Comments Off on Gregory A. Kopelke, 31, of Wisconsin Rapids, charged with homicide in deaths of Barbara Baldwin, 71, and Louise Hemenway, 74, two sisters from New Lisbon – had Methamphetamine in his system at time of fatal crash

A Wisconsin Rapids man was allegedly under the influence of methamphetamine when he caused an accident killing two New Lisbon women and severely injuring a third last October.594456e5caf21.image

Gregory A. Kopelke, 31, was charged June 7 with two counts of homicide by vehicle under the use of a controlled substance and one charge of injury by use of vehicle while under the influence of drugs. Kopelke also faces felony charges for knowingly operating with a revoked license, causing death and causing great bodily harm. If convicted, Kopelke could face more than 70 years in prison.

According to court documents, on Oct. 25, 2016, Kopelke’s vehicle crossed the center line while going around a curve along Highway 80 in the town of Dexter. His Jeep Cherokee struck a Pontiac Vibe head on, killing driver Barbara Baldwin, 71, and passenger Louise Hemenway, 74, and traumatically injuring another 73-year-old passenger. The second passenger allegedly suffered several fractured ribs, spinal and sternum fractures, a broken left elbow and leg, along with a broken clavicle and collapsed lung. All three victims were sisters.

Through a blood test, authorities confirmed Kopelke had methamphetamine in his system at the time of the accident. He had previously been charged twice with operating a vehicle with a revoked license and both cases were open when the accident occurred.

Capt. Shawn Becker, who oversees the patrol division at the Wood County Sheriff’s Department, said Kopelke was in court June 15 for his initial appearance. He will have a preliminary hearing and arraignment June 30 at 3:15 p.m. inside Wood County Circuit Court.

Due to the complexity of the case, Becker said it took several months for Kopelke to be charged.

“In any case like this where we have a fatality, or in this case multiple fatalities in a car crash, we have a reconstruction that takes place,” Becker said. “Usually the State Patrol helps out with a lot of those cases so it took awhile to get a lot of that information put together. What also took some time was to get the toxicology results from Kopelke. Once we got the results of his blood test, we were able to move forward with referring the criminal charges to the district attorney’s office.”

During Kopelke’s initial appearance, Judge Todd Wolf set a $20,000 cash bond, which Kopelke was unable to pay. Becker said Kopelke remains in custody.

“That bond is pretty significant, which it should be for this type of case when we’re looking at three victims, two that lost their life as the result of him driving under the influence,” Becker said. “The preliminary hearing is basically a probable cause hearing. The court will hear testimony from officers and investigators who were at the scene, determine whether there is probably cause to proceed with the case and then from there we’ll go to trial.”

With methamphetamine addiction growing throughout rural Wisconsin, Becker said last fall’s deadly accident puts another spotlight on the perils of using the drug.

“It’s not just exclusive to Wood County or the state, it’s everywhere and it does bring a lot of attention to it when we have a situation like this where two people died,” Becker said.


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