Wisconsin man who ran down 3 Girl Scouts and one of their mothers while driving high sentenced to 54 years
CHIPPEWA FALLS, WISCONSIN: A Wisconsin man who killed three young Girl Scouts, as well as the mother of one of them, and critically injured a fourth girl in a hit-and-run will spend more than five decades behind bars.
MEA WorldWide previously reported that an intoxicated Colten Treu, 23, had driven his Ford F-150 pickup truck into the group as they were picking up trash along a rural road outside Lake Hallie in November 2018 before fleeing the scene.
The accident killed Jayna Kelley, 9, Autumn Helgeson, 10, Haylee Hickle, 10, all fourth-graders and members of Girl Scout Troop 3055 in Chippewa Falls, and Haylee's mother Sara Jo Schneider, 32. Madalyn Zwiefelhofer, 10, was also critically injured and spent three weeks recovering in the hospital.
Authorities tracked Treu down by following a "fresh fluid trail" that started at the scene of the accident and led them to an apartment he shared with his friend John Stender Jr.
During questioning, the 23-year-old admitted he and Stender had been "huffing" computer keyboard cleaner before they got into his truck and went on the drive, but tried to shift the blame on his friend and claimed he "lost control of the vehicle and fishtailed after Stender grabbed the steering wheel from him."
Stender, on the other hand, Treu's version of events and said he had taken the steering wheel to correct his driving, which had angered him and caused him to yell and violently grab the wheel back. This, in turn, had resulted in the truck swerving and hitting the five victims.
Treu initially pleaded not guilty to 11 charges but ultimately agreed on a plea deal with prosecutors that saw him plead no contest to four counts of homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle and one count of hit-and-run causing great bodily harm.
During Treu's sentencing hearing this past week, District Attorney Wade Newell asked Judge James Isaacson to sentence the 23-year-old to 25 years each for the four homicide charges, and an additional 13 years for a single count of hit-and-run. He asked that the sentences be handed down consecutively, meaning he would receive 113 years behind bars and never see freedom again.
Treu expressed remorse for his actions. "The community has every right to hate me. All of you have every right to hate me," he said. "I cannot give back what has been taken, and I know that. I will never understand the pain and suffering and grieving these losses have caused."
Isaacson eventually imposed a sentence of 99 years, of which 54 years would have to be spent in prison. The remaining 45 years, he said, would have to be served under electronic surveillance. Handing down the sentence, the judge noted Treu's young victims were amongst the best and brightest in Chippewa Valley and were cleaning up the highway to make their community into a better place when they were mowed down by his truck.
"They were innocent, doing the right thing," he said.