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Rick sentenced to life in Saxon murder-arson


Ralph Ansami/Daily Globe

DONALD RICK covers his face with his hands as he watches a video presentation on the woman he murdered Thursday morning in Iron County Court. From left are Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General Richard Dufour, Iron County Sheriff's Department deputy Jason Geach, the lead officer in the investigation, defense attorney Courtney Latzig and Rick.


Hurley - Donald Rick agreed Thursday morning he shouldn't be eligible for parole in the 2016 fire that destroyed the Bear Trap Inn, killing Lisa Waldros, of Kimball.

"If I was you, I'd give me no choice, either," Rick told Judge Patrick Madden, who sentenced him to a mandatory life sentence, without the possibility of parole.

Madden could have made Rick eligible for extended supervision, or parole, after 20 years in prison or thereafter, but denied that option, citing the "heinous" nature of the crime.

Rick, 45, had previously pleaded guilty to killing Waldros, 53, while robbing the Bear Trap Inn in Saxon and setting fire to the building on March 12, 2016.

Assistant Attorney General Richard Dufour, who prosecuted the case, asked Madden to make sure that Rick is never eligible to get out of prison.

He noted Rick stabbed Waldros five times in the neck, once in the jugular vein, and then returned to Bear Trap and poured gas on her and lit it as she was still alive.

"This was for less than $200," because of gambling losses the night before, Dufour said. "This is extremely senseless," he said.

Waldros' husband, Dean Waldros, agreed with Dufour that the community had lost not only a valued member, but an institution in the tavern where his wife worked for her sister.

"A monster came to Saxon and took the most loving person in this world away," Dean Waldros said. "The town of Saxon has never been the same."

Other family members expressed the fear and anxieties they felt immediately after the death, with some nightmares continuing to this day.

Sue (Waldros) Herlevi explained how her brother, Dean, after the loss of their parents at early ages, raised his siblings on his own, then lost his first wife, Patty, at an early age to cancer.

"Then the most unimaginable thing happened," Herlevi said, referring to the murder-arson in which the body wasn't found for two days, under a slab in the burned-out building, as the community watched the investigation unfold in disbelief.

"You destroyed our lives," Herlevi told Rick.

Ashley Herman, the eldest daughter of Lisa Waldros, read statements from various family members and offered a slide presentation of her mother's involvement with 4-H youths, horses and the community.

"Nothing will ever be the same without her," she said.

A chilling poem-essay written by the late Joe Kasper Jr. was read, in which he said he could hear Lisa Waldros calling to him from the second floor of the Bear Trap as he suffered from cancer. That floor was removed around 40 years ago.

"I probably am a monster," Rick said, addressing the court in handcuffs, with a deputy at his side.

Rick said one particular incident as a youngster led to a life of crime. When he was a little red-headed boy living in Hurley, he said he was assaulted by a bunch of boys who committed despicable acts on him, including a "well-known kid." He added, "I was just a Rick."

Madden referred to Rick's statement, "If someone is going to suffer, me or you, it's going to be you," as evidence of how he views his life.

Looking back, Rick said perhaps counseling would have helped.

"I didn't think I was worth much," he said.

"I would die today if I could bring her back," Rick said.

'Split-second decision'

Rick's attorney, Courtney Latzig, said Rick did not enter the tavern with intent to kill, only to rob. After a struggle in which he got stabbed in the chest, he then stabbed Waldros in the throat in a "split second" decision, Latzig conceded.

She said the childhood trauma and the fact he was no longer using Prozac he was given in prison contributed to his actions.

Latzig recommended a petition to consider extended supervision after 30 to 35 years in prison, which would make Rick 75 to 80 years old.

Rick was being held on a parole violation from a sexual assault conviction and Madden made the sentence concurrent, meaning it will be served after the other term is completed. Dufour said that didn't mean much in the long run with a life sentence, but it shows the family and community, "This case does matter."

Restitution of $7,678 was ordered by Madden, including $5,600 to the neighboring Saxon Pub, which received fire damage. Other individuals may file for restitution within 60 days.

Two weeks ago, Rick contended that his girlfriend at the time, Jessica Carli, 42, had killed Waldros, but Madden rejected that late stage recantation, saying he did not find Rick's statements credible.

Dufour said Rick changed his story about the murder after learning a pre-sentence investigation had recommended the life sentence, without parole.

Rick never mentioned the recantation on Thursday.

Other actions Rick made, including the disposal of clothing in the Bad River, were consistent with a Michigan robbery Rick had committed in the past, when he was armed and masked.

A second case

Carli is charged with harboring or aiding a felon in connection with the murder-arson. She is scheduled for a June 20 plea/sentencing hearing.

The count against Carli, of Saxon, is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or a $25,000 fine.

The criminal complaint alleges Carli knew Rick had killed Waldros and helped him attempt to hide evidence after he set fire to the bar.

Dufour is also prosecuting the Carli case.


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