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Testimony resumes for a fourth day today in the La Crosse, Wisconsin murder trial of Todd Kendhammer. Prosecutors allege he killed his wife, Barbara, then made up a story about a freak car accident to explain his wife’s injuries. The defendant told authorities that a pipe fell off a truck, crashed through the windshield of the car he was driving, and that his wife, who was in the passenger seat, was struck by the pipe, flailed around, and was severely injured. Barbara Kendhammer later died at the hospital.
First responders and the state’s key witness, a medical examiner, testified previously.
Yesterday, deputy medical examiner Sandra Carlson testified that she knew Barbara Kendhammer because their daughters were friends. Kendhammer told her that a rash below his wife’s neck might have been from when he poked at her to “get her to wake up.” He said he didn’t shake her because he “didn’t want to jar her neck.” He further said that the lacerations at the base of her skull could have come from when he had to basically drag her out of the car, but he “wasn’t quite sure.” The jury asked Carlson why she didn’t exclude herself from the autopsy due to knowing the family. Carlson responded that she wasn’t close enough with the Kendhammers to consider it real relationship and therefore concluded that no conflict existed.
Investigator Fritz Leinfelder of the La Crosse County Sheriff’s Department played a three-and-a-half-hour recording of an interview with the defendant. Leinfelder said he had already interviewed concluded that Kendhammer was lying about what he was up to the day of the incident, but Leinfelder also admitted he had some of his own story incorrect. The recording covered the Kendhammer family plans the day of the incident, family finances, and what the defendant claimed happened. Kendhammer’s story remained consistent as a whole; however, because Leinfelder and another officer kept asking him the same questions over and over, Kendhammer did start to speculate about things he repeatedly said he didn’t know.
Richard Amundsen, a sheriff’s department investigator, introduced more security camera footage from businesses in the general vicinity of where the incident happened. He reviewed footage plus or minus about a half an hour from when the pipe is said by the defendant to have struck his windshield. Investigators have been unable to spot the truck which the defendant vaguely described as carrying the pipe, but defense attorneys pointed out that if the truck was making deliveries to local homes, the window of footage reviewed by the investigators wouldn’t have caught the truck, anyway. The defense also pointed out that there are other ways to get to the scene of the incident. Had the truck used those other routes, it would have avoided any security cameras, and there would be no video record of its movement.
Capt. John Zimmerman, the lead investigator, took the stand again to talk about Google GPS plots from Kendhammer’s cell phone. He also discussed a press release his department sent to local news agencies about what happened. In it, he asked anyone who was in the vicinity of the incident to call his office if they saw anything “suspicious.” Nowhere in the press release did he elicit the public’s help in searching for a truck, which was vaguely described by the defendant, which could have dropped a pipe.
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