The defense also called emergency doctor Steven Cook to the stand this morning. He believes Barbara's injuries were consistent with the pipe explanation and the subsequent injuries that would occur with her being unconscious and thrown around in a moving car and then being taken out of the car.

The defense questioned his background in forensic pathology, and Cook testified that some of her injuries could have resulted from a fight.

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