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Kraemer homicide trial: Voice messages played for jurors

February 23, 2019

Columbia County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Greg Bisch held his head down, then looked around the courtroom Friday afternoon. He made brief eye contact with some people sitting in the pews, but not the defendant, as audio evidence was played.

On the fifth day of a closely watched jury trial in the Columbia County Courthouse, prosecutor Robert Kaiser asked Bisch whether there was any doubt in his mind who the voice belonged to in numerous recordings of voicemail messages.

Kaiser works for the Dane County District Attorney’s Office and is acting as a special prosecutor for Columbia County in this case.

“That is the voice of Patrick Kraemer,” Bisch said.

Kraemer, 50, is accused of first-degree intentional homicide in connection with the 2013 death of Traci Rataczak at a Wyocena residence. The case was initially investigated as a suicide by hanging, until the focus shifted to Kraemer as a suspect. He was arrested in 2014, more than 17 months after Rataczak’s death.

Defense attorney Andrew Martinez has previously said Rataczak was at risk for suicide and alcohol abuse. He has suggested she might have caused her own death.

Among what Kaiser has said are key pieces of evidence in the case are phone records and data from a heartbeat monitor that Rataczak was wearing when she died at 2:48 a.m. on April 6, 2013.

Kaiser has previously said that Kraemer told authorities he thought Rataczak left the Wyocena home by or around 3 a.m. the morning she died.

After 3 a.m., phone records appeared to indicate a series of aggressive voicemails left on Rataczak’s cellphone.

One segment of an audio message played in court said, “Hey, Traci. This is Patrick calling. It’s no big deal.”

A separate recorded segment said, “That’s just how you roll. OK? Just walk out?”

“You’ll be crawling back here,” another segment of a different recording said.

Almost every recording was peppered with the caller’s profanity and asking where Rataczak had gone.

The recordings also indicated the caller was speaking of running errands. Bisch said Kraemer was unhappy after running errands for Rataczak and two neighbors the night before she died.

On the stand Friday, Bisch testified that Kraemer told him during multiple interviews that Rataczak would never have left the house without her cellphone.

Bisch also said Friday the cellphone was found on her body during an autopsy.

Earlier in the afternoon, Kaiser had shown photo evidence of Rataczak’s lifeless body and the basement area where she was found.

People sitting in the pews wiped their eyes, hung their heads and cupped their faces in their hands.

The photos on screen showed a body with an orange extension cord wrapped around a woman’s neck, with hair tangled in it. Bisch said he could identify the body as Rataczak.

Kaiser has said Kraemer claims he did not notice the body for days until a friend came over to the Wyocena house to ask about Rataczak’s whereabouts.

Bisch said a fellow officer who helped investigate the scene after Rataczak’s death told him a person would have to be blind to have not seen her body.

Bisch told jurors he had interviewed Kraemer’s daughter, who made a preplanned visit to the Wyocena house on April 7, before Rataczak’s body was found in the basement. Traci was not there to greet her.

“The comment she made to me was, ‘That was weird,’” Bisch said.

Bisch also testified that the daughter saw Kraemer enter the basement and had the door closed while he was down there.

The trial is scheduled to run through next Friday.

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