Wilbert Thomas guilty in death of retired Lake Geneva teacher Sandra Teichow
RACINE Wilbert Thomas showed no emotion as he sat in a wheelchair with his chin resting in his right hand, while Racine County Judge Timothy Boyle found him guilty Monday of murdering retired teacher Sandra Teichow of Lake Geneva in October 2010.
Thomas, 68, who was charged with first-degree intentional homicide, the theft of movable property from a person or a corpse and two counts of bail-jumping, had requested a bench trial rather than a jury trial.
Boyle read his 10-page ruling, repeatedly stating that there was “reliable and credible” evidence that Thomas was guilty. Twenty-five witnesses testified during the two-and-a-half-day trial in April. Seventy-seven exhibits were entered into evidence. The defense entered one of those exhibits and did not present any witnesses.
Teichow, 67, a retired teacher, had been handing out quarters in white boxes at a laundry to apparently-needy people, including Thomas, the day she was found strangled next to her car on an isolated wooded path.
Thomas was identified as a suspect because of a photo of him found on Teichow’s camera, under her arm. A police officer recognized Thomas’ distinctive hairstyle and his four-footed cane in the photo. The feet on the cane matched wounds on Teichow’s body.
Thomas’ competency was a contentious issue during six competency hearings before trial and during trial. He was found competent to face trial. He then refused to attend the beginning of the trial.
By refusing to come to court, Thomas “demonstrated a competent choice of what he wanted to do,” Boyle said.
“I believe this is continued manipulation by Mr. Thomas with the integrity of the court,” the judge said.
Now that Thomas has been convicted, a hearing will be conducted to determine whether he will be found not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. He will be sentenced to prison or to a mental health facility, depending on the hearing’s outcome.
Thomas spoke when possible dates for the hearing were being discussed, objecting that he would have “to sit in jail” longer because it likely will not take place until autumn. A status conference is set for July 22.
Boyle listened as Thomas then objected to the finding of guilt on the theft charge. Thomas said he had no reason to steal from Teichow because he had money of his own.
Assistant District Attorney Robert Repischak spoke with family and friends of Teichow after the hearing. Smiling slightly, he said: “It took a long time, but we’re half-way there,” referring to the competency hearing that must be held before Thomas is sentenced.
He later praised “the thoughtfulness” of Boyle’s decision, which addressed specific testimony and evidence regarding the homicide and theft charges.
“It was not an off-the-cuff decision,” Repischak said. “I’m happy for the family that they have some finality with this part of the process.”