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Man sentenced to 30 years for reckless homicide in drug death

Stating that there is "a need to deter this type of heinous activity," Judge John P. Anderson Monday, Sept. 14, sentenced 29-year-old Jonathan Ray Kakazu of Stone Lake to 15 years in prison followed by 15 years of supervised release for first-degree reckless homicide by delivering drugs.

Kakazu pleaded guilty to delivering heroin laced with fentanyl to 21-year-old Cassidy Joy Metropulos of Hayward, who consumed the drug and died Aug. 27, 2019.

Kakazu appeared in court Monday with his attorneys: public defenders Ryan Reid and Joseph Schieffer. The prosecutors were District Attorney Bruce Poquette and Assistant Attorney General Chad Verbeten.

The sentence imposed by Judge Anderson is more severe than the sentence of 24 years (12 years confinement, 12 years supervised release) that was jointly recommended by

the state and the defense.

Poquette said there is a "need to protect the public" by incarcerating Kakazu. He cited past convictions of Kakazu, including misdemeanor theft, violating probation, resisting arrest and fleeing an officer.

On June 17, 2018, Kakazu was released from prison and returned to Sawyer County, where he "absconded from supervision" and became involved with other individuals in distributing heroin, Poquette said. He was returned to prison and was released on March, 22, 2019, and again absconded from supervision.

On Aug. 27, 2019, Cassidy Metropulos "died after using drugs delivered to her by Jonathan Kakazu," Poquette said. "He admitted selling fentanyl" to her.

"Kakazu has taken very little responsibility for his actions," Poquette added. "This criminal thinking has been going on for quite some time. We have a huge problem with meth and heroin in Sawyer County. The people selling this are only looking out for themselves. The number one goal (of sentencing) is to protect the public, to prevent more deaths."

Approximately 45 people attended the sentencing Monday in Sawyer County Circuit Court, including family members of both Metropulos and Kakazu.

Three people spoke on the witness stand on behalf of the prosecution. Metropulos' mother, Kimberly Dale, and grandmother, Linda Froemel, both urged the judge to impose the maximum sentence permitted by law: 40 years in prison.

"Cassidy's laugh was contagious," Dale said. "She saw the good in everyone. It's a daily struggle to learn to live without her. Please give him the maximum sentence for taking her precious life away from me."

Froemel said Cassidy worked at several different jobs and "was great with people. She loved her friends and family, respected her elders and loved children."

"We will go through life seeing an empty spot where she should be."

John Rothlisberger said Cassidy was a friend of his daughters. "We're not supposed to bury our children," he said. "You only live once." He urged the judge to "send the message to the next person that wants to sell drugs that there are severe consequences. The maximum sentence has been imposed on Cassidy Joy Metropulos."

On behalf of the defense, attorney Schieffer said, "This was not an intentional homicide, but reckless drug use and addiction. Metropulos struggled with her own demons. She got the drugs that she sought. This wasn't her first time using heroin." Kakazu used the same drugs that he sold to Metropulos, Schieffer said. "This shows the grip that they (drugs) had on him. The devil is severe drug dependency. He (Kakazu) accepts the fact that he should be punished for this."

Kakazu started selling Ritalin at the age of 10, Schieffer said. "He doesn't have ill intent and is not a violent person. He used drugs to battle his demons. Cassidy is someone he thought highly of and he didn't seek to intentionally harm her. He has remorse. He is willing to seek professional help."

Both of Kakazu's siblings are in prison, Schieffer added.

Kakazu spoke to the court, stating that he is "deeply sorry. It's a tragedy I will think about each day. I take full responsibility for my actions and hope they (the family of Metropulos) will one day forgive me."

Judge cites record

Judge Anderson said Kakazu has 14 prior criminal convictions, starting when he was age 17.

The state Department of Corrections (DOC) recommended that Kakazu receive a sentence of 16 to 18 years (nine to 10 years of confinement plus seven to eight years of extended supervision), the judge said. The presentence report indicated that Kakazu has not had a job since at least age 16.

Kakazu "makes his living by selling drugs," Anderson said. "He has a long history of drug use and a criminal history going back to his teens. He has a pattern of undesirable behavior. You're hip deep into the drug trade.

"You have blood on your hands," the judge told Kakazu. "This was not a suicide; you sold her poison.

"You knew full well that some of this heroin was laced with fentanyl, which kills quickly," the judge told Kakazu. "You would have to be an idiot to think it's OK. Someone is dead, mostly because of your recklessness, callousness.

"When people deal drugs, some (drug users) die and many more have their lives ruined. It's not good; it's all bad," Anderson said. "There is no redeeming quality in this whatsoever. The public needs to be protected from drug dealers."

Putting drug dealers in prison is "like playing Whack A Mole," Anderson added. "When one is incarcerated, another pops up. We're killing ourselves.

"It's like being back in the Garden of Eden," Anderson said. "The only way to solve that is to cut the head off the snake and all the other snakes after that. We need to deter this heinous activity."

The judge said that if Kakazu had not taken responsibility for his action by pleading guilty, he would have imposed the maximum sentence of 40 years in prison. He said Kakazu's demeanor during the court proceedings "has been good" and he has shown remorse.

The judge dismissed but read into the record two other charges against Kakazu:

Conspiracy to deliver more than 50 grams of heroin from Aug. 29 through Dec. 31, 2017, in the Town of Hayward; and possession of heroin in the city of Hayward Feb. 4, 2018.

As conditions of his sentence, Kakazu must pay $8,761.75 restitution to the victim's family for funeral and medical expenses and counseling, have no contact with the victim's family, maintain absolute sobriety, complete any counseling and moral recognition therapy deemed appropriate, undergo an alcohol or drug assessment, take cognitive behavioral therapy and pay court costs. He was credited with 456 days served in jail.

"You have blood on your hands. This was not a suicide; you sold her poison."

—Judge John P. Anderson

County moves to give teeth to public health orders

Both the county Public Safety Committee and Health and Human Services (HHS) Board are attempting to revise an existing ordinance to ensure orders issued by the Sawyer County Public Health Officer Julia Lyons will be enforced, supported by citations and forfeitures.

The Safety Committee met Sept. 3 and the HHS Board met Sept. 8 to consider revisions to the current ordinance prepared by Corporate Counsel Rebecca Roeker.

County Administrator Tom Hoff told members of each body that the public health officer clearly has authority under state statutes to issue orders for the county, including a version of the state order requiring masks in public in order to control the spread of COVID-19. That order expires on Sept. 28.

However, Hoff said, the county's current ordinance — Chapter 3, "Communicable Disease and Public Human Health Hazards" — has enforceability issues that require a revision.

The motivation to revise the county ordinance stems from the Wisconsin Supreme Court's May 13 ruling overturning an extension of the emergency Safer at Home order issued by Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm.

The court ruled against Palm, finding that under state statutes governing the DHS secretary's office she had overstepped her authority by making a decision without being granted an extension from the Legislature.

After the court decision, Hoff said, the Wisconsin Counties Associations (WCA)

advised counties to review their related public health ordinances to ensure enforceability of the public health officer's orders.

The WCA advised that county public health officers, operating under a different state statute than the DHS secretary, still have authority to issues orders within their counties. But the WCA also advised counties to add legislative oversight to health officer orders to secure a better position against legal challenges.

Roeker proposed adding legislative oversight by requiring the county board of supervisors to ratify orders issued by the public health officer.

She said the oversight also addresses any concern that the public health officer has "too much discretionary (authority) for a non-elected official."

Sheriff's role?

Safety committee members expressed concern that the role of the sheriff in issuing citations had not been spelled out or given enough significance in Roeker's proposal. Supervisor Chuck Van Etten said he had more confidence in the sheriff's office issuing citations rather than a "civilian" and "public health nurse," referring to the public health officer issuing citations.

However, when Van Etten appeared at the HHS Board meeting Sept. 8, of which he is also a member, he said he had a better understanding of the public health officer's legal authority.

On Sept. 8, the HHS board received an updated revised version of Roeker's proposal that included revisions requested by the safety committee, most noticeably making the sheriff a more active player in issuing citations.

However, at the Sept. 8 meeting Sheriff Doug Mrotek said his office shouldn't be the agency issuing citations or the primary enforcer because his staff doesn't have the public health expertise and also lacked the time and resources.

"From my perspective, I think when it comes to elected officials establishing an ordinance, that's their role, that's a better process, better government," Mrotek said. As for enforcement, he said, "I think it is best if your department heads are responsible, just like your zoning department head is in charge of zoning."

Mrotek said he would rather his staff work "collaboratively" with the public health officer, offering help when help is requested.

"I am not in favor of bringing the sheriff's office in on enforcement," he added.

Lyons agreed with Mrotek and encouraged the HHS board to remove a line requested by the safety committee that would recognize the sheriff's office's "discretion" regarding authority to issue citations.

County Board Chair Tweed Shuman also said he is concerned with "stripping authority" from the public health officer position and didn't see the need to note the sheriff's office as agency of enforcement.

Both Lyons and Mrotek discussed how they had worked collaboratively addressing COVID-19 concerns and saw no reason for changing that dynamic by making the sheriff's office a decider when it comes to citations and enforcement.

The HHS board tabled further discussion, but agreed that a representative number of members would meet with Roeker and propose changes, as members of the safety committee had previously done.

SUV driver killed in collision with school bus near Exeland

The driver of a sport utility vehicle was killed in a head-on collision with a school bus at the junction of State Highways 40 and 48 and County Road D near Exeland Thursday, Sept. 10. The Sawyer County Sheriff's Office reported that the driver of the SUV, Renee C. Balko, 40, of Bruce, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Sheriff Doug Mrotek said the sheriff's office received the report at 6:34 p.m. of the two-vehicle crash in the Town of Weirgor, approximately one mile east of Exeland at the junction of Highways 40 and 48.

Deputies and the Sawyer County EMS, fire departments from Exeland, Radisson and Winter, Birchwood Four Corners Emergency Services District, the Wisconsin State Patrol and the Sawyer County Highway Department responded to the scene.

Mrotek said the initial investigation indicated that a 2015 Bruce School District bus driven by Sherrie L. Mataczynski, 54, of Exeland was northbound on Highway 40, transporting four students after sports practices had concluded.

Mrotek said the bus failed to yield the right of way when making a left turn onto Highway 48 and collided head-on with a 2007 Dodge Nitro operated by Renee C. Balko, 40, of Bruce.

Balko was pronounced dead at the scene. Mataczynski was transported to an area hospital for medical treatment. The extent of her injuries is unknown, Mrotek said.

The four students on the bus, two of whom had minor injuries, were treated at the scene and released to their parents or guardians.

The crash remains under investigation by the Wisconsin State Patrol, Sawyer County Sheriff's Office and Sawyer County coroner's office.

The Bruce School District Facebook page stated that the bus involved in the accident was a late bus for athletic participants. The district stated that the four students on the bus were medically evaluated and are under parent or guardian care.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of the driver of the other vehicle," school district officials said on the website. "We are deeply concerned for each of the families involved. Bruce School District is cooperating with law enforcement's investigation."

Both the SUV and the bus were severely damaged.

School board extends mask rule
Vote is 5-1, with one against extension

The Hayward Community Schools Board of Education on Monday, Sept. 14, voted 5-1 to require students, staff and all others in the school buildings and on school buses to continue wearing face coverings through the first quarter of the school year, which ends Nov. 3.

Gov. Tony Evers' current statewide masking order ends on Sept. 28. The governor has not yet decided whether to extend that order.

Two high school teachers spoke to the board about how the current instructional format is doing so far.

Art teacher Kelly Egger said that as a parent and teacher, "It has been a struggle to get our online platform as good as we want it to be in class. Clearly there are some hiccups and issues that we're trying to resolve. I have a lot of online students. There are almost 200 high school students (online) right now."

Egger said parents of

online students must be allowed to communicate with teachers on 
Fridays, which is the day each week that the buildings are closed. Egger added, "I don't think online is going away. This whole COVID (pandemic) opened the doors for that. Kids love technology. We have to appeal to every student and parent that wants to make that effort."

Board president Linda Plante said the board stands by its decision to have the in-person and online options for students through the first quarter. Students attending in person are in the buildings Monday through Thursday and learn online Fridays when the buildings are closed.

Social studies teacher Matt Shilling said face coverings should be required at least through the first semester.

"I have talked with numerous teachers who said they will strongly consider not returning (to work) after the mask mandate ends on Sept. 28 and is no longer followed in the high school, which means we will have to find teachers to fill those spots," he said.

"The health of myself and my family is very important. When I wear a mask, at least I feel safe when I'm locked up in a room with 15 kids, who I don't know where they go when they leave the building," Shilling added. "Please consider the safety of all so we can keep the doors open."

Dr. Harry Malcolm strongly encouraged the board to continue the face mask requirement.

"Our biggest goal is to keep the kids in school face-to-face," and doctors and nurses working with potential COVID patients "strongly believe" in face masks, he said. "We think it makes a difference in how much exposure you get (to the virus) and how sick you get."

"Our priority has to be keeping the staff and students well" so school doesn't have to be closed down, Malcolm added.

"This is a health issue," Mike Kelsey said. "It's an inconvenience, but I believe we should continue the masking."

"The best way to make face-to-face instruction possible is to continue that (face mask) policy," Plante said.

Board member Jim Ahrens said there have been no cases of COVID in the schools yet, "but I think we need (the face mask policy) for the safety of staff and students."

Supt. Craig Olson said, "We have not seen an issue with students (and face coverings) at all." He said teachers use it as a learning opportunity rather than a disciplinary issue.

The board voted 5-1 to continue the face mask requirement through the first quarter, and then to re-examine the policy based on COVID cases. Voting in favor were Plante, Lynell Swenson, Kelsey, Ahrens and Malcolm. Stacey Hessel voted against the motion and Derek Hand was absent.

Olson reported that 2,039 students are enrolled this fall. Of that number, 540, or about one-fourth, are attending virtually. There are 267 nonresident students enrolled here, and 79 resident students chose to attend schools in other districts. Overall there are 1,851 resident students attending the Hayward Community Schools.

By building, the number of students is: Primary, 478 total, including 127 virtual; intermediate, 425 students total, including 92 virtual; middle school, 511 students total, including 141 virtual; and high school, 625 total, including 180 virtual.

Plante said there have been persistent rumors that "summer people" from the Twin Cities have decided to stay in the Hayward area and that their kids would enroll in the Hayward schools this fall. But "the rumors are not accurate," Olson said. The number of nonresident students enrolling this year "is about the same as every year," he said.

Annual budget

The board approved the 2020-21 budget for presentation at the school district's annual meeting Monday, Sept. 28.

The budget calls for total expenditures of $26,084,293, an increase of about $416,000 or 2.21% over last year.

The proposed tax levy is $17,717,340 for the general fund, $1,433,250 for non-referendum debt service and $75,000 for a new community service fund, a total of $19,225,590.

The tax (mil) rate would be $6.3319 per $1,000 of equalized property value, an increase of about 14 cents over last year's rate based on no increase in the total property value. If property values rise 1%, the mil rate will stay the same as last year's, Malcolm said. The statewide average mil rate is $9.37.

Malcolm said the district is getting $549,000 in CARES Act funding, plus $300,000 in COVID relief to help keep people safe in the school and to support online instruction.

The total budget is "balanced," Malcolm added.

The district saved about $56,000 in energy costs due to the recent upgrades in heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment, Malcolm indicated.

Other matters

In other action, the board:

• Approved a three-year contract with the Hayward Sports Center for rental of 300 hours of ice time per year for the high school hockey teams. The school district will pay a fee of $40,000 per season for the first two seasons and $41,600 for the third season.

• Accepted the resignations of cheerleader coach Stephanie Olson, seventh grade boys and girls basketball coach David Lee, assistant football coaches Pat Thompson and Matt Clark, and ninth grade boys basketball coach Stu Neville. 
"I have enjoyed coaching, but feel it is time to hang it up," Lee said. "I am resigning due to COVID-19 concerns," Neville said.

• Hired Amanda Stevenson as a district health aide. Her experience includes work as a Sawyer County EMT and as a certified nurse assistant at Hayward Area Memorial Hospital. Supt. Olson said there are still two health aide positions open.

• Accepted recent donations to the district, including a large amount of school supplies to the Intermediate School from The Element Church; a pack of Extra gum for every staff member from Hayward Wesleyan Church; and more than 100 homemade face coverings for all schools, donated by the Piecemakers Quilt Guild.

• Heard from Bill Sande that Northern Waters Environmental School has 31 students this year, all of them attending virtually. Sixteen are middle school and 15 high school.

Sports spectators

Olson reported that in consultation with Sawyer County Public Health Officer Julia Lyons, a maximum 400 people will be allowed in the high school gym during volleyball games this fall. Of those, 200 will be home team fans and 200 will be spectators from the visiting team.

Facial coverings and social distancing will be required at all times. Some out-of-town venues may require spectators to have a game pass, which will be distributed prior to those games.

For those who do not feel safe attending volleyball games, the games will be live-streamed on the school district Facebook page and the YouTube channel.

For all sports this fall, there will be no admission fee and no concessions.

Young fans in kindergarten through eighth grade must be accompanied by a parent or guardian and must remain in close proximity to that person.

For football and boys soccer, there will be no capacity limit, but facial coverings will be required. Bleacher seating will be socially-distanced, or spectators can choose to stand on the sidelines or sit in their own chairs.

Financial academy

Business education teacher Julie Thompson reported on the Financial Services Academy, which offers students the chance to earn 14 college credits at no tuition cost and graduate from Hayward High School with a technical diploma from Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College. Four students are taking the academy this year, two of them virtually.

Thompson said students in the business education department can earn 27 college credits, which lead into a two-year or four-year program.

Business education teacher Adam Lamoureux spoke about the work experience program, which offers kids a chance to connect a class they are taking with a potential career.

HHS principal Dan VanderVelden said 10 students were enrolled in youth apprenticeships last year. They can work 18 hours a week if they are under age 16, and up to 40 hours a week if they are 16-18.

"We have lot of kids interested in work experience," VanderVelden said. The program is open to second semester juniors and seniors, who work during the school day. They can work for pay or not for pay.

"We have kids willing to work and earn high school credit. It also will help employers in our community. It aligns with 'What's Your Plan.' It's a really great opportunity for our kids," VanderVelden said. 
He added that students cannot be employed by family members or staff members.

Personnel actions

In their special meeting on Sept. 8, the board:

• Accepted the resignations of assistant girls softball coach Allison Parr, Johnson-O'Malley tutor Liz Thayer, intermediate school special education paraprofessional Debra Forsman, primary school speech language pathologist Ashley Marino as a fulltime employee, and fifth grade special education teacher Loralyn Eckstrom.

• Was notified of the retirement of maintenance employee Stephen Dixon.

• Voted to hire Andrea Sutton as intermediate school fifth grade special education teacher; Ashley Marino as part-time primary school speech language pathologist, Natasha Shimko as intermediate school intervention aide, Christopher Saalasti as intermediate school custodian, Kim Fristoe as middle school custodian, and Greg Boss as middle school football coach.

• Voted to hire several long-term substitute teachers: Danielle Kuczenski (primary school), Ashley Shuman (intermediate school), Paula Schirmer (middle school) and Michael Anderson (high school).

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