In attack after attack, prosecutor Timothy Gruenke hammered defendant Todd Kendhammer’s various versions of what happened the day Kendhammer says a pipe crashed through the windshield of a car he was driving and fatally injured his wife, who was in the passenger seat. Kendhammer has maintained that he pulled onto a side road, extracted his wife from the car, performed CPR, and called 911. Kendhammer said he was on his way to check out a vehicle which needed a new windshield, but prosecutors say that story makes no sense because his wife was due to be at work around the time the incident happened.
“Now, you have a third story,” Gruenke snapped back after the defendant tried to claim he was looking for a truck which needed a new windshield at a location he did not first discuss with the police. Kendhammer claimed he was mistaken during his first version of the story and that it was only two stories: one involving the acquaintance of a coworker and one involving a truck in another location. The state accused him of making up a story about looking for a truck from a person he didn’t know in a location he couldn’t name just moments before his wife was scheduled to be at work.
Gruenke also accused Kendhammer of lying about driving around Thursday night after work. Kendhammer said he couldn’t recall his precise movements.
Gruenke accused Kendhammer of lying to the police about when his wife was scheduled to begin work. He originally told the police his wife was supposed to start work at 8:30 a.m. Her work schedule was to report at 8:00 a.m., and if she was going to be late, she’d have to call in, the state asked the defendant. The defendant admitted she needed to be at work at 8:00 a.m., that five minutes before that, he was driving away from where she worked with her in the car, and that she never called in to work.
“She knew she had to be there at 8:00,” Gruenke asked. At “five minutes to eight, you were driving north,” he added. The defendant agreed, but disagreed that the reason his wife didn’t call in late to work was “because she wasn’t able,” as Gruenke insinuated. Gruenke characterized Barbara Kendhammer as punctual, on time, and could have called in because her phone was in the back seat of the car she was in with her husband. “Do you find it odd?” Gruenke asked. “Yes. I find a lot of things odd. I don’t have an explanation for it,” Kendhammer answered from the witness stand.
Gruenke also questioned why Barbara Kendhammer didn’t place her usual morning phone call to her mother that day. Barbara Kendhammer’s routine was to call her mother on the way to work at about 7:45 a.m. for about ten minutes every single workday, the state said, and presented phone call records to back that up. Barbara Kendhammer was worried about her mother’s health and even wanted her to move in. However, the day of the incident, Todd Kendhammer called his wife’s mother at 7:20 a.m. Gruenke asked why Barbara Kendhammer didn’t call her mother that morning, even though she was a passenger in her husband’s car. Todd Kendhammer claimed sometimes he, not Barbara, called Barbara’s mother.
Todd Kendhammer testified that there was no stress in his marriage. Gruenke countered that he was about to change work schedules, was in trouble at work for calling in sick too often, that he was about to call in sick again that day, and that Barbara didn’t like Todd working nights and weekends, and had trouble working with people at various jobs. Kendhammer disagreed. When asked if Kendhammer had cuts on his neck from working with glass, Kendhammer admitted that he didn’t work with glass at his current job, and that the cuts were not from glass. He said his original statement “was not true,” but also said it was not a “lie.”
Gruenke also tried to insinuate that the defendant and his wife had money problems. He pointed to a $4,000 electric bill, text messages about unpaid bills, and had problems flipping the houses the couple sometimes bought and sold. (The defense later called a bank employee to say the couple did not appear to have money issues based on the amounts in their accounts.)
Gruenke grilled Kendhammer over his version of events surrounding the pipe allegedly crashing through his windshield and injuring his wife. He asked Kendhammer whether one of his wife’s shoes was outside his car, while the other was inside. Kendhammer said it was not a sign of a struggle.
Gruenke also asked Kendhammer why he claims he reached out to punch or knock the pipe out of the way as it flew toward his windshield. Kendhammer at first said it was a bird. “If you didn’t know what it was until after, why would you need to hit the windshield?” Gruenke asked, and said Kendhammer would not have needed to punch a bird out of the way.
Kendhammer testified he punched the windshield with his left hand. Gruenke wanted to know why he had injuries on all eight knuckles. He didn’t know how the injuries to his other hand occurred. Earlier, he told authorities he hit the windshield with both hands, but testified he didn’t lose control of the car and didn’t recall whether he locked up the brakes.
Gruenke asked, “Your memory fades in some areas and is clear in others. Is it possible you’re making up your story?” Kendhammer said, “No.” Gruenke accused Kendhammer of “lying,” failing to keep his “story straight,” of “making up facts,” and of lying in an attempt to keep his facts straight.
The prosecutor said grass found in the trunk of the defendant’s vehicle suggests the trunk was open at the scene and that it was shut, trapping grass inside. Gruenke suggested Kendhammer opened the trunk to retrieve the pipe, beat his wife, and then closed the trunk. The defendant disagreed. Gruenke also suggested the attack was occurring when a passer-by happened upon the car but didn’t see anyone around. Gruenke said the attack could have been happening in a ditch below the scene, which appears to have been covered with tall grass. Kendhammer later said could not explain why he threw the pipe behind the car after he claims to have taken it out of the windshield.
When asked why he yanked his wife out of the car without knowing the severity of her injuries after the pipe allegedly went through the windshield, Kendhammer said, “It was a pretty good adrenaline rush.” Gruenke went on to question the position and angle Kendhammer says his wife was laying in at the side of the road after the incident.
Gruenke went on to suggest that Kendhammer broke his wife’s nose by punching her in the face, strangled her, and covered her mouth so she couldn’t breathe. He went to to ask Kendhammer why he wasn’t wearing his wedding ring at the scene. Kendhammer said he took it off because he was afraid his hands would swell due to the injuries to his knuckles. Gruenke pointed out that there was no blood on the passenger side window where his wife was sitting, no blood on the back of her seat, no blood on the headrest, and bruises on his wife’s hand, arms, and legs. He also suggested that Kendhammer broke a water mug by using it to strike the windshield. The defense says the mug was broken because Barbara Kendhammer may have been drinking from it when the pipe struck the windshield.
Gruenke accused Kendhammer of trying “to manipulate police” by giving false information and hoping “they wouldn’t check it out.” Kendhammer denied that charge. Gruenke said Kendhammer tried to describe the truck from which he claims the pipe fell “in detail” to make the story “more believable,” ultimately “sending police on a wild goose chase.” Gruenke accused Kendhammer of “acting offended” to try to throw the police off when they cornered him about discrepancies in his story and asked if Kendhammer changed his “story at trial because [he] knew the police had figured out [the] lies.” Kendhammer said no.
Gruenke also chastised the defendant for failing to correct his statement to the police. Kendhammer said he was going with his wife to check out a windshield which needed replacement, but the man who owned the truck and a mutual acquaintance said they had no knowledge of the plan. Kendhammer testified that he realized he was incorrect about which vehicle he was going to check out “a week after the incident,” but didn’t call the police to tell them.
Finally, Gruenke asked Kendhammer why he didn’t drop his wife off at work, then go looking for the truck which supposedly needed a new windshield. Kendhammer said he didn’t know.