Waupaca County reduces homicide charge from reckless to negligent
By Robert Cloud
A driver who was a teen when involved in a fatal crash three years ago was convicted of homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle.
On May 30, Outagamie County Judge Vincent Biskupic sentenced Logan P. Stedjee, 20, Clintonville, to three years in state prison and three years of extended supervision. He then stayed the sentence and placed Stedjee on five years of probation.
Conditions include 200 days in county jail with release privileges and electronic monitoring.
Stedjee must also perform 200 hours of community service, write a letter of apology to victim’s family, have no contact with victim’s family, attend a victim impact panel twice a year while on probation and maintain absolute sobriety.
According to the initial criminal complaint, Stedjee sent a Facebook message threatening to kill himself minutes before he was in a fatal crash around 11 a.m. Saturday, May 30, 2020, in the town of Bear Creek.
Witnesses said Stedjee was driving at 90-100 mph westbound on County Trunk D.
He crossed U.S. Highway 45, then slammed into a pickup truck traveling eastbound on County Trunk O, killing Robin S, Runge, 67, of Montello.
Stedjee was initially charged with first-degree reckless homicide, which carries a 40-60 year prison sentence.
On Aug. 15, 2022, Waupaca County Judge Troy Nielsen amended the sole charge to homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
The amended charge followed a crash analysis report in July 2022 and a letter from Waupaca County Assistant District Attorney Veronica Isherwood to Nielsen.
Details of crash
She also noted that there was “an extremely long wait for the State Patrol Crash Reconstruction” report, which failed to disclose the “geometry of the intersection.”
Isherwood said the transition from County D to County O at U.S. 45 is offset.
“As described by the defense expert, this offset is such that an operator would need to steer to the left to remain in the westbound lane,” she wrote. “The defense report points out that this offset, high speed, a driver with limited experience and his emotional state would have an impact on how the crash played out.”
In her letter Isherwood quoted an argument made by Stedjee’s defense counsel, Jeffrey Kippa: “People that are suicidal and in a vehicle will typically go wrap their car around a tree and not look to kill themselves by hitting another vehicle. What happened here was a complete and unfortunate accident, more consistent with negligence than criminal recklessness.”
“Death is final and sadly nothing can be done to undo the events of May 30, 2020,” Nielsen said in his Aug. 15, 2022, order. “It is the court’s opinion the criminal justice system is totally inept to fill the void that comes with the finality of a loved one’s death.”
Nielsen ruled to grant the amendment to the lesser charge on the condition that Stedjee plead guilty rather than no contest.
Isherwood wrote that Stedjee was the victim of a extortion scheme on the morning of May 30, 2020.
“This fact was unknown to us when the case was initially charged,” Isherwood said in her letter to Nielsen.
According to a sentencing memo from Kippa, Stedjee received a friend request from an Alice Heaney on the night of May 29.
Stedjee noticed that they had mutual friends, so he accepted the request.
Shortly after 10 a.m. the following morning, Alice sent a text to Stedjee and started an hour-long conversation that went from introductions and small talk to sexual within 20 minutes.
At 10:36 a.m., the conversation moved to video chat and Stedjee apparently saw a woman in her bra on a bed, but they continue communicating by text.
“Sadly, this should have been a clue to Logan that this video was pre-recorded and the typing was being done by some other actor and most definitely not the woman on the video,” Kippa wrote.
At 10:39 a.m., the messages become threatening: “If you disconnect, I start to make your life hell on earth because you will see that I will destroy your life.”
Alice began sharing video links with Stedjee’s family and friends, threatening him unless he paid her $3,800.
They begin negotiating the amount and method of payment.
At 11:03 a.m., Stedjee told Alice that he planned to crash his car and kill himself.
“This is approximately 12 hours afer accepting the friend request and a mere 57 minutes after this conversation began,” Kippa noted. “Three minutes later 11:06 a.m., Deputy Justin Malueg gets dispatched to the scene of a two-vehicle crash with a resulting fatality.”
Kippa said the FBI has reported that similar “sextortion” schemes have resulted in more than a dozen teen suicides.
“Homeland Security notes that criminals particularly target boys from ages 14 to 17,” Kippa said, noting that investigators were unable to locate an “Alice Heaney” and “not surprisingly, she does not exist.”
Investigators also found that the conversation originated from outside of the United States.
Judges recuse themselves
On Nov. 14, 2022, Nielsen recused himself from the case after Waupaca County Board Chair Dick Koeppen sent him an email seeking clemency for Stedjee.
Nielsen noted that the email had created the appearance of bias.
Stedjee’s mother has been Koeppen’s office manager for more than 16 years.
On Nov. 21, 2022, Waupaca County judges Vicki Clussman and Raymond Huber also recused themselves from the case.
The case was then assigned to Biskupic.
On Feb. 2, 2023, Biskupic received a letter from the victim’s son, Danny J. Faestel, disputing the amended charge.
“Negligence is an unintentional mistake, this was reckless,” Faestel said in the letter. “He recklessly killed my mother as a selfish attempt to avoid responsibility by killing himself. There are many ways he could kill himself without harming someone. Instead, he chose a way that recklessly killed someone else while causing himself minor injuries.”
In a victim impact statement prior to sentencing, Faestel asked Biskupic to order that Stedjee spend all holidays, his birthdays and the victim’s birthdays in jail.
“Ten days a year for the rest of Logan’s life to reflect versus 365 days a year for my daughter and my life.”
Biskupic ordered that Stedjee pay $6,797 in restitution, which Faestel estimated would cover his costs for cremation, lost wages due to numerous court hearings and meetings with prosecutors over a three-year period, and the cost to travel the 90 miles back and forth from Appleton to the courthouse in Waupaca.
Faestek filed a wrongful death civil suit against Stedjee, his parents and insurance company on Sept. 28, 2020. The case remains open.
Biskupic assessed Stedjee a total of $9,264 in restitution, fines and court costs, which was paid from the $25,000 cash bond posted to secure Stedjee’s release from custody, according to court records.