Crime

Jury starts deliberations in Kendhammer murder trial

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - The fate of a West Salem man accused of killing his wife and staging a freak car accident is now in the hands of jurors. Jurors were given final instructions before being sequestered shortly before noon Thursday. 

While they have not reached a verdict as of 8 p.m., there is a possibility that they could work late into the night or be sequestered at a hotel. They would then not be allowed to discuss the case until they return to the courthouse Friday morning. 

Before the jurors left to discuss the evidence and testimony presented during the trial, attorneys for the state and defense attempted to wrap up any loose ends while providing theories about what led to Barbara Kendhammer's death.

La Crosse County District Attorney Tim Gruenke started off day nine of the trial by saying he thought they had proved their case beyond a reasonable doubt. Since the state has the burden of proof in this case, the prosecution must prove two elements: that the defendant caused Barbara Kendhammer's death and that he intended to kill her. 

Gruenke told the jury that the defendant Todd Kendhammer had lied multiple times about who he was driving to see the day of the car accident. Kendhammer first said that he was going to Justin Heim about needing a windshield. He changed that again and said that it was Ben Pfaff he was headed to see, but Pfaff said he didn't know the defendant. 

The District Attorney then launched into his theory that something happened that led Todd to brutally beat his wife Barbara while inside the car. He did not provide what this reason could have been. 

"It did not come from a pipe that came through a window from a truck or otherwise. The injuries were intentionally inflicted by the defendant.These weren't accidents," said Gruenke. "They weren't just fooling around and it got out of hand. And, he intended to kill her by keeping her from getting help, hiding her from Mr. Erler, not calling 911."

After a brief break, defense attorney Stephen Hurley gave his closing arguments. He said that while experts couldn't explain all of the wounds sustained by Mrs. Kendhammer, that doesn't mean foul play was involved.

He questioned how Todd's DNA evidence was collected from under Barbara's nails. He said that DNA didn't come from a fight and that you would expect to find this because they were a couple.

The defense also argued that police were instantly suspicious of Todd's story and never considered alternative theories. 

"Right away interpreting inaccuracies as lies rather than the product of distress," said Hurley. "In less than two hours they were at his home questioning his son Jordan- do they argue? How are their finances?"

When the state was offered a final rebuttal, the District Attorney imitated how long it was before Todd called 911 by dramatically staring at a clock at the back of the courtroom for two minutes in front of the jury.

News 8 will broadcast live on the News8000 Facebook page when a verdict has been reached.

 


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