A 24-year-old of Lac du Flambeau woman accused of fatally striking a pedestrian on U.S. Highway 51 during the early morning hours of June 16 was expected to be charged Monday with one count of hit-and-run causing death. 
Laurie Wildcat appeared in Vilas County Circuit Court Friday afternoon for a bond hearing at which time district attorney Karl Hayes stated he intends to charge her with the Class D felony. The complaint was expected to be filed before Wildcat’s next appearance which was scheduled for Monday, June 20.
Hayes said the preliminary investigation shows Wildcat was southbound on Hwy. 51 at approximately 12:35 to 12:40 a.m. last Thursday morning when “she struck a 31-year-old male subject who was a pedestrian,” Alejandro Retana-Echeverria.
He said the evidence shows Wildcat remained at the scene “for a period of time, made three to four phone calls, none of which was to the police or 911, nor to an ambulance or anything of that nature.”
“A witness happened along, also southbound on (Hwy.) 51,” Hayes said. “He saw the vehicle stopped in the middle of the road with its hazard lights on. He asked Miss Wildcat if he could help. She advised that she had hit a deer and help was on the way.”
He said the witness left and then Wildcat left the scene, stopping at a tavern on Hwy. 70. 
“From there, she called 911,” Hayes said. “She admitted to the investigating officers that she had been drinking prior to the impact and that she had also smoked marijuana. A sample of her blood was collected. I am bringing a charge of hit and run causing death.”
“Given the loss of an innocent human life here, and the evidence as I’ve detailed it ... I would ask that cash bail be set at the amount of $10,000,” Hayes added.
Circuit court judge Martha Milanowski asked Hayes if he was requesting any non-monetary conditions.
Hayes said there was a witness who told authorities she saw Wildcat consume three cocktails before she went to her truck “and before the impact happened.”
“I’d ask the court order no contact (by Wildcat) with that witness,” he said. 
After Milanowski asked Wildcat a few questions regarding employment and whether or not she was currently going to school, she told Wildcat she was going to “make a finding of probable cause that you committed the crime as described by the (district attorney) that’s based on his statement today.”
“You will be charged with the felony offense that (district attorney) just recited ... you will have the constitutional right to be represented by an attorney,” Milanowski told Wildcat.

Facts to deduce
Wildcat’s attorney at the bond hearing, Jodie Bednar, noted she was a disadvantage because the criminal complaint had not yet been filed.
“We weren’t anticipating this particular charge,” she said. “While the state’s version of events would certainly support that charge, I don’t think they’re entirely accurate.”
Bednar said she understood the bond hearing was not the “time and place” to argue facts. 
“However, your honor, I think certain facts have to be deduced in order for you to determine whether or not this individual is a danger to the community,” she said, later referring to the death as “the most horrible of accidents possible.”
Bednar said Wildcat was “at the place of her employment” Heart II in Arbor Vitae. 
“The victim, Alex, was working as well as was another individual,” she said.
Bednar said when the bar closed and it was time to go home, “apparently, there had been some consumption of alcohol and Alex was in no condition to drive.”
“Alex was going to get a ride from a relative,” she said. “The relative had a conversation with Laurie by phone and it was agreed that Laurie would take Alex home rather than the family member come out that hour of the night.”
Bednar said Wildcat and another person tried to get Echeverria into the vehicle.
“Alex was in a very jocular mood and he basically bolted,” she said. “He left. The two of them went looking for him. Witnesses told law enforcement that they even heard yelling.”
That was Wildcat and the other person calling for Echeverria, Bednar said.
“They were gravely worried about him, given his state and they didn’t want anything to happen to him,” she said. “The other individual had to return to the bar to close the bar down and Laurie was very worried about this person, about Alex.”
Bednar said Wildcat then went to look for Echeverria, thinking he may have headed north on Hwy. 51. 
“So, she went in that direction,” she said. “(She) went for a mile or two, couldn’t find him and as she was coming back, all of a sudden, there he was,” she said. “In her lane of traffic. Just ... boom. Just like a deer. She hit her brakes, was unable to stop in time and unfortunately, he was killed.”
Bednar said Wildcat got out of her vehicle and attempted to render aid.
“I’m not sure what happened with this allegation about her supposedly hitting a deer,” she said. “I don’t know anything about that but I do know she tried to flag down some other motorists, put herself at risk trying to do that.”
Bednar said nobody stopped and characterized Wildcat as being “in a state of panic.”
“A state of shock,” she said. “She didn’t flee the scene, your honor. She stayed to render aid and then went to Heart II ... her friend called 911 using Laurie’s phone. Judge, this is not a situation where there was bad driving involved. There was obviously no intent. Laurie was trying to be a good samaritan and tragedy ensued as a result.”
Bednar said Wildcat is a lifelong Vilas County resident who is a high school graduate “with some college” and no criminal record. 
“She’s a responsible, contributing member of the community,” she said. “She’s taking this very, very seriously. She feels horrible about what happened. She’s not a danger to the community, your honor. This is an aberration, a horrible, horrible aberration. She absolutely recognizes that. She couldn’t be sorrier.”
Bednar said members of Wildcat’s family were at the bond hearing and that Wildcat is also friends with members of Echeverria’s family. 
“She’s actually related to some of them,” she said, reiterating to Milanowski that Wildcat wasn’t a danger, wouldn’t be going anywhere, and wouldn’t return to Heart II.
 “She has no desire to enter any bars,” Bednar said. “She certainly has no desire to consume any alcohol. She certainly will secure employment on the reservation. She’s highly qualified and skilled and will have no problem finding employment. She also has some mental health issues and needs some counseling. We can secure that if she’s released from jail as well. We are already taking steps to do that.”
Bednar said Wildcat would appear at all future court appearances but does not have the $10,000 bond Hayes requested.
“It’s not gonna take $10,000 to secure her (court) appearance or protect the community,” she said. “I think that’s exorbitant under the circumstances. We would ask for a high signature bond, your honor, or perhaps, at most, $1,000 cash bond that the family can secure but $10,000 is punitive. There’s no way she can raise that and it’s not necessary under the circumstances, your honor.”
Hayes alleged the evidence will show Wildcat didn’t “slam on the brakes” prior to her vehicle striking Echeverria. 
“The evidence, in fact, shows she was accelerating,” he said. 

Into consideration
After confirming with Wildcat she resides with her mother in Lac du Flambeau, Milanowski said the purpose for setting bond is “to ensure future court appearances.”
“The court also has to take into consideration public safety as well,” she said. “I can set cash if I feel it appropriate to ensure future court appearances to address public safety along with some non-monetary conditions.”
Milanowski said Wildcat would be charged with hit-and-run causing death and would face a maximum of 25 years in prison “if convicted.”
“Of course, she is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,” the judge said. “Like I said, we’re not here to try the case, we’re not here to talk about all the alleged acts that have been presented today and there is many.”
“I have to base my decision based on what is in front of me,” she added. “What we all can agree upon is there was loss of life. That’s a part of this situation and that is very concerning to the court. We have a victim who is deceased.”
Milanowski said there was also the alleged driving under the influence of alcohol and use of marijuana “prior to driving.”
“I don’t know whether brakes were used or not but what I do know is a pedestrian was hit and killed in the early morning hours and that is a huge concern for public safety,” she said.
Ultimately, Milanowski ordered Wildcat’s bond set at $5,000 and set a 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew that she could modify if Wildcat were to secure employment outside of those hours. She also ordered that Wildcat maintain “absolute sobriety” for the duration of the case. 
Wildcat’s next court date was set for Monday, June 20. There will be an update of the case in the Friday, June 24 edition of The Lakeland Times. 
Brian Jopek may be reached via email at bjopek@lakelandtimes.com