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By LeAnn R. Ralph
MENOMONIE — A 24-year-old Elk Mound man sentenced to more than six years in prison for the death of his girlfriend in a Town of Tainter car crash has been sentenced to more prison time for child abuse.
Gunnar D. Zurek, who was initially charged with two felony counts of the repeated sexual assault of the same child, appeared in Dunn County Circuit Court November 20 with his attorney, Michael Rajek, for a plea hearing before Judge Rod Smeltzer.
Judge Smeltzer accepted Zurek’s plea of guilty on amended charges of one felony count of child abuse intentionally causing harm and one misdemeanor count of exposing genitals to a child.
The judge sentenced Zurek to a year and a half of incarceration and three years of extended supervision for the count of child abuse intentionally causing harm and sentenced Zurek to nine months in jail on the charge of exposing genitals to a child.
The additional incarceration time and extended supervision will be served concurrently with Zurek’s sentence of six-and-a-half years in prison and ten-and-a-half years of extended supervision for the death of his girlfriend, Vannessa N. Marsh, 18, in a car crash in the Town of Tainter September 23, 2014.
In the Marsh case, Zurek was found guilty of knowingly operating a vehicle with a suspended driver’s license causing death, knowingly operating a vehicle with a suspended driver’s license causing great bodily harm and homicide by the negligent operation of a vehicle.
Another passenger in the vehicle, identified as 34-year-old Joseph Thalacker of Augusta, also was injured.
Thalacker 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.
In addition to the prison time and extended supervision, Judge James Peterson sentenced Zurek to spend 24 hours in the county jail on September 23 during each year of his supervision to mark the anniversary of the car crash that killed Marsh, who was ejected from the vehicle Zurek was driving and pronounced dead at the scene.
According to the criminal complaint in the sexual assault case, Zurek was accused of sexually assaulted a girl who was six years old at the time. The assaults occurred at a home in the Town of Colfax.
In the Marsh case, Zurek was ordered to pay $16,669 in restitution and $2,500 in court costs.
In the child abuse case, Zurek was ordered to pay $511 in court costs and $450 for DNR surcharges.
During the December of 2015 sentencing hearing in connection with car crash that killed Marsh, Zurek also was sentenced to six years of probation in connection with a felony burglary charge as a party to a crime related to thefts that occurred from July 1, 2014, through August 31, 2014, from Kadinger’s Inc. near Downing.
Judge Peterson ordered that Zurek have no contact with Kyle Flatland (Wheeler), Timothy Stabenow (Wheeler), Eric Affolter (Elmwood); Travis Westaby (Colfax); Jason Schmitz (Spring Valley); Lou Woods or residence or immediate family (Wheeler); Ted or Lisa Marsh or their residence.
Misdemeanor theft charges were related to items stolen from the Whitetail Golf Course south of Colfax during that same time period.
A charge of criminal damage to property was related to a 2001 Ford Excursion that was damaged in the Village of Colfax.
Schmitz (Spring Valley), Stabenow (Wheeler), and Westaby (Colfax) also were charged in connection with items stolen from Kadinger’s.
When investigators interviewed Marsh on September 18, 2014, 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 with items taken from Kadinger’s.
Online court records list Zurek’s current address as the Racine Youth Correctional Facility.