A defendant accused of killing his wife in western Wisconsin and of disguising the crime as a freak pipe-through-the-windshield car accident has taken the stand in his own defense. The defendant, Todd Kendhammer, is accused of first-degree intentional homicide with relation to the death of his 46-year-old wife, Barbara Kendhammer.
After lengthy testimony to describe his family, his work, his relationship with his wife, his movements the morning of the incident, and his plans for that day, Kendhammer began testifying about the incident which he claims led to his wife’s death. Defense attorney Stephen Hurley asked his client why he thought it was a bird. “I didn’t think a pipe could fly,” Kendhammer replied.
Kendhammer continued testifying that he wasn’t sure where the pipe struck his vehicle. He could only approximate the location.
He said his reaction to the pipe was to lunge forward and hit the windshield.
Kendhammer testified he hit the windshield with his left hand and that he couldn’t remember what he did with his right hand. (In an earlier statement to the authorities, Kendhammer said he used both hands to his the windshield.) Kendhammer testified that he was right-handed.
The defendant testified that he didn’t wear his seat belt, but that he believed his wife always did. He wasn’t sure if she was wearing it this day, however. He testified he had to reach to his wife’s side of the vehicle with his right hand to “push her back up.” His wife began “flailing around.” He described her as “limp,” as if “she had no control of her muscles.”
Kendhammer testified to pulling onto a side road, stopping, and accidentally backing the car into a ditch. He got out of the car, went to the passenger side where his wife was sitting, and tried to get her out. She was leaning forward in the passenger seat. Her door wouldn’t stay open, so it was hard to remove her from the vehicle, he testified. He tried to position himself between her and the door. He can’t remember if she was bleeding. She wasn’t moving.
Kendhammer testified he removed the pipe from the windshield, but can’t recall whether he “threw the pipe or set it down.” (In a previous statement to the police, Kendhammer said he removed the pipe from the windshield after getting his wife out of the car and while he was trying to find his phone to call 911.) Authorities later recovered it behind the car. He said that he reached around his wife with both arms to remove her from the passenger seat. He “gave a tug,” and his wife fell out of the seat and landed on him. He said their heads landed near the right wheel, where authorities later found blood.
Kendhammer testified he rolled his wife off of him and started doing CPR. Blood started coming from her nose, mouth, and ear. At some point, he repositioned his wife during a 911 call, but doesn’t remember how. He heard paramedics drive past the scene on the main road.
Just before court broke for lunch, Hurley asked Kendhammer if he had ever bashed his wife’s head against the wheel rim, if he had ever hit his wife in the face using her drinking mug, or if he had ever hit his wife. He testified he had never done any of those things.
Kendhammer previously told authorities in a recorded interview that he believes the pipe fell off of a flatbed truck. Investigators could not locate a similar truck driving past neighboring surveillance cameras, but admitted some roads which led to the incident scene were not monitored by cameras and that it was possible for a truck to have driven past Kendhammer’s car without detection. Defense attorneys said police reviewed too narrow a window of footage as well.
We will continue to monitor Kendhammer’s testimony after court returns from lunch.