Wisconsin man found guilty in deaths of Girl Scouts, parent

December 17, 2019 GMT

A judge found a Wisconsin man guilty Monday after he pleaded no contest in the hit-and-run deaths of three Girl Scouts and one of their mothers as they picked up trash along a rural road last year.

Colten Treu, 22, of Chippewa Falls, pleaded no contest Monday to four counts of homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle. Treu also pleaded guilty to hit-and-run involving great bodily harm. He earlier had pleaded not guilty in the November 2018 crash.

Treu was accused of huffing from an aerosol canister before crashing his pickup truck into the Girl Scouts as they picked up trash along a highway in western Wisconsin. He will be sentenced in March.

Chippewa County District Attorney Wade Newell said it was important to hold Treu responsible for the deaths.

“It was about holding him accountable,” Newell told reporters after Treu entered his pleas Monday. The prosecutor declined to say what length of sentence he will request, the Leader-Telegram reported.

A January trial for Treu was canceled with his pleas; that also was important to Newell.

“You don’t want to put the victims through the trauma of a trial,” Newell said. “Any time you ask someone to testify at trial, you are asking them to relive those events.”

Each of the homicide convictions carries a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison. Judge James Isaacson warned Treu that he could make those sentences consecutive to each other, and he doesn’t have to follow any recommendations offered by attorneys.

Treu remains jailed. The judge revoked Treu’s $250,000 cash bond.

The four people killed in the crash were Jayna Kelley, 9; Autumn Helgeson, 10, both of Lake Hallie, Wisconsin; Haylee Hickle, 10, and her mother, Sara Jo Schneider, 32, both of the Town of Lafayette, Wisconsin. The girls were fourth-graders and members of Troop 3055 in nearby Chippewa Falls, about 90 miles (145 kilometers) east of Minneapolis.

A 10-year-old girl was injured in the crash and was hospitalized for three weeks.