Cell tower data could indicate defendant used victim's phone after alleged slaying


CITY OF OCONOMOWOC - A longtime friend and neighbor of Stanley and Amy Van Wagner testified this week that she spoke to murder victim almost 12 hours after prosecutors say his wife, Amy, fatally shot her husband of more than 20 years in the office of their Oconomowoc home in May 2015.

In other testimony at the murder trial, an FBI agent said cellphone tower data indicates Stanley Van Wagner's phone was used in the area of Halquist Stone in Sussex – where Amy Van Wagner worked – the morning prosecutors contend he was murdered.

Both testimonies happened in the second week of Amy Van Wagner's jury trial in Waukesha County Circuit Court. The trial is scheduled to last until March 17, but could conclude sooner. Van Wagner, 53, stands accused of first-degree intentional homicide and hiding a corpse.

She was originally charged more than a year ago, and is facing a mandatory life sentence if convicted. A criminal complaint said Van Wagner shot her husband multiple times, covered his body with a tarp then dragged it to the basement of their Elm Street residence, where it remained for days.

State's time line challenged

Linda Kleinschmidt, who lives near and has known the Van Wagners for years, testified Monday afternoon that she spoke to Stanley Van Wagner around 4 p.m. on Friday, May 15, 2015 – about 12 hours after what prosecutors believe to be his time of death.

She said she remembered the date and time because she was returning from a shopping trip with her parents to Ebert's Greenhouse Village in Ixonia earlier that day, and planned to attend her niece's graduation ceremony at the University of Wisconsin-Madison the following afternoon.

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Defense attorney John Schiro presented a receipt from the shopping trip and a pamphlet for the commencement to verify both events. Kleinschmidt told the jury that she saw Van Wagner while he was out walking, possibly to a friend's house, and she pulled over to speak to him.

"There's no doubt in my mind (that I saw him)," she said.

Her testimony opposes the state's proposed time line in the case. Prosecutors have argued that Van Wagner was killed early in the morning while using his laptop. An expert witness previously testified that Van Wagner's blood was recovered from an entry hole in the laptop, presumably caused by a bullet, which short-circuited the device.

The murder weapon – a .380-caliber pistol – was never recovered.

Cell tower data

On Wednesday, FBI Agent Richard Bilson told jurors that cell tower data showed Stanley Van Wagner's phone was used at least twice in morning on May 15 in the area of Halquist Stone – where Amy Van Wagner was an employee.

However, both Bilson and a U.S. Cellular engineer said it was not possible to extrapolate a specific location for the phone based on the data alone.

Some of Stanley Van Wagner's coworkers, who tried texting and calling him to see why he had missed work that day, previously testified that, later on May 15, Amy Van Wagner lied to them about her husband's whereabouts, and in one instance used Stanley's phone to text one of them back.

Amy Van Wagner told co-workers her husband was home sick on Friday, but she texted their teenage son the same day that his dad wouldn't be coming home after work.

However, two forensic scientists on March 3 testified that no DNA evidence or fingerprints belonging to Amy Van Wagner were recovered from the crime scene.

Prosecutors argue marriage and money trouble boiled over and sparked the killing. Van Wagner's attorneys contend Stanley may have been killed in a gun sale gone wrong, or that associates or relatives of a man convicted in 2011 of sexually assaulting the couple's daughter possibly sought revenge for Stanley attacking him in court.

The trial will resume Thursday, March 9 at 8:30 a.m.

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