Brent L. Kaempf talks with his attorney, Jeffrey Jazgar of Green Bay, Monday in Marinette County Circuit Court. Kaempf entered a no contest plea in the murder of Patricia Waschbisch. He will be sentenced Jan. 10. EagleHerald/Dan Kitkowski
Brent L. Kaempf talks with his attorney, Jeffrey Jazgar of Green Bay, Monday in Marinette County Circuit Court. Kaempf entered a no contest plea in the murder of Patricia Waschbisch. He will be sentenced Jan. 10.
EagleHerald/Dan Kitkowski
MARINETTE - The 49-year-old Peshtigo man charged in the murder of a devoted domestic abuse advocate entered a no contest plea Monday in Marinette County Circuit Court Branch 1.
Brent L. Kaempf was charged with first-degree intentional homicide by use of a dangerous weapon for the April 28 stabbing of Patricia "Trish" Waschbisch, his 45-year-old girlfriend. In exchange for the no contest plea, the weapons enhancer penalty was dropped. The enhancer would add five years to a sentence, according to Marinette County Assistant District Attorney Kent Hoffmann.
Kaempf will be sentenced at 1 p.m. Jan. 10 in Branch 1. With the plea deal, he faces a minimum of 20 years in prison, although Circuit Judge Dave Miron could issue a longer sentence, including life in prison.
Hoffmann said he knew there was a possibility of a plea agreement on Monday, but he wasn't informed until defense attorney Jeffrey Jazgar mentioned it to him as he entered the courtroom for the status conference. He said the plea deal is best for everyone.
"Well, certainly the stress of a trial would be very tough on the family, the friends and the community," he said. "This was a very difficult thing - and tragic thing - for those individuals to go through. Avoiding a trial, hopefully avoids having to stir up those painful memories."
Hoffmann added that as a prosecutor, he's got the conviction for first degree intentional homicide, which is what he would have got at a trial.
"So we avoided the trial, the risk of a trial and particularly the emotional aspects for the victim's family and the community by this resolution," he said, adding that a conviction without going to trial also reduces appellate options for the defendant.
Hoffmann said he was limited in what he could talk about, but he did say he "was confident" had the case gone to trial.
Waschbisch was an adult legal advocate and interim director for the Rainbow House Domestic Abuse Services in Marinette. She had been with that organization since 2001.
Jessica Honish, the lead advocate for the Rainbow House, was in the courtroom Monday and afterward she said she was satisfied with the outcome.
"I am so excited that he protected the family," she said. "We don't have to have anybody on the stand, we can move on and we can rest assured we won't have to relive the gory details of what he did."
Honish said she believes Kaempf will get a much stiffer penalty than the 20-year minimum as domestic abuse agencies from all over the state will send letters to Miron.
"Once he (Miron) reviews all the input and the supporting letters of what he (Kaempf) took away from us and Trish's family, I think he's going to be overwhelmed," she said. "Twenty years isn't going to be an option."
One of those letters will be from Carmen Hashimoto, a former victim who received help from Waschbisch a decade ago and someone who offers support to the Rainbow House. She sat with Honish Monday in court.
"I'm definitely going to write a letter to the judge on how she impacted my life, impacted my childrens' lives and made an impact on my whole life in general," Hoshimoto said.
She also believes that Kaempf will get a long sentence.
"It should be something more (than 20 years)," she said. "He should sit in there and rot, as far as I'm concerned. For me, I'm going to speak out for every victim, as I was."
Hashimoto added that she was surprised by Monday's plea deal as she expected Kaempf to draw the process out.
"I'm shocked, I guess he's kind of manning up," she said. "But this is great news."
Francine Kitkowski, president of the Rainbow House Board of Directors, said, "The Rainbow House Board of Directors and staff are so relieved that we are not going to trial. To us, this was not a murder of just one person, this was an act that killed a part of us and a part of everyone that knew her and had the opportunity to be helped by her. Justice will prevail for her, her family and this community."
Defense attorney Jazgar was not available following the hearing. A call to his Green Bay office was not returned.
Waschbisch was stabbed in the neck by Kaempf in the bathroom of the home they shared in Peshtigo late April 27, according to the criminal complaint. She was found the evening of April 28 by her teenage daughter.
Kaempf was located by a Wauwatosa, Wis., police officer in the early morning hours of April 29, the complaint states. He was sleeping in his Mustang outside a closed business and apparently on his way to Illinois, according to the complaint.