Location: > Hunters Memorial Park

Most certainly if they were alive today, Robert and Joseph Crotteau would have been at the reunion in 2008.  It would have been a pleasure to have met them and the rest of the family.  This is a very emotional place to be... considering the relationship.

Here are pictures of the headstone in Nora Cemetery just outside of Rice Lake City.

Robert Crotteau

There is a memorial web site dedicated to the needless death of these men and hunting buddies.  I have included a couple of newspaper reports on this incident below:

6th victim dies from Sunday's shooting

By JOHN DIEDRICH and LEE BERGQUIST jdiedrich@journalsentinel.com

Journal Sentinel Newspaper - http://www.jsonline.com/news/state/nov04/277651.asp

Posted: Nov. 22, 2004

Hayward - A Minnesota truck driver confronted for hunting on private land opened fire on mostly unarmed hunters and then picked off others as they rushed to the bloody scene to help, officials said Monday. Chai Soua Vang, 36, a St. Paul resident and former soldier who is married with six children, was arrested five hours after the shootings Sunday in which five hunters were killed and three were wounded. One of the wounded, Denny Drew, 55, died Monday, Sawyer County Sheriff James Meier confirmed. Vang, who hasn't been charged, was being held Monday in the Sawyer County Jail. Vang, who is Hmong, speaks English well and was cooperating but hadn't admitted to the shooting, authorities said. Officials released many chilling new details of the shooting, but remained baffled about the reason for the rampage. "It's unbelievable that it can happen in a small county," Meier said. "I just don't think that any of this makes sense." Those killed Sunday in the remote Wisconsin woods were Robert Crotteau, 42; his son, Joey Crotteau, 20; Al Laski, 43; Mark Roidt, 28; and Jessica Willers, 27. The injured are Terry Willers, 47, Jessica Willers' father; and Lauren Hesebeck, 48. Hesebeck and Drew were brothers-in-law. They were part of a group of 14 or 15 hunters continuing an annual tradition. All of the victims were from the Rice Lake area or had connections there, and their deaths shocked the city of 8,300. "The worst part is people don't understand why," said Karen Heram, who works at the Rice Lake Chamber of Commerce. "It just seems so senseless. There are disagreements over private property, but you don't do this."

Nestled next to a 939-acre lake of the same name, Rice Lake is the hub of Barron County, drawing people to shop and work and - at this time of year - drawing loads of deer hunters. It's the biggest city around, but it's still a small town, residents said. Most of the people in Rice Lake knew of the victims or knew them well themselves, said Rice Lake Police Chief John Sommerfeld. "Obviously, the town is devastated." he said. "Everyone seems pretty unfocused, pretty quiet." At noon Sunday, Vang was hunting in Sawyer County when he got lost and wandered onto private land among public forest, Meier said. Vang may have been hunting with two other people from the St. Paul area, but that hadn't been confirmed. Authorities are looking for the other two. Vang climbed up the tree stand. Terry Willers discovered him, radioed to Crotteau at their cabin a quarter mile away, approached Vang and asked him to leave, Meier said. Vang got down from the stand, walked about 40 yards, took the scope off the SKS semiautomatic rifle he was carrying and began firing at the hunters, Meier said. Terry Willers was the first to be shot. As he lay wounded, he radioed to others that they were under fire, Meier said. One hunter read the hunting registration number pinned to Vang's back and wrote it in the dust on an all terrain vehicle. Another called 911.

According to Meier, some of the hunters began to run away and some may have tried to fire back at Vang, but there was only one gun among them out in the woods.

Vang was walking around the woods, firing on the hunters, he said. "They grabbed who they could grab because they were still under fire," he said. As more hunters came, Vang continued to fire, Meier said. He shot some of the hunters more than once, he said. At least three of the victims were shot from 50 yards or more, a doctor who treated them said. Laski and Jessica Willers, who were back at the cabin, headed to the scene unarmed, Meier said. Vang shot and killed the pair as they rode in on an ATV, Meier said. Vang disappeared into the woods as eight hunters lay bleeding and another half dozen or so in their hunting party cared for the wounded. Bodies were scattered over a 100-square-yard area. Police from at least three counties and game wardens from the Department of Natural Resources scoured the woods and patrolled from the air, searching for Vang. Vang, whose brother said he emigrated from Laos as a boy and served in the U.S. Army, again got lost until he came upon two other deer hunters, Meier said. Vang was dressed in blaze orange and still wearing his hunting license. His rifle and its 20-round magazine were empty. Meier did not say how many shell casings had been recovered at the scene. The two hunters knew this was probably the man police and game wardens were searching for and drove him out of the woods, Meier said. Five hours after the shooting, DNR game warden Jeremy Peery shone a light in Vang's face and looked down at the SKS rifle. Peery drew his gun, matched the hunting license registration number and told Vang he was under arrest. The 28-year-old warden learned later that Vang was out of bullets. "I was just glad he didn't have any more rounds on him," he said.

Tom Held of the Journal Sentinel staff and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Chicago Tribune Staff Reports

Published September 16, 2005, 6:32 PM CDT

HAYWARD, Wis. -- Rejecting claims a Minnesota man acted in self defence, a jury Friday afternoon found him guilty of first degree murder in the deaths last fall of six deer hunters. The jury also found Chai Soua Vang guilty of wounding two other hunters, rejecting his attorney's argument the man fired to defend himself after one hunter used racial slurs and another fired at him first.

The two survivors of the shooting had testified the hunters, who were white, never shot at Vang, a Hmong immigrant, before he opened fire on them after they confronted him about trespassing in a tree stand on their private property in some isolated north-western Wisconsin woods Nov. 21.

The all white jury of eight women and four men deliberated about three hours before reaching a verdict of guilty on six counts of first degree intentional homicide and three counts of attempted homicide.  Outside the court, one of Vang's friends, Pofwmyeh Yang, questioned the jury's makeup and maintained Vang was innocent.

"All Caucasian, all American. Why can't there be one Hmong? Why can't there be one minority in there?" Yang said. "I believe only one person can judge, and that's God. But God didn't judge today."  A 36-year-old courier, National Guard veteran and the father of seven, Vang faces mandatory life in prison. Wisconsin does not have the death penalty.  Dressed in a business suit with family members seated behind him, the defendant showed no visible emotion as the judge read the verdict. The courtroom was packed with about 100 people, most of them relatives and friends of the victims.  The jurors came from Dane County because of pre-trial publicity in Sawyer County. Earlier today, they listened to roughly two hours of closing arguments this morning and began their deliberations about 2 p.m. after a lunch break.

Neither side denied Vang opened fire on the other hunters. The question was, who fired the first shot?  "This case wasn't about self defence," Wisconsin Atty. Gen. Peg Lautenschlager told the jury. "This case was about an individual who perhaps properly believed that he was disrespected."  Lautenschlager said Vang's motivation was anger, after he felt "disrespected" by the group of hunters. She said that anger motivated him to chase after some of his unarmed victims.  "The defendant is a very good shot and in his own words a good hunter," she said. "On that Sunday, he proved both."  Defence attorney Steve Kohn asked the jurors to try to view the incident through Vang's eyes. He said his client felt threatened after he was yelled at by a group of white men who allegedly called him racial slurs and blocked him from leaving.  He said property owner Bob Crotteau laid into Vang with "some of the most foul, shameful, disgusting things one human being can say to another."  "How should Chai Soua Vang react except to feel threatened?" Kohn asked.  Kohn said racism was the "catalyst for why this event occurred."

With both men in the courtroom, Kohn accused the two survivors of lying during their testimony, in which they said Vang fired his gun first, and suggested someone may have removed an additional gun present at the time of the incident.  "That gun was never found when police got there," he said. "Anybody could have picked up that gun and brought it back."  Killed on Nov. 21, 2004, were Crotteau, 42; his son Joey Crotteau, 20; Mark Roidt, 28; Al Laski, 43; and Jessica Willers, 27. Denny Drew, 55, died the following day.  All of the victims lived in or near Rice Lake, Wis., a closely knit community southwest of where the shootings occurred.

Jury selection was moved from Sawyer County to Dane County-home of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and one of the state's more racially diverse areas-because of concerns on the part of defence lawyers about pre-trial publicity and possible racial animosity toward Vang in northwest Wisconsin.  Vang was arrested hours after the incident and has been jailed in lieu of $2.5 million bail. He told a Tribune reporter earlier this year that he fired at the group to "defend myself and my race."  Before the closing arguments started, the judge gave jurors the option Friday of finding Vang guilty on lesser homicide charges. Vang was charged with six counts of first degree intentional homicide and three counts of attempted homicide.

Sawyer County Circuit Norman Yackel told jurors they could reach one of three verdicts for each of the nine charges - guilty of first- or second-degree intentional homicide or attempted homicide or not guilty.  A verdict of second-degree intentional homicide would have meant the jury found Vang had some need to defend himself, but he used unnecessary force to do it, attorney said. The sentence would have been up to 65 years in prison and extended supervision.  The judge gave jurors the legal definition of self defence and told them that under the law, they must consider whether Vang had "opportunity to retreat with safety."

Tribune staff reporter John McCormick and the Associated Press contributed to this story.

Within the City of Rice Lake, there is a small park, playground and rest area for the parents.  This place has been dedicated as the HUNTERS MEMORIAL PARK.  The following are some pictures of the park and related monuments.

Hunters Memorial Park

I must say while visiting this park, the general public keep it clean! I mean, not one candy wrapper or piece of garbage was seen.

Dedicated sign at Hunters Memorial Park

This bench was donated by the Rice Lake Weighing Systems Employees.

The walkway is paved with bricks which in part are dedicated to the people of Rice Lake.  The bricks have the contributors name engraved on them.

Now this one brings a tear to your eyes.

Now that you have reviewed the pictures I don't feel anything further needs to be said.  It is a sad loss for the Crotteau family.

 

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