Cops: Wisconsin killings may have been tied to kidnap attempt

Published 8:39 am Wednesday, July 31, 2019

By Tim Nelson

MPR News/90.1 FM

Authorities say the shooting deaths of five people in a small Wisconsin town may have been tied to a kidnapping attempt with elements similar to last year’s abduction of western Wisconsin teenager Jayme Closs.

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Ritchie German Jr. allegedly killed his mother, brother and nephew on Saturday, then went to a home nine miles away, shot his way in to another family’s home, and shot 24-year-old Lailie Vang and her parents, fatally wounding her before he turned the gun on himself, Lake Hallie, Wis., police chief Cal Smokowicz and Chippewa County Sheriff James L. Kowalczyk said in an update on the case Tuesday afternoon.

Both her parents, Mai Chang Vang, 39 and Teng Vang, 51 have had to have their arms amputated, authorities said. Three children and another adult in the home at the time the Vangs and their daughter were shot.

Investigators are still trying to figure out a motive for both sets of shootings.

They believe there was some text exchange between German and Laile Vang, but they don’t believe Ritchie had ever been to the Vang family’s home. Authorities said that Laile Vang had responded to him that she didn’t know who was messaging her.

“It’s unknown what his intentions were,” Kowalczyk said, but he noted that German had driven his brother’s car to the home after apparently killing his family, left the car running outside and used a shotgun to blast his way inside, like convicted killer Jake Patterson had in the Closs case.

Authorities said there were indications that he may have been intending to kidnap the young woman before opting to shoot her and himself.

“Items in the vehicle… lead us to believe it is similar,” Smokowicz said of what investigators found, although he declined to detail the evidence, saying they were still analyzing what they found.

Investigators said they recovered a handgun and a shotgun at the scene of the Lake Hallie shootings, including 10 spent shotgun shells.

“We don’t have a lot of history with him. No employer that we know of. No vehicle that we know he was operating other than his brother or his mother’s,” the sheriff said, describing German as a loner. The Vangs, he added, said they didn’t know him.

Police say frantic 911 calls Sunday night led them to the Vangs’ home, and police found Ritchie German’s brother’s car parked outside. They tracked down the car’s registration and found German’s 66-year-old mother Bridget, his 32-year-old brother Douglas and his 8-year-old nephew Calvin dead in her home in Lafayette, Wis., a few miles away.

Investigators said they weren’t sure what transpired there, but that Bridget German hadn’t shown up for work at her job at a nearby grocery story, and that Ritchie German had called and reported she’d been sick and hospitalized.

Investigators also said neighborhood boys had gone to the home on Saturday to ask to play with Calvin, but that Ritchie had said his nephew, had gone shopping with his grandmother.

The sheriff said he couldn’t rule out there there may be another crime scene somewhere in the area, as yet undiscovered.

Authorities are asking anyone who had any contact with Ritchie German in the last month to please call the Chippewa County Sheriff’s Office at 715-726-4563.