By LeAnn R. Ralph
MENOMONIE — A 19-year-old Elk Mound man has appeared in Dunn County Circuit Court in connection with a variety of charges, including burglaries at Kadinger’s Auto Salvage and for causing the death of his girlfriend in a traffic accident in the Town of Tainter.
Gunnar D. Zurek appeared in court with his attorney, Michael Cohen, on October 3.
Zurek’s girlfriend, Vanessa M. Marsh, 18, died shortly after 11 p.m. on September 23 when the vehicle Zurek was driving went off the road and rolled in a ditch on 770th Avenue.
Toxicology tests had not yet been completed at the time of the court hearing, and Judge James Peterson suggested that the district attorney’s office contact the testing facility to ask that the test results be expedited because the case involved a death.
Zurek is charged with one felony count of knowingly operating a motor vehicle while suspended causing death, along with misdemeanor counts of possessing marijuana, possessing drug paraphernalia and bail jumping.
In connection with the September 23 accident, traffic citations were issued to Zurek as well: operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license fourth offense; failure to keep the vehicle under control; and underage drinking third offense.
Zurek also is charged with burglary as a party to a crime for incidents that occurred at Kadinger’s Auto Salvage in the Town of Tiffany in July and August of this year.
In addition to the felony burglary charge, he is charged with misdemeanor theft and misdemeanor bail jumping.
A $1,000 cash bail was set in both cases on October 1.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled in Dunn County Circuit Court on December 5 at 9:15 a.m.
According to the complaint, when law enforcement officers arrived at the scene of the accident in the Town of Tainter on September 23, they found two men outside of the car who were injured and a woman lying in the ditch not far from the overturned car, who was already deceased.
One of the men identified himself as Joseph Thalacker and told officers that he had been in the car with his cousin and his cousin’s girlfriend. He identified his cousin as “Gunnar” and his cousin’s girlfriend as Vannessa Marsh.
A Dunn County deputy went to Mayo-Eau Claire where Zurek was receiving medical treatment.
Zurek told the deputy that he had somehow gotten sideways on the road, that the vehicle had rolled, and that he was going to “Sands” just down the road.
Zurek also told the deputy that he’d had “four to drink,” and when the deputy asked when he had been drinking, Zurek said while he was driving around but that his last drink had been an hour before the accident, according to the complaint.
Zurek informed the deputy that he had also had a prescription for Vicodin but that he had not taken any that day.
The deputy asked Zurek when was the last time he had smoked marijuana, and Zurek said the day before and that he had not smoked the day of the accident.
Colfax Police Officer Michael Madrid responded to the accident as well and obtained a statement from a neighbor close to the accident scene.
The neighbor said another man had come to her door and told her to call 911, and then she had gone to the crash scene to offer help.
Zurek had approached the neighbor and told her he had been drinking and had lost control of the car, according to the complaint.
Investigators found a prescription hydrocodone (Vicodin) bottle in the ditch with Zurek’s name on it. Investigators also found a glass smoking pipe that smelled of marijuana in the ditch not far from the prescription bottle and a small, clear plastic bag with a green leafy substance on the passenger seat of the vehicle that tested positive for marijuana, according to the complaint.
In the separate felony case based on incidents from July 1, 2014, through August 31, 2014, a Dunn County deputy contacted Zurek on September 18 and told the defendant that a number of other co-defendants had said Zurek was involved with a burglary at Kadinger’s Auto Salvage near Downing.
Zurek told investigators that he had driven a Jeep into the field behind Kadinger’s several times and that others had gone into the facility and had brought out items that they loaded into the back of the Jeep and a van.
On one occasion, the Jeep was full and the van was half full. A variety of items had been taken from Kadinger’s such as catalytic converters, copper and copper wire and aluminum radiators.
The first time they went, Zurek said that Jason Schmitz, Tim Stabenow, Travis Westaby and Vannessa Marsh had gone to Kadinger’s as well but that Marsh had never gotten out of the vehicle.
Zurek said they had taken the stolen items to “Toys” although one time they took items to “Cooley’s” but did not get enough money. The account at Toys should be under his name, although he believed one might be under Marsh’s name. Zurek told investigators his portion of the proceeds was a little over $100, according to the complaint.
The investigator also interviewed Marsh on September 18, only five days before she died. Marsh said that she, Westaby, Schmitz, Stabenow and Zurek went to Kadinger’s and would park in the field near the bus.
Marsh said Westaby and Schmitz would go in while the rest stayed in the vehicle. She said Stabenow and Zurek would load the vehicles. On one occasion, Marsh said, the items were put in her name at Toys and that she believed the check was for about $350, according to the complaint.
In separate cases, Zurek also is charged with misdemeanor criminal damage to property, theft of moveable property valued at less than $2,500 and misdemeanor bail jumping.