Magolski gets 20 years
Life sentence reduced after appeal
By Robert Cloud
Chad Magolski, the New London man sentenced to life in prison for killing his 77-year-old neighbor, saw his prison sentence reduced to 20 years.
Outagamie County Judge Mitchell Metropulos also gave the 42-year-old Magolski seven years of credit on his sentence for the time he has already spent in jail after his arrest or in prison after his conviction.
Magolski was originally convicted of first-degree intentional homicide in Waupaca County in March 2012.
At a hearing on Friday, May 18, Magolski entered an Alford plea to an amended charge of felony murder while committing armed robbery.
Alford is a form of pleading no contest to a charge without admitting guilt.
In addition to 13 more years in prison, Magolski will be on extended supervision for 10 years.
As conditions of his supervision, Magolski must maintain absolute sobriety and stay out of bars, taverns and liquor stores. He is also to have no contact with relatives of James Park, the murder victim.
On Dec. 15, 2007, New London police found Park’s body in his apartment.
Stabbed 11 times in the neck, chest and abdomen, Park had been dead at least a week before he was discovered.
The killer had also turned out Park’s pockets and ransacked his apartment. A money clip was missing.
Magolski was a suspect early in the investigation. He lived in an upstairs apartment and had a criminal record. Police interviewed him numerous times and searched his apartment twice.
Investigators found no physical evidence in Magolski’s apartment linking him to the murder. They did not find any blood, weapons or items that may have been stolen from Park’s apartment.
However, a $50 bill Magolski used to pay his rent had Park’s blood on it.
Magolski was found guilty after a three-day jury trial in March 2012.
Key factors in the prosecution’s case included DNA evidence and a burglary Magolski committed seven years prior to Park’s murder.
The Wisconsin Innocence Project appealed Magolski’s conviction, arguing the burglary conviction was prejudicial and irrelevant to the case. The attorneys also raised questions about the prosecution’s DNA evidence.
In reversing the conviction in February 2015, the District IV Court of Appeals ruled the circuit court should not have allowed testimony regarding the burglary.
The appeals court did not address the DNA evidence.
An Outagamie County judge was assigned to oversee the Waupaca County case to avoid conflict of interest.
DNA analysis disputed
For the past three years, the state Attorney Generals’ office and Magolski’s defense counsel have filed multiple briefs and documents regarding the DNA analysis prosecutor’s used in the original trial.
At the trial, the prosecution had presented testimony regarding a bar of soap in Park’s bathroom sink and a bloody towel dropped into the toilet. They argued the killer used the soap and towel to wash the blood off his hands after stabbing Park.
The State Crime Lab found a mixture of DNA on the soap. In 2008, the analysts determined Park and Magolski were possible contributors to that DNA mixture.
Attorneys for Magolski questioned the scientific validity of the prosecution’s analysis.
Charlotte Ward, a DNA expert from Maryland, noted in a May 2016 affadavit, “In my opinion no conclusions should be made regarding the DNA profiled from the bar of soap other than to say it is a mixture of DNA from at least three contributors and most likely four or more contributors.”
Because the prosecution’s DNA analysis was based on assumption that only two people contributed to the DNA mixture, its validity was questionable.
Initially, the hearing scheduled for May 15 was to determine whether the DNA evidence was admissible. Instead, Magolski had agreed to plead to a lesser charge with a maximum of 40 years in prison.
Both prosecution and defense attorneys recommended 15 years in prison with 10 years of extended supervision.
“The facts of the case are that you brutally murdered this individual, Mr. Parks,” Metropulos said, regarding Magolski’s Alford plea. “It was an absolutely horrific event, and whether you feel you’re truly innocent of this, whether you can’t recall it, or you’re in denial, by your entering a plea today, I find you guilty of the offense.”
Metropulos noted the difficulty of determining a sentence that both families of the victim and the defendant would consider just.
“They disagree with the plea agreement,” Metropulos said regarding Park’s family. “They believe you should serve, as Judge Kirk ordered, the rest of your life in prison. It’s hard not to be sympathetic with that, because if I would have had one of the members of my family brutally murdered, I’m sure I would be asking for life in imprisonment, if not worse.”
“Your own family are victims of this crime because they have to suffer as well,” Metropulos added. “I’ve received their letters today, and many of them believe you are innocent, and many of them will believe whatever sentence I give here today is a travesty of justice because I shouldn’t put an innocent person in prison.”