On Thursday, a La Crosse, Wisconsin jury convicted Todd Kendhammer of first-degree intentional homicide for the death of his wife, Barbara Kendhammer. The verdict came down shortly after 9:00 p.m. Central time. The jury chose to deliberate into the night. Had the jury not arrived at a verdict, it would have been sequestered.
During the trial, Kendhammer took the stand in his own defense and claimed a pipe fell from a passing truck, struck his windshield, and fatally injured his wife. Police, prosecutors, and the local medical medical examiner think Barbara Kendhammer’s injuries were too severe for a freak car accident and believed instead that she was murdered by her husband. First-degree intentional homicide in Wisconsin requires neither premeditation nor motive.
During closing arguments, prosecutors told jurors to seek the truth about what happened to Barbara and that the truth did not in any way support the defendant. The state said Todd Kendhammer just threw up “smokescreens” for the police by making up a story, and sometimes changing it, to go along with what investigators were discovering as they went along. Eventually, Kandhammer’s story unraveled, they said. The prosecutor also slapped back at testimony from the defendant’s own children which suggested he had a “perfect” relationship with his wife. The prosecutor said sometimes people act out of character and that sometimes good people did bad things.
The prosecutor also told jurors that if they believed Kendhammer lied and covered something up, then he is guilty. The prosecutor then went through which parts of Kendhammer’s story police either could not corroborate or which turned out to be incorrect when police attempted to verify what happened. Police could not find the truck from which the pipe purportedly fell. Kendhammer told police his wife had to be at work at 8:30 a.m., rather than her true start time of 8:00 a.m., and the prosecutor said that was evidence that Kendhammer was trying to cover for why he was driving away from his wife’s work location with her in the vehicle around the time she was supposed to be at work. Kendhammer also claimed he was going to check out a windshield which needed to be repaired. The first person he claimed he was going to help said he didn’t need a windshield replaced and wasn’t planning on Kendhammer helping him or meeting him. Later, Kendhammer claimed he named the wrong person. The second person Kendhammer named said he didn’t need a windshield replaced and had no reason to know why Kendhammer would be looking for him that day.
The prosecutor referred to Kendhammer’s statements as “all lies.” He said Barbara Kendhammer was in a fight and was being beaten all over her body in different directions. He says the police and paramedics found Kendhammer with a stretched-out and bloodied shirt, sweating, excited, with cuts on his knuckles and scratches on the side of his neck. Kendhammer said the cuts on his hands were from punching the windshield in an attempt to deflect the pipe which he claims fell from the truck. Kendhammer said he hit the windshield with both hands at one point, then said he hit it with his left hand. He is right-handed, he testified, and his wife was sitting to his right in the passenger seat.
Defense attorney Stephen Hurley told jurors that the pipe could not account for all of Barbara Kendhammer’s injuries, but it accounted for most of them. (The rest could have been caused during her extraction from the car or during subsequent medical treatment.) He also told jurors that it is not the defendant’s job to prove his innocence and that it was improper for them to hold Kendhammer accountable for not knowing how everything occurred during the purported emergency event of the pipe striking the windshield.
During Kendhammer’s police interview, he frequently told police he didn’t know how everything happened, then, after repeated questioning, appeared to speculate to fill in the blanks.
This report has been updated.