Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Hearing paves way for Iron County murder trial


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Hurley — The next time Curtis A. Wolfe appears in Iron County court, it is expected to be the beginning of his trial on charges related to the murder of a Lac du Flambeau man north of Mercer in December 2017, after a judge ruled on a variety of procedural issues Tuesday.

Wolfe, 28, is charged with being a party to the crime of first degree intentional homicide and being a party to the crime of hiding a corpse for his alleged role in the death of Wayne M. Valliere Jr., whose body was found Jan. 1, 2018 in a remote area of Iron County off Swamp Creek Road.

As part of Tuesday’s hearing, Judge Gregory Grau — who has been assigned to preside over the case after the death of Iron County judge Patrick Madden — conducted a brief hearing regarding Wolfe’s knowledge of the state’s most recent plea offer and ultimately determined Wolfe was freely choosing to take the case to trial.

“I fully understand (the state’s written offer),” Wolfe told Grau when questioned.

Although Grau also ruled on a variety of protocols and procedural issues regarding the five day trial scheduled to start Nov. 4, he did not issue an opinion on whether testimony from two witnesses regarding statements two of Wolfe’s co-defendants made to them would be allowed during the trial.

Wolfe’s attorney, Frederick Bourg, argued the testimony was hearsay and should be excluded.

Assistant Attorney General Richard Dufour, who is prosecuting the case for the Wisconsin Department of Justice, said the statements were an exception to the hearsay rule. He argued the statements weren’t intended to be used in court, weren’t in the best interests of the co-defendants who made them and the co-defendants themselves weren’t available to testify as they both were in the process of appealing their respective convictions and had constitutional protections against self-incrimination.

Wolfe was one of five men charged in connection to the beating and shooting death of Valliere.

Prosecutors say the five men drove Valliere into Iron County and shot him on Dec. 22, 2017, depositing the body off a seldom-used road north of Mercer.

The body was recovered behind a berm, hidden off Swamp Creek Road, near the end of Moose Lake Road.

Three of Wolfe’s co-defendants have already been sentenced for their roles in the crime.

Joseph Lussier, 28, of Lac du Flambeau, and Richard Allen, 29, of Lac du Flambeau, were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in August after a jury found them guilty of being the two shooters.

Lussier’s brother — James Lussier, 21, of Arbor Vitae — was sentenced in January to 15 years in prison and another 15 years of extended supervision, along with another eight years of probation to be served after the first sentence for his role in the killing.

Another defendant — Evan T. Oungst, 29, of Arbor Vitae — is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to 12 felonies in two cases related to Valliere’s murder in May. He is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 27.

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