By LeAnn R. Ralph
MENOMONIE — A Dunn County judge has found probable cause and has bound a 33-year-old Eau Claire man over for trial in connection with a burglary at a Rock Creek home destroyed by fire.
Michael A. Tenney appeared before Judge James Peterson December 28 for a preliminary hearing.
Following the preliminary hearing, Judge Peterson found probable cause and bound Tenney over for trial on one felony count of burglary to a building or a dwelling.
In addition, Judge Peterson set bail with a $1,000 signature bond and ordered Tenney to have no contact with the Rock Creek residence and no contact with Ryan Weiss, who also is a suspect.
The burglary occurred in a home in the Town of Rock Creek destroyed by fire October 11 that displaced the family from the residence.
According to a news release from the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department dated November 13, in the early morning hours of November 2, a family member had arrived at the residence and discovered two unknown men with a vehicle behind the residence.
One of the items stolen from the house, which is believed to have been sold by the suspects, was a signed red No. 45 Michael Jordan basketball jersey given to the family’s six-year-old daughter and made available through the “Make A Wish” foundation.
Tenney is charged with burglary, a class F felony, as a party to a crime and also is charged as a “repeater.”
A class F felony carries a penalty, if convicted, of a fine of up to $25,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 12 years and six months.
If convicted as a repeater, Tenney could face an additional four years in prison.
According to the criminal complaint, a family member went to the Rock Creek property at around 3:30 p.m. November 2 to bait deer.
The woman said she saw two men inside the house with headlamps who were removing property.
When the woman asked the men what they were doing, they said they were “looting the house.”
The woman told the two men to “get out.” The men had a garbage can full of property from the house that they loaded into their vehicle and then left.
The woman was able to get a license plate number, according to the complaint.
A sergeant with the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department located the vehicle in Eau Claire at a Vine Street residence. Ryan Weiss, the other suspect in the case, was believed to be living with Tenney.
The sergeant obtained a search warrant for the residence, and accompanied by a sergeant with the Eau Claire Police department, went to the residence where Tenney answered the door and was advised of the search warrant. He invited the officers into the house, the complaint states.
Tenney said he had seen Weiss in possession of three or four older BB guns matching the description of BB guns stolen from the house in Rock Creek, according to the complaint.
Tenney took investigators to the garage and showed them several tool boxes and said he believed Weiss had stolen most if not all of the tools.
Tenney also showed investigators a backpack containing two sets of camouflage clothing he said Weiss and his girlfriend, Tabitha Sears, would wear when they robbed houses at night, the complaint states.
The backpack also contained an antique handheld magnifying glass later identified by a family member as belonging to her father and that had been stolen during the burglary in Rock Creek.
Tenney said he had gone with Weiss and Sears when they were dressed in the camouflage clothing to a location near Highway 37 during night-time hours, and while he picked agates, Weiss and Sears walked off, and when they came back, had in their possession baseball and Pokemon cards, according to the complaint.
When asked if Weiss and Sears had broken into a house to steal the card collection, Tenney said, “yes.” When asked if Tenney had planned to report the burglary, he said, “no” and was then informed by investigators he was a party to the crime of that burglary, according to the complaint.
In a written statement, Tenney said he had worked for a temporary agency cleaning out a partially-burned home. Tenney said Weiss showed up one day at the work site, and he believed Weiss had gone back later to steal items, including the vintage BB guns Tenney had seen Weiss selling over the telephone, the complaint states.
When asked if he had stolen anything from the residence, Tenney said, “no,” but that he had taken some items discarded in the Dumpster.
The family provided a list of items that had been stolen from the home, which included the Michael Jordan #45 jersey, an antique air gun collection, a coin collection, a speaker system with a remote control, a Play Station, Play Station games, compact music disks, sports jerseys, die cast cars, a Donkey Kong Jr. arcade game, assorted DVDs that included Star Wars and Star Trek and the antique magnifying glass, according to the complaint.
When investigators interviewed Weiss at the Eau Claire County Jail, Weiss said he had not taken anything from the residence but told investigators Tenney had come home one day carrying armloads of air rifles, and he had also seen Tenney in possession of Nascar jackets and that Tenney had been selling Pokemon cards, the complaint states.
Tenney admitted to investigators he had sold several of the stolen air rifles to his ex-girlfriend.
When investigators spoke to the ex-girlfriend, Lana Rasmussen, Rasmussen said she had sold three of them to an antique dealer but she still had one of them. Rasmussen retrieved one of the air rifles from her vehicle and turned it over to investigators, according to the complaint.
Rasmussen told investigators a few days earlier Tenney had contacted her mother and was “frantic” because “the cops knew the air rifles were stolen and he needed to get them back.” Tenney told her the cops knew Weiss was the one burglarizing homes, the complaint states.
An investigator from the Eau Claire Police Department called Dunn County investigators on November 27 and said during a traffic stop in Eau Claire involving a subject named Glen Garnett, who is believed to be related to Tenney and frequents Tenney’s home on Vine Street, officers found a small safe in the car with Garnett. Family members told investigators a small safe had been stolen during the Rock Creek burglary but the safe had not been included on the list of items. The safe contained old coins, a death certificate, car titles and other personal property, according to the complaint.
Tenney was convicted of felony strangulation in Eau Claire County in May of 2017, the complaint states.
Tenney is scheduled to be arraigned in Dunn County Circuit Court January 12.
Weiss was scheduled to make an initial appearance in Dunn County Circuit Court on two felony counts of burglary and bail jumping January 9.