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Editors note: Freestyle wrestling in Glenwood City was not a public school program.
By LeAnn R. Ralph
MENOMONIE — A Menomonie man formerly associated with a freestyle wrestling program in Glenwood City has been sentenced to 26 years in prison after being convicted of five felony counts related to the sexual assault of a child.
Thomas W. Bartels, age 76, was convicted by a Dunn County jury in October and was sentenced in Dunn County Circuit Court December 20.
Bartels was convicted October 26 on one felony count of the repeated sexual assault of the same child, three felony counts of first degree child sexual assault of a person under the age of 13, and one felony count of exposing genitals to a child, according to on-line court records.
Following a four-day jury trial, after a little over two hours of deliberation, the jury found Bartels guilty on all counts.
After the verdict, Judge James Peterson revoked Bartels’ bail, which was set with a $20,000 signature bond in January of 2022, and ordered a pre-sentence investigation to be prepared by November 27.
During the sentencing hearing December 20, Dunn County Assistant District Attorney Megan Kelly read a statement by an “other acts” victim.
The assistant DA then asked the court to follow the PSI sentencing recommendations of 10 years of initial confinement and four years of extended supervision on the first count, and 16 years of initial confinement and four years of extended supervision on the second, third and fourth counts, as well as one year in jail on the fifth count, with the sentence on counts two through five to be consecutive to the first count but concurrent with each other.
Bartels’ attorney, Harry Hertel, asked the court to sentence Bartels to six years of initial confinement on the first count followed by 20 years of extended supervision, along with 20 years of probation for counts two, three and four, and one year of probation on count five, with the probation to be concurrent with the extended supervision.
Judge Peterson sentenced Bartels according to the PSI recommendation, resulting in 26 years of initial confinement and eight years of extended supervision.
The conditions of Bartels’ extended supervision are to register as a sex offender and comply with all programming; no contact with two different victims, who are currently 22 and 19 years old; and no contact with anyone under the age of 18 without the prior approval of his probation agent.
In addition, Judge Peterson ordered Bartels to pay $2,690 in court costs — $538 per count — and a $20 crime prevention surcharge.
The judge also granted 55 days of credit for time already served.
Prior to sentencing, the judge advised Bartels of his right to make a statement to the court, but Bartels did not wish to speak, according to on-line court records.
In January of 2019, the victim, who was 14 at the time, was interviewed by a social worker from Dunn County Human Services.
The victim said he believed the incidents occurred around the fall of 2017 and that he had met Bartels through a neighbor who suggested that the victim speak to Bartels about doing work to earn extra money, according to the criminal complaint.
The victim said he had stayed at Bartels’ apartment on Wilson Street and had initially slept on a couch and then on a twin bed mattress that Bartels had purchased.
Three separate incidents had occurred while the vicim stayed at Bartels’ apartment in which the victim had awakened to Bartels’ touching the victim’s genitals, the complaint states.
Bartels also made comments to the victim, saying that he wanted to be a younger girl so he could date the victim.
Bartels paid the victim to work and to stay at Bartels’ apartment. Bartels also purchased around $3,000 of audio equipment that he had let the victim pick out for the victim’s birthday, the complaint states.
A detective with the Menomonie Police Department met with Bartels several months later in March of 2019.
Bartels told the detective he had met the victim through individuals he knew at church and that he used a motorized scooter and had issues with his legs which required him to have someone who could help with cooking, cleaning, and other chores, according to the complaint.
He said he had paid the victim $6 per hour, and that the victim’s parents had allowed him to help Bartels, which had led to the victim spending the night at his residence occasionally.
Bartels said he had taken the victim shopping, took the victim out to diner often and taught the victim basic skills, such as how to change an outlet.
The victim had started helping Bartels in the winter of 2016 and into 2017. The victim worked for Bartels all day on Saturdays and would stay overnight with Bartels on Friday and Saturday evenings, the complaint states.
Bartels told the detective the victim had spent the summer of 2018 living with him and that around 2017 into 2018, Bartels had gotten Internet service so the victim could do his homework.
The victim spent all of his time on Facebook, YouTube and other Internet sites instead of doing his homework, Bartels said, according to the complaint
The Menomonie Police Department detective conducted a follow-up interview with the victim in August of 2021.
When asked what had made the incidents stop, the victim said he had “finally got up enough courage to tell his parents and that he didn’t want to go to the Defendant’s anymore, so they made up an excuse that they told the Defendant,” the complaint states.
The victim said he had spent about three days a week with Bartels.
When most of the incidents happened in December of 2017, the victim said he had stayed at Bartels’ apartment for 27 days straight.
The victim said Bartels had purchased $2,500 worth of snowboarding equipment for the victim, and when asked about the stereo equipment, the victim said Bartels had purchased it for himself, the complaint states.
When asked why Bartels had bought those items, the victim said at the time he did not think about it, “but his therapist described it to him as ‘grooming,’” according to the complaint.
The victim said he had only used the jacket and gloves once, but that he stopped using the items because “they reminded him of bad memories.”
The victim told the detective that Bartels had said he would set up an education fund of $100,000 for him and that Bartels had shown the victim two of his investment funds which contained $1 million and $2 million.
The victim said he had told his parents because he “did not want it to happen again” and that he had told Bartels he could not come over because he had homework, according to the complaint.
In October of 2021, the detective contacted a woman named Bonnie, who lived in Michigan but who had lived in Menomonie for a brief time, according to the complaint.
When asked if she knew Bartels, Bonnie’s voice “changed,” and she said she did.
When asked to tell the detective about Bartels, Bonnie replied that she “always had her suspicions (Bartels) was a ‘pedophile,’” the complaint states.
Bonnie lived with Bartels for about six months and cleaned the house, shopped and took Bartels for medical appointments.
Bonnie told the detective Bartels would often talk with her about his attraction to young boys and made “a lot of sexual innuendos,” according to the complaint.
Bartels told Bonnie how much he enjoyed wrestling and that he “liked the touch of young boys.”
Bartels also told Bonnie about his “prior accusation” but that it was “unjustified.”
Bonnie told the detective Bartels began buying the victim more gifts and had set up a college fund for the victim and also had bought a bed, and it appeared that Bartels was trying to get the victim to live with him, the complaint states.
Bonnie eventually decided to leave Bartels’ apartment and told the detective she would have to refer to her journals for more accurate dates and statements, according to the complaint.
The detective asked Bonnie to review her journals and then called her again the next day.
When Bartels talked about the victim, “it was like love language,” Bonnie said, and Bartels would tell Bonnie how magical the relationship was with the victim and “how they could almost finish each other’s sentences,” the complaint states.
“Bonnie provided copies of her journal that were consistent with her earlier statements to me,” according to the complaint.
In December of 2021, the detective and another investigator met with Bartels at his residence, according to the complaint.
The investigators began building a rapport with Bartels and talked about the defendant’s “bad knees” and other health issues and the fact that Bartels did not currently have anyone living with him to help but that he was “waiting on” someone who could potentially help out.
“It took the Defendant a while to ask why we were were there talking with him. Finally, I told him that I wanted to talk with him about the victim. I asked the Defendant to tell me about himself …” the complaint states.
Bartels told investigators he had been born and raised in St. Paul, the fourth oldest of 10 children, and that he had served four years in the United States Air Force and was stationed in Thailand, Okinawa, Alaska and Wake Islands.
Bartels said he worked for Northern Natural Gas in North Branch, Minnesota, doing computer maintenance work, and that he has been retired since he was 46 years old because of downsizing.
Bartels said when his health began to deteriorate, he had moved to the Town of New Haven in Dunn County, and then in 2015, he moved to an apartment in Menomonie on 29th Avenue, and then later on, moved to the Wilson Street apartment, according to the complaint.
Bartels told investigators he had spent 30 years with USA Wrestling [an organization that governs Freestyle wrestling and Greco-Roman wrestling] and the Iowa Wrestling Federation, the complaint states.
When Bartels moved to Iowa, he joined the Dowling High School wrestling club in West Des Moines and was “big into Freestyle and Greco style wrestling.”
Bartels said he moved to the Glenwood City area and started a Freestyle wrestling program, that he was an administrative director, that he had a certificate to coach but never actually coached, and that he used the certificate so he could transport students.
Bartels said his last active year in wrestling was about 2003 and that he worked mostly with high school students and sometimes with college students, according to the complaint.
When asked if it was true that Bartels had purchased snowboarding equipment for the victim and had set up a $100,000 college account, he confirmed it was true.
Bartels said he revoked the college account when the victim made accusations against Bartels, the complaint states.
Bartels denied he had any sexual interest in children, and the investigator said that “when I began to push the Defendant more on the Victim’s allegations, he then shut down and told me he wanted his attorney present,” according to the complaint.
The investigators had a search warrant for Bartels’ apartment, and when asked if he had any loaded firearms, Bartels said yes, and had a loaded .22 caliber revolver in the basket of his walker, the complaint states.
Investigators did not locate any images of child pornography or children in sexual poses in Bartels’ apartment, although investigators did find 14 five-inch floppy disks labeled with dates from the 1980s and with terms such as “wrestling” and “kids,” according to the complaint.