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Kendhammer testifies in his homicide trial

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Todd Kendhammer takes the stand Tuesday in his defense against a homicide charge.

He testified during the Day 7 of his trial in a La Crosse County courtroom.

Prior to the jury coming in Tuesday morning, he was asked by Judge Todd Bjerke if he wanted to testify.

Kendhammer replied it was his decision to do so. 

His attorney Stephen Hurley began by asking Todd about his work history and his experience in auto glass. He went into detail about the workforce and his career at Crown Cork and Seal in La Crosse. That dovetailed into how and why Todd took time off on September 16, the day of the accident. 

Hurley then began asking questions of Kendhammer about the relationship he had with Barb from the first time they met, their children, and the life they led. Kendhammer said that the only time the couple spent apart was when he went with other relatives to deer camp on a yearly basis. Even then, he'd check in with Barb. Otherwise, the couple was always together. 

After about 40 minutes, the testimony came around to the morning of September 16. Hurley walked Kendhammer through what happened at home that morning such as getting things ready for a camping trip and talking to Barb's mom about a plumber that was coming to her house later that day.

He then discussed going to Justin Heim's home that morning. Kendhammer testified that he didn't know where Heim lived though. 

Later in his testimony, Hurley asked about one of the interviews with authorities when Kendhammer told them he was going to multiple places. Kendhammer said that looking at the video, he said it was him, but that it wasn't him talking, that he wasn't in a right state of mind. He said he was thinking more of Barb than what he was saying to investigators.

The day of the crash, Kendhammer said he and Barb left their home approximately 7:45 a.m. Their first stop was at a neighbor's home, Barb Thompson, to check on the home and garage. They then proceeded down to County Highway M.

When asked what Todd saw as they drove down the road, he said he thought it was a bird or thought it was a pipe. When asked if a pipe came through the windshield, Todd said, "Yes it did."

He then physically showed the jury approximately what he did as the pipe approached the car. He lunged with his right hand and arm toward the windshield. The pipe then came through the windshield. Kendhammer said that he had to reach out to push her back up because she was trying to come over to him. He then testified that he pulled off the road. He then said he doesn't remember getting the vehicle stuck when he tried to turn around. He did say he got out of the car, came around and tried to get her out of the vehicle. 

He said he had problems with the passenger door staying open. Once he got that to stay open, he tried to move Barb out, but had difficulty doing that because he said she was caught on something. He said he tied to do it nicely, but couldn't and tugged her out of the car. They both fell out onto the ground. Todd said he then began CPR. When he did so, she began to bleed more, out of her nose, mouth, and ear. At that point, he made the first of two 9-1-1 calls.

Later, he testified he didn't see the first responders drive by the scene, but did say he heard the sirens as they went past Bergum Coulee Road. During the 9-1-1 call he said to the dispatcher to call them back because they went past the scene.

When questioned about Randy Erler's testimony, who said he went past the car and didn't see anyone around or any damage from a pipe, Todd Kendhammer said he didn't see Erler drive past his car. He said he was with Barb by the car the whole time until first responders arrived.

In several questions, when asked if he ever harmed his wife, Kendhammer repeatedly said he never did. "I've never raised my voice at Barb. Never hurt her either."

He concluded his morning testimony by replying to a question about all the injuries Barbara received, he said again that it was the accident that caused them.

It was at this point, the court called for a noon recess. The trial will begin again at 1 p.m. 

We'll have a recap of today's testimony tonight on Live at Five, the 6 pm, and 10 pm Reports. You can also go to our special page with Todd Kendhammer Trial Coverage.


1 p.m.

During the afternoon, an emotional Todd Kendhammer described what happened following the crash. 

He described being told at the hospital that the injuries to his wife Barbara were too severe to survive. He told jurors that he kissed her and told her that he loved her, too and that he would take care of her mother. He said they always said 'love you too' because that's what they always said to one another.

He then detailed what how he spent several days away from their home because he didn't want to go home without Barbara there. 

When later asked by his attorney Stephen Hurley if he loved Barb, he said the following:

Hurley: "Did you love Barb?

Kendhammer: "Yes."

Hurley: "Did you love her on September 16th?

Kendhammer: " "I still do."

Before finishing his direct testimony, Kendhammer denied injuring Barbara in any way. 


1:45 p.m.

District Attorney Tim Gruenke on cross-examination immediately attacked the story that Todd Kendhammer told investigators.

Gruenke questioned Kendhammer that he gave several different stories and versions of events at the scene and in the days following the crash. Kendhammer admitted he gave several versions of events.

At one point during questioning, Gruenke asked if there was a third version of what happened. Kendhammer replied, "No, I have a second one."

He also said he couldn't recall certain events when questioned about them.

Gruenke went after Kendhammer about the fact that Barb was supposed to be at work at 8 a.m. but instead was traveling north with Todd.

He had Todd admit that Barb would call the school where she worked if she was going to be late. Gruenke said the evidence showed she didn't call the school. He added that Barb didn't call her mother as she usually did. Todd said he didn't have an explanation for either of those facts. 

Later, Gruenke also got Kendhammer to admit that when he told police that scratches on his neck were from glass that that statement wasn't true.

During their exchange, Gruenke said, "Did you think details would make your lies more believable?," regarding the truck where the pipe allegedly fell from. Kendhammer replied he didn't send police on "a wild goose chase" when describing the flatbed truck. 

Kendhammer finished his testimony around 3 p.m.


3:15 p.m.

Several other witnesses are scheduled to testify for the defense Tuesday afternoon. First up was Jenny Cavadini of First Community Credit Union. She testified on the finances of the Kendhammers. She said on direct testimony that the couple had several accounts with the credit union. Cavadini said the couple didn't have any missed payments, late payments or bounced checks for any of their accounts.

Next to testify is Cindy Kohlmeier-Springborn. She said she was headed north on County M a few weeks after the Kendhammer incident. She says she saw a pipe laying on the side of the road about a half a mile from the original crash scene. She testified that she then called police to let them know what she saw. 

Scott Torgerson works at Crown Cork and Seal in La Crosse with Todd Kendhammer. They grew up together. He described a conversation from May 2016 in the breakroom that involved Kendhammer, Justin Heim, and some others regarding work on a windshield. 

Todd and Barb's son, Jordan, next testified. He described for the jury his upbringing with his parents. He used the word "perfect" to describe their relationship with one another.  He said his parents never had any arguments or fights. They also didn't have any money issues, he said. He went over what he was doing at his parent's home on September 16. Jordan said that he didn't see or hear anything unusual or out of place that day.


8:30 a.m.

UPDATE: The first to take the stand today is not Todd Kendhammer, but Dr. Steven Cook. He is a former emergency room physician from Chippewa Falls who is testifying about the injuries to Barbara Kendhammer.  

Dr. Cook told the jury that he believes her injuries are consistent with how Todd Kendhammer described them. Kendhammer said that a pipe from a passing truck fell off and crashed through the windshield of their vehicle. The pipe hit Barb Kendhammer.

The injuries to Barb Kendhammer may have happened, Dr. Cook testified, because she likely ducked and was tense when the pipe hit the windshield. The pipe hit the back of her head, which explains those injuries. He later testified that the lack of blood inside the vehicle is consistent with Todd's description of the events. The lack of blood on the headrest of the passenger seat makes sense, Dr. Cook said, as he believes she was leaning forward.

Dr. Cook said he believes injuries on other places on Barb Kendhammer can be explained by when Todd Kendhammer removed her from their vehicle. "There is nothing harder to move than a human body that's unconscious, and usually it's a scary situation," Cook testified. He said that people use various types of grips and pulls to get people moving or out of a car when they are unconscious.

He also said the pipe caused the scratches and abrasions on Barb's neck, not the result of fingernails or strangulation as prosecutors contend.

District Attorney Tim Gruenke brought out some inconsistencies between Dr. Cook's testimony and his formal report during cross-examination. He got his left and right confused when talking about the side of the head struck first by the pipe.

Dr. Cook, near the end of his questioning, called the crash, 'an incredibly bizarre accident'.


8

Todd Kendhammer takes the stand today to explain what happened in the accident that claimed the life of his wife.

Tuesday is the seventh day of Kendhammer's trial on a charge of First Degree Intentional Homicide in the death of his wife Barbara in September 2016. 

Kendhammer said a pipe fell from a passing truck then went through the windshield of the couple's vehicle as it traveled down County Road M near Bergum Coulee Road near West Salem on the morning of September 16, 2016.

Despite lifesaving measures taken by Todd Kendhammer and first responders, Barb Kendhammer died the next day in a La Crosse hospital. 

Investigators looking into the case said the evidence including never seeing the truck on any surveillance videos, along with his inconsistent statements to authorities, pointed back to Todd Kendhammer, who was charged in December 2016 with Barb's homicide.

During the first week of the trial, the jury was shown a video of an interview done with La Crosse County Sheriff's Office investigators. In that interview, which lasted several hours, Todd repeatedly denied killing Barb. 

Court is set to begin at approximately 8:30 a.m.

WXOW will provide live stream coverage of the Kendhammer trial on WXOW.com/live and our mobile news app.


PREVIOUS COVERAGE

Kendhammer Trial Day 6: Expert witnesses testify

Kendhammer Trial Day 5: DNA evidence

Kendhammer Trial Day 4: Interviews with investigators

Kendhammer Trial Day 3: Prosecutors attack alibi

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