Sunday, February 25

Retired Juneau County judge John Roemer killed in ‘targeted act’ against judicial system, authorities say

A gunman shot and killed a retired Juneau County judge Friday morning in what Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul called a “targeted act” against the judicial system.

The unidentified shooter killed John Roemer, 68, at the judge’s home in the town of Lisbon around 6:30 a.m., officials said.

State Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, who represents Juneau County, confirmed Roemer’s death in a statement, adding “we never expect violent tragedy to strike in our small, close-knit communities.”

A 'really nice guy': Neighbor describes scene of Juneau County judge killing

During a news conference Friday afternoon, Kaul did not confirm Roemer’s identity, but said the gunman had compiled a list of other potential targets. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Gov. Tony Evers appeared on the gunman’s list.

The attorney general would not release the name of the 56-year-old shooter or identify other potential targets.

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“So far, the information that’s been gathered indicates that it was a targeted act and the targeting appears to be based on some sort of court case or court cases,” Kaul said.

“We’re limited in what information we can provide at this point,” Kaul added, citing the ongoing investigation.

The Juneau County Sheriff’s Office first responded to the scene after another person in the residence fled to a nearby home and contacted authorities, Kaul said.

A tactical team entered the residence just after 10:30 a.m., and found the gunman, who had shot himself, in the basement, Kaul said. The shooter was hospitalized in critical condition.

Roemer was first elected as a Juneau County Circuit Court judge in 2004 and went on to be reelected in 2010 and 2016. He retired in 2017.

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Judge John Roemer


While he was on the bench in Juneau County, Roemer presided over some high-profile cases.

In 2017, he presided over a case in which a Lyndon Station village president had been convicted of 22 counts of sexual assault. Roemer ruled that a juror was not credible and granted Donald Coughlin a new trial, in which he was convicted again.

In 2009, he sentenced a former Necedah religious leader for hiding the corpse of a follower who died from natural causes on her toilet.

Donna Voss, who lived next door to Roemer for 22 years, described him as “a really nice guy.”

“This is not a type of neighborhood where anything ever happens,” Voss said.

After the shooting, Voss said Roemer’s two sons fled to the nearby home of a law enforcement official. Roemer’s wife and another son had died in recent years, Voss said, and the judge had been living with his two other children.

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The other targets on the gunman’s list have been notified, and there is no longer a threat to public safety, Kaul said.

The Department of Justice is investigating if other individuals are connected to Friday’s shooting.

Kaul appeared at Friday’s news conference flanked by Juneau County Sheriff Brent Oleson and Tina Virgil, head of the state Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation.

Roemer and Marklein

Judge John Roemer, left, and state Sen. Howard Marklein in 2016.

The attorney general said the Division of Criminal Investigation is leading the investigation into the shooting and is “often involved in complex investigations of this nature.”

Kaul noted that Juneau County deputies were considered witnesses to the incident.

The town of Lisbon is about four miles north of Mauston, the county seat, and 80 miles northwest of Madison.

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