Twelve jurors deliberated a little over three hours on Thursday, Sept. 19, and when they returned to the Sawyer County Courtroom they found Christopher A. Grover, 44, Hayward, guilty of 15 felony offenses related to arson fires and damage to religious property on the night of July 14, 2012, on the Lac Courte Oreilles (LCO) Reservation.
Grover had been charged with nine counts of arson and six counts of damage to religious property for fires and damage at six sites to eight structures, including a dance circle in the Town of Sand Lake, sweat lodges used for ceremonial purification in the towns of Hayward and Bass Lake, two wigwams and a travel trailer at the Trading Post off Highway K and the LCO Pow Wow grounds and Ceremonial Lodge, with nearby sweat lodge off Trepania Road, all in the Town of Hayward.
After the verdict, Judge John Yackel ordered revocation of Grover's bond and a pre-sentence investigation from the Department of Corrections. Yackel set the initial sentence hearing for Nov. 25.
Six of the arson charges are Class C felonies punishable by up to 40 years in state prison and a maximum fine of $100,000. The other offenses are Class I felonies with the maximum sentence of three and a half years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
Grover said that he would
immediately request an appeal.
Before the jury went into deliberations on Thursday, Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General Richard Dufour delivered the closing argument for the state. As he did in his opening statement Monday, Sept 16, Dufour stated Grover's motivation for the offenses was seeking revenge on those who practice the Midewinin religion for "placing bad medicine on him."
Dufour told the jurors the six sites had either overt Midewinin significance — such as the dance circle, sweat lodges, pow wow grounds and ceremonial lodge — or, as in the case of the Trading Post, was owned by a person, Paul DeMain, who practices the Midewinin religion.
He contended all the fires were intentionally set and supported it with evidence including the defendant's statement, forensics, motive and opportunity, singed hair on Grover's arm, gas drive-offs captured on gas station surveillance cameras, gas present on Grover's shoe, an observation from Grover's daughter Cynthia and items found in Grover's vehicle.
First, Dufour said, when law enforcement officials asked Grover how the fires were set that Grover had said "gasoline." He said Grover had the option of saying, "I don't know" and Dufour also noted that gasoline residue was found in the soil at several of the sites.
Second, Dufour said, the blue and red paint chips on Grover's vehicle matched the damaged blue and red railing at the dance circle that appeared to have been rammed by a vehicle, and there was also evidence of a vehicle with the same tire pattern as Grover's with three tires of one specific type and a fourth of a different brand.
Third, concerning motive and opportunity, Dufour said, Grover blamed the stabbing of a daughter in Minnesota with having been cursed by those who practice the Midewiwin religion. And concerning opportunity, Dufour noted the time to travel by vehicle between the six sites was 28 minutes, sufficient span of time for Grover to have traveled to all the sites between 9:30 and 11 p.m. on July 14.
Fourth, Dufour said, when law enforcement officers talked to Grover after the fire they noticed his arm hair appeared to have been singed and one officer noted the smell of signed hair.
Fifth, Dufour said, gas station surveillance video documented Grover acquiring nearly five gallons of gasoline the night of July 14 and later the suspected gas can was found empty. He said the gas wasn't needed in Grover's car that had been filled at 9:30 p.m. nor could the defense explain what happened to the gas.
Sixth, he said, the state's expert said one of the common places for finding gas on an arsonist is the shoe, and gas had been found on Grover's shoes even though it had not been found on his clothing.
Seventh, Dufour said Grover's daughter, Cynthia Grover, then 13, had reported to her grandfather that when she was picked up by her father later that evening there had been a gas can along with a flashlight and gloves in the vehicle, and then later the state found a lighter and matches in Grover's vehicle, even though Grover had stopped smoking.
Lastly, Dufour showed an image of what appeared a gold vehicle, similar to the color of Grover's, that was captured by the Grindstone Casino surveillance video in proximity to the Trading post just after 11 p.m. before a fire was reported there.
Closing defense arguments
Defense Attorney James Krave said the state had to prove Grover was at each of the six sites and Dufour had failed to accomplish that.
"There was no evidence that he was at any of the sites," Krave said.
Krave said the time when Grover's image was first captured on a surveillance video at 9:30 p.m. and until 11 p.m., the time frame of the last fires, was not enough time for one person to have started all the fires.
He noted the only location where the state had any forensic evidence is the dance circle, but Krave wouldn't concede it proved Grover had done any damage at the site.
Concerning the gold vehicle image captured on the Grindstone Casino surveillance video camera, Krave argued it appeared to him it was a "17-foot boat on a trailer."
He noted gas had not been found on any of Grover's clothes, and surveillance video capturing Grover driving off with gas on two occasions didn't prove he started the fires.
Krave said at least 12 of the 15 charges hadn't been proven by the state and reminded the jurors they had to consider each charge separately with a presumption of innocence for his client with the burden of proof of guilt resting on the state.
Previously, during opening statements on Monday, Krave said he would provide a family member who had witnessed Grover spending most of the evening of July 14 reading his Bible by the side of lake, but in closing arguments Krave didn't mention an alibi for Grover.
After Krave spoke, Dufour gave a rebuttal.
He noted the forensic evidence at the dance circle included gas residue found at 10 locations around the railing.
Addressing the state's burden of proving guilt by beyond a reasonable doubt, Dufour said, that didn't mean the jurors had to look for reasonable doubt with the evidence.
"You are not to search for doubt but search for the truth," Dufour said
Then he closed by asking the jurors one question.
"Where did all that gas go?"
The presence of elk in the Hayward area is well known, but the presence of moose? Until last week, it was pretty much unheard of.
But Don Fogal, Town of Spider Lake roads superintendent, changed all that at about noon last Wednesday, Sept. 18, when he observed — and shot a video — of a bull moose ambling off Forest Road 336 (also known as Manthey Road).
Fogal said public reaction to the video has ranged from "disbelief" to "awesome."
Fogal shared the video with the Record Thursday, Sept. 19, and it was posted to the newspaper's website and Facebook page, where it had been viewed more than 4,600 times as of Monday.
"Sawyer County must be doing something right for animals like this to feel welcome again," commented Facebook friend and former Record reporter Margaret Dumas.
Fogal was on FR 336 last Wednesday when he noticed the moose. It had walked from the west side of the road and down into a small depression. When Fogal got out of truck to shoot the video the moose slowly walked up out of the depression and out of sight.
The timing was fortunate, Fogal said, because if the moose had been on flat ground or on higher elevation it probably would have sprinted away instead of walking away slowly, allowing Fogal to capture the video.
A bull moose was photographed in Mercer in Iron County on Friday, Sept. 6. Fogal received images of the Mercer moose and he believes it is the same one he saw. If that is the case, then the animal had traveled approximately 50 miles west in
After Fogal shot his video, he received a text message saying the moose had been seen near Forest Road 203 east of Teal Lake. He believes that second sighting is from either Saturday or Sunday, Sept. 21-22.
If the moose sighted on FR 203 is the one Fogal saw, then it had traveled west roughly seven miles.
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Wildlife Biologist Laine Stowell said moose sightings are not uncommon in the area, and he noted one year a moose walked right through the Village of Winter.
In 2008 there was a sighting of a bull moose near Highway W in the Flambeau River State Forest. At the same time there were sightings of a moose near Grantsburg and also another in Taylor County near Jump River and Pershing Wildlife Area.
Since 2011, Stowell said, game cameras have been placed in the Clam Lake area to monitor the elk herd and occasionally the cameras capture an image of a moose.
Stowell said moose are typically seen this time of year because it is mating season and the young bulls have been pushed out of their territories in northeastern Minnesota or the Upper Peninsula of Michigan by bigger, older bulls.
"They are looking for love in all the wrong places," Stowell said.
However, not all the moose seen in the area are young bulls. In September 2015, a Canadian National train crew spotted a large bull moose east of Phillips in Price County with its antlers entangled in utility wires. The wire was still attached to a utility pole the moose had broken and was dragging. The moose was darted with a tranquilizer and the wire was removed.
An August 2016, an Outdoornews.com article titled "Wisconsin moose numbers very low, but remain steady," was posted after a July 5 shooting of a cow moose in Vilas County by Lac du Flambeau tribal members.
The article noted that residents of Vilas and Iron counties in 2016 had observed a cow moose with two moose calves, indicating that there might be moose reproducing in Wisconsin.
Stowell said the only cow moose with calves that has been seen in recent years has been closer to the Michigan herd where there are a few hundred animals.
The Outdoornews article also quoted Kevin Wallenfang, DNR big game ecologist, who reported that there are annually 20 moose sightings in the state.
Stowell said northern Wisconsin is on the lower fringe of moose territory. Moose are prevented from developing a larger population here because they are susceptible to a brain worm parasite that deer carry, a parasite that doesn't harm deer but will kill a moose.
"It's been shown where 68 percent of deer carry the brain worm parasite, where you have an area with an abundant deer population, it will be really difficult for the moose to survive," he said.
Report a sighting
To officially make an online report of a large mammal observed in Wisconsin, go to the DNR page dnr.wi.gov/topic/wildlifehabitat/mammallobsform.asp.
Large mammals that are typically reported include moose, cougar, lynx, wolf and wolverine.
Starting Jan. 1, all participants using the Sawyer County forest will be subject to a new event fee, following approval of the new fee set Sept. 19 by the Sawyer County Board of Supervisors.
The previous event fee of $1 per participant had excluded all American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation (ABSF) events on the premise that the ABSF, locally referred to as the Birkie, annually spends significant amounts for construction and maintenance of trails that are used by many organizations other than ABSF alone.
The new event fee will now apply to Birkie events.
Participants will pay based on a sliding scale based on the amount of the entry fee: $1 for entry fees up to $40; $2 for entry fees of $41 to $80; $3 for entry fees of $81 to $120; and
$4 for entry fees of $120 or more.
Based just on the number of participants for the annual Birkie ski races in February, which attract more than 10,000 skiers and charge $160 for an entry fee, the new event fee at $4 per person would generate $40,000. The ABSF's March Fat Bike race, with entry fees ranging from $55 to $95, will be charged $2 to $3 for the 1,000 riders who typically participate, generating another $2,500 to $3,000.
The Chequamegon Mountain Bike Festival, which charges an $89 entry fee and typically attracts more than 3,000 between its two races, would generate $9,000 at $3 a head.
Just for the three biggest events over county forest, roughly $52,000 would be collected.
At the Sept. 19 board meeting, County Forest Administrator Greg Peterson presented three options he had previously presented to stakeholders, including ABSF and Chequamegon Area Mountain Bike Association (CAMBA) and the Land, Water and Forest Resources Committee for consideration:
• Option 1: A sliding scale based on entry fee: $1 for under $40 entry fees, $3 for between $40$80 entry fees; and $5 for over $80 fees, projected to generate $22,650.
• Option 2: Charging based on the number entrants: $1 for events with under 500 participants; $3 for 501-1,000; $5 for 1,001-1,500; and $7 for 1,500 and above, projected to generate $33,850.
• Option 3: A straight $1.50 event fee per participant regardless of entry fee or number of participants, projected to generate $27,975.
In August, the Land, Water and Forest Resources Committee recommended approving the third option. However, the full board didn't vote on the recommendation in August because County Board Chair Tweed Shuman and Committee Chair Bruce Paulsen wanted to give Peterson time to assemble better information before the board.
But Peterson presented no new information Sept. 19, and said none of the stakeholders who use county trails were in favor of increasing the event fee to $1.50, but felt of the three options three was the "most reasonable."
During discussion, Supervisor Kathy McCoy made a motion to amend Option 1 with a different fee scale that was eventually approved. She said her recommendation was "more equitable" than charging a fee of $1.50 because a straight fee represented a higher percentage of those entry fees charging under $40 versus those charging over $120. Her plan, she said, kept the event fees at 2.5 percent of the entry fee with the exception of the $4 fee for events with $120 entry fees.
Before she presented her proposal, McCoy presented an argument for raising the fee and including the Birkie events.
"All of these events are wonderful events," she said. "They bring people to our area. They bring money to our area. The county gets additional sales tax revenue. They are a good thing. There's no doubt about it.
"But I also want to point out that these events, and more people coming to our area, put increased demands on the county infrastructure, on our roads, our law enforcement, our EMT services" she said.
McCoy said the county has been under levy limits for 10 years, which has restricted its ability to raise taxes and now is looking at cutting services to stay within budget when it should be looking at increasing services to attract people.
"I know nobody wants to pay more money, but everyone does want more services," she said. "When we have an event going on and it snows, everyone wants those roads plowed, and they want them plowed now so that people can get to these events."
She didn't perceive why someone who is paying $140 to $150 for an event would complain of paying $3 or $4 more.
Supervisor Tom Duffy, who is also the county's representative on the ABSF board, objected to including the ABSF in the new event fee system. He said there should be a distinction between those who "use the trail and go home and those who use the trail and contribute something back."
Duffy said the ABSF is the one that maintains the trail year round.
"They expend over $200,000 a year doing that," he said. "We have the finest trail, perhaps, in the world because the snow is so well groomed. Besides that, they maintain six cottages they built along the trail that can be used by anyone who uses the trail, hunters, bikers, skiers whatever. It includes a stove, toilet, running water, lights."
Looking ahead to challenges, he talked about the Birkie investing in snow making infrastructure.
"The Birkebeiner makes nothing on the race," Duffy added. "It is invested all back into the trail, and to put them in the same category as someone who uses the trail and goes home isn't fair. I wish instead of charging them $1.50 we would give them $1.50. They do more for the county even when looking at what the tax base is. Their motto has basically been 'good health through exercise,' and they've sold that to the skiers to the point where many of them have bought second homes here and it is a huge increase in what our tax base is."
A new event fee, he said, "sends the wrong message" and he predicted Bayfield County would follow suit and also charge an event fee to ABSF.
"I think we have to think seriously before adopting that plan," Duffy said of McCoy's proposal.
Ben Popp, executive director of the ABSF, said the ABSF does pay for services used by the Birkie such as ambulance and police.
He also noted the county has a half-time position, $25,000, in the forestry department who works on motorized trails but there is no equivalent for silent trails. Popp said he was not asking for a position and he noted funds for Birkie trails were raised from entry fees.
If a new event fee were imposed, Popp asked for a process allowing stakeholders to apply for grants to use those funds on trails.
Supervisor James Schlender asked Duffy if he feared the new event fee would discourage people from using the trails. Duffy again said it sends the wrong message and he noted at one time the county gave the Birkie funding to groom trails during winter. He also noted the significant investments the ABSF has made in recent years, including the wooden-portable bridge over Highway 63 for the February Birkie, the permanent bridge over Highway OO and the new bridge that will be built over Highway 77.
McCoy said the Birkie is already collecting a "user fee" from skiers that is actually a county fee the Birkie keeps for winter trail maintenance. In recent years, that user fee has amounted to roughly $80,000.
Duffy later pointed out the "user fee" doesn't cover half the cost of maintaining the trail.
"The Birkie is collecting all that money and they are keeping all of that money," McCoy said. "We signed a 10-year contract with the Birkie to give them the right to have that user fee for 10 years and for six terms of 10 years afterward, so they are applying user fees on behalf of the county."
McCoy acknowledged the ABSF had done some "great things" for the county, but said there also had to be way for the county to absorb the costs for providing services for all those events and the people who attend events.
"We are not taking this money out of the pockets of the Birkie or out of the pockets of the taxpayers or out of the pockets of the Lions (club)," she said. "These are what the participants are going to be charged."
Lastly, McCoy pointed out the county had helped the ABSF in the past and now it was time for the ABSF to help the county.
"I would just respond there were a lot of years the Birkie was in trouble and they didn't have enough money and the county came forward and gave the Birkie money so the event could continue to exist," she said. "The Birkie is in a position where they don't need our money at this point. Quite the opposite, the county is in a position where we need their money."
Vote: 8 in favor
Those voting yes to approve the new event fee included supervisors Ron Kinsley, Ron Buckholtz, Helen Dennis, Dale Schleeter, McCoy, Shuman, Troy Morgan and Elaine Nyberg.
Those voting no included Duffy, Paulsen and James Bassett
Supervisors Schlender and Marc Helwig abstained.
Later McCoy made a motion for all the event fees to go into the county's General Fund, where they are unrestricted in how they are used, instead of the Resource Development Fund, where the dollars have to be used for economic development.
McCoy's motion passed with a unanimous voice vote.
Several speakers shared their concerns about climate change and global warming during a rally attended by about 3 0 persons Friday, Sept. 20, beside the "Tree of Peace" on the lawn in front of the WOJB Radio studios on the Lac Courte Oreilles reservation.
The local gathering coincided with worldwide public demonstrations that day, primarily led by young people, to demand action from government and business leaders to deal with global warming.
One of the speakers, Carol Duffy of Hayward (mother of now-retired Congressman Sean Duffy, R-Wis.), said that on Sept. 7 "I welcomed into our family and the world our 25th great-grandchild." She shared an interview she saw on TV recently where the interviewee stated, 'The earth is like a house on fire and there's no one coming to put out the fire."
"That scares me very much," Duffy said. "The speaker also said that any child born now will more than likely die from a climate crisis," whether from floods, drought, hurricanes, tornadoes, bad water. "I thought this is really terrible; it tears me in the heart," she said.
Duffy added that "I come from a big family and half of my family does not be
lieve there is a climate crisis. But it's happening. After listening to Greta (Thunberg, 16-year-old climate change activist from Sweden), I thought I have to make a difference. It isn't about hope, it's about action. I will take action in my home, my community. I'm not going to be quiet anymore. This little girl (Thunberg) is such an inspiration. It behooves all of us to look at and listen to what happens. I'm an old lady, but I'm not too old to act."
Duffy said she wants stores to stop using plastic bags, like California and Alaska have done.
Carol Duffy introduced Claudia Duffy of Hayward — one of her 33 grandchildren — who just graduated from St. Thomas University with a degree in environmental studies and sustainability. "I have great hopes for her. She is so inspiring to me," Carol said.
Claudia said, "I was about 18 years old before I heard about human im pact on the environment and the degradation that's going on. Since learning these things, I decided to take them into my own life and talk to other people.
"I find it so much easier to talk to the younger generation than my parents' generation," she said. "They (older folks) often answer 'I don't really care because I'm not going to be alive to see the effects (of climate change).' But I believe education and communicating with others is so important to create change. I have so many friends, teachers and peers I have reached out to and shared what I've learned about biology and sustainability. I've actually changed a lot of people's lives just from one conversation. They come to me months later and say 'I've done things in my life to lessen my impact.' It's awesome to hear that.
"Younger generations often feel like their voices don't matter because they're not old enough to make a difference on a macro level," Claudia added. "But it's comforting to hear that even on a micro level what you say and do does influence the people around you."
Claudia said she'd like to see more free recycling available locally. Besides recycling, she urges people to "eat less meat, walk instead of driving a car" and "turn off all your lights like your parents are always telling you to do, but you sometimes forget.
"Little things can make a difference, that little kids can understand and voice to their parents and maybe their parents will change," she added.
"It's very easy to go zero waste, but people don't want to change their habits," Claudia added. She said her grandma takes re-usable glass jars and fills them with things at the store that are normally bought in plastic. Likewise, people can use water bottles instead of plastic, she said. "It's easier than you think; it just takes a little bit of change."
"Our vote makes a difference," said Carol Duffy.
David Fleming said the Town of Hayward recycling center on Chippewa Trail accepts recyclable materials for free, but only accepts two types of plastics: those labeled 1 and 2.
People at the gathering listened to a recording of an interview with Greta Thunberg. She also spoke this week to the United Nations in New York.
Tree of Peace
Dennis White, a faculty member at Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Community College, gave the opening prayer at Friday's gathering. Zach LaRonge smudged individuals attending the gathering and distributed tobacco to those attending. Each took a pinch of the Asema and sprinkled it at the base of the Tree of Peace.
The Tree of Peace at WOJB is a white pine planted in a ceremony more than 30 years ago by Jake Swamp, an elder from the Mohawk Nation in New York. The tree is underlain by pipestone, which is used by American Indians to make calumets — peace pipes.
Roberta Crowe recited the English translation of the prayer spoken by Jake Swamp during the Tree of Peace planting at WOJB.
Tom Blumenberg said, "A meeting like this is important, because I think the politicians are not paying attention to the wishes of the people."
Cleo White said when she and her husband Dennis lived in Madison in the 1980s, it was mandatory for everybody to recycle. "If you didn't recycle, you got fined for it," she said. "So from that day onward, we recycle everything all the time. We also do composting."
White added that she has a daughter with multiple sclerosis and believes that the cause of the disease is "environmental, that it came from (the water) we drank in Signor.
"People should be cautious of what you are putting into the earth and taking from the earth," she said.
David Fleming, a member of the business faculty at Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Community College, said that "Over the years we've seen businesses focus only on profit with no consideration for the environment, which is what Greta Thunberg has been saying. There's no motive for businesses to respond to the changes in climate, because there's no profit in it. There's more profit for them to continue doing what they do, even as they watch the climate burn.
"But in a consumerbased society we have an option to change our habits and vote with our dollars," Fleming said. "When you're in the grocery store, look for the re-usable and sustainable (products). It will cost a little more, because you're not just buying a product, but a sustainable idea."
Claudia Duffy recited a speech given by Chief Seattle in the 1850s. He stated in part: "Teach your children that the earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons and daughters of the earth. The earth does not belong to us. We belong to the earth. All things are connected. We did not weave the web, we are merely a strand in it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves."
The participants in the Sept. 20 gathering at WOJB included fifth grade students from the nearby Waadookodaading School.