A shattered door, gunshots and a death in rural Wisconsin
- Article by: CHAO XIONG
- Star Tribune
- January 23, 2008 - 10:49 PM
DANBURY, WIS. - Shot twice in the chest Sunday night after forcing his way into his ex-girlfriend's house, John Peach turned and ran about 30 feet, fell into a friend's arms and then onto the frozen earth.
The man suspected of shooting him, Minneapolis firefighter and emergency medical technician Kyle Huggett, grabbed a pair of leather work gloves, ran to Peach, took his pulse and attempted to perform CPR, authorities said.
"That would just be reactionary, I would think," said Burnett County Sheriff Dean Roland, adding that EMTs are trained to wear gloves when working with bleeding victims.
But Peach, 29, lay dead on the rural Danbury land Huggett shares with his pregnant girlfriend, Amy Kerbel -- Peach's ex-girlfriend.
Meanwhile, Peach and Kerbel's 5-year-old son slept in the back bedroom of Huggett's modest mocha-colored house.
Huggett made his first court appearance in Burnett County District Court Wednesday morning, ankles shackled, where bail was set at $50,000. Huggett was ordered to stay away from alcohol, firearms and weapons. He posted bail and was released before noon.
District Attorney Ken Kutz said Huggett was not a flight risk. He will be allowed to leave Danbury, about 105 miles northeast of Minneapolis, for work, although it's uncertain if he'll be allowed back at Fire Station 21 while authorities continue their investigation. Huggett has not been charged.
"He cooperated fully with the sheriff's office," Kutz said.
The incident began with a phone call and then volatile text-message exchanges involving Peach, Huggett and Kerbel over two to three hours, said Kutz and Roland.
Authorities said Huggett and Kerbel had been drinking while watching Sunday's Giants-Packers game. (Their blood-alcohol concentration is not yet available.) It was about an hour after the game ended that Peach, who also lives in Danbury, went to Huggett's house with two friends in tow.
Authorities said one friend stayed in the car while the other stood outside as Peach rammed the door with the shoulder of his 5-feet-9, approximately 200-pound frame.
He had texted that he was coming over and there would be "trouble," Kutz said.
Huggett and Kerbel had a plan of their own: When Peach arrived, Kerbel would go into the back bedroom where her son was sleeping and call 911.
After an unarmed Peach broke through the front door about 9:52 p.m., Huggett allegedly shot him with a .38-caliber revolver, authorities said. Peach's two friends fled after he stumbled outside.
About three city blocks away, Huggett's neighbors Willie and Linda Jorgensen were watching television when their police scanner began crackling. Kerbel had been on the line with a 911 dispatcher from the very beginning. Linda Jorgensen, an EMT, rushed over.
Huggett told authorities it was self-defense, but Wisconsin law only allows the use of deadly force when an individual is faced with deadly force, Kutz said. "When you have somebody who's unarmed, as Mr. Peach was in this case, you can't shoot them," he said.
Authorities said they don't know what the men were fighting about. Peach's friend, Jennifer Frazee, said Kerbel and Huggett had been fighting and Kerbel called Peach to intervene.
Court records show that both men and Kerbel have had run-ins with the law. All three have drunken-driving convictions. Peach also has a conviction for battery from 2002.
That same year, Kerbel filed a restraining order against Peach, telling authorities that he drank nearly every night, had threatened to kill her, shot a hole in his living-room wall and was verbally and physically abusive.
A relative at Peach's home declined to comment.
More investigation is needed before charges are considered, Kutz said, adding that in the worst-case scenario Huggett would face second-degree intentional manslaughter. Authorities have until Huggett's next court appearance, Feb. 27, to file charges.
Authorities are in the process of obtaining the contents of the text messages.
Chao Xiong • 612-673-4391
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