Crime

Todd Kendhammer sentenced to life in prison, chance of parole after 30 years

Todd Kendhammer sentenced to life in prison, chance of parole after 30 years

Judge Todd Bjerke sentenced Todd Kendhammer to life in prison, with a chance of parole after 30 years.

Kendhammer, of West Salem, was convicted of first-degree intentional homicide in the 2016 death of his wife, Barbara.

In a full courtroom today, Judge Todd Bjerke handed down the mandatory life sentence.

Throughout the trial, many friends and family of both Todd and Barbara showed support for Todd Kendhammer, and that was also the case for Friday, when four spoke asking for leniency in his sentencing.

But some of Barbara’s family members made it known they don't want Kendhammer to ever get out of prison.

"We are family too, with heavy hearts and compassion for all involved,” Barbara’s first cousin Gerianne Buchner Wettstein said.

That being said, she wants justice for Barbara.

"I do not stand alone,” Wettstein said.

Speaking on behalf of five other family members across the country, she asked the judge to sentence Todd Kendhammer, who maintains his innocence, to the harshest penalty for killing Barbara. 

"As we watched the trial unfold, our hearts were broken when we learned there were seats saved for anyone who would sit in support of Barbara, but no one did for the entire nine days,” Wettstein said. “All the while, the seats in support of her murderer overflowed."

Todd Kendhammer’s mother, daughter, son-in law and Barbara's brother spoke highly of his character, and at least a dozen others wrote letters to the judge with the same sentiment.

"My dad is an amazing, kind and caring person,” his daughter Jessica Servais said. "He was a very doting husband to my mom, and I feel I speak for her, myself, my brother, the rest of my family and our many supportive friends and neighbors when I ask for your consideration in my dad's eligibility for parole in 20 years,”

David Adams, Barbara’s brother, joined them in asking the judge to allow extended supervision for Todd Kendhammer after 20 years, speaking for both himself and he and Barbara’s mother.

"They all describe the same man,” Kendhammer’s defense attorney Jonas Bednarek said. “They describe a man who was caring, loving, helpful."

But La Crosse County District Attorney Tim Gruenke said afterward that Kendhammer's lies about what happened to his wife show his true character, regardless of what family members had to say.

"Pardon my language, but to be perfectly frank, they need to get their head out of their ass,” Gruenke said.

He asked the court to not allow Kendhammer any possibility of release.

"He did not show Barbara any mercy, I don't think he deserves any mercy at this point,” Gruenke said.

"This isn't a church” Bjerke, the judge, said. "I don't believe in mercy in the courtroom."

But Bjerke did say there should be some glimmer of hope.

"Twenty years is way too short. In my opinion, the length of your marriage at 25 years is way too short,” he said. “I'll set your parole eligibility date for March 9 of 2048."

When sentencing, Bjerke took into account factors such as Kendhammer's non-existent criminal record, the likelihood of being a harm to the community and his character.

 "It's done at this point, maybe people can start moving forward,” Gruenke said.

Todd Kendhammer also thanked his family and friends for their support.

While Kendhammer is eligible for extended supervision in 2048, Bjerke doesn't think a judge will release him unless he admits to killing his wife.

Kendhammer will be nearly 78 when he's eligible for extended supervision.

He will be serving his time at Dodge Correctional Institution in Waupun.

He does have the right to appeal his sentence.

You can read the sentencing support letters here:

 


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