innocence blog

A Web log for the Innocence Institute of Point Park University

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Charges Dropped in Cadigan Murders

By Andy Nelesenanelesen@greenbaypressgazette.com

APPLETON

Kewaunee County prosecutors on Tuesday dismissed murdercharges against Beth LaBatte, 39, the woman who was once convicted and imprisoned for 10 years for the 1991 deaths of sisters Ceil and AnnCadigan.

LaBatte's case was championed by the University of Wisconsin LawSchool's Innocence Project. Kewaunee County District Attorney Andrew Naze announced the state's decision to drop the charges as the case wasgearing up to go to trial a second time.

The Innocence Project won motions to have evidence from the case re-analyzed using current DNA technology and planned to use those findings at trial.

"The defense case got better and better as the months went by after thenew trial was granted," said First Assistant State Public Defender Henry Schultz. LaBatte has been free after relatives posted $112,000 worth ofproperty as bail.

Outagamie County Circuit Court Judge Dennis Luebke,who heard the original trial, in November granted LaBatte a new trial.The move hinged on the new DNA results that showed that blood on items connected to the Cadigan murders did not belong to LaBatte. Naze said key witnesses in the case have died and considering the"significant passage of time and the high cost to taxpayers, asuccessful outcome at a new trial is unlikely.

"We have pursued all available leads in attempting to developsignificant new evidence," Naze said. "However, after conferring withthe investigators and my staff, I am satisfied that the state would notbe able to meet the heavy burden of proving the case beyond a reasonable doubt."

Schultz gave credit to the two lawyers and six students from theInnocence Project. "I've been doing this over 25 years and there's onlytwo or three times I've had a first-degree murder case dismissed,"Schultz said. LaBatte was arrested for the Cadigan murders in 1996 and eventually convicted of two counts of first-degree intentional homicide and twocounts of armed robbery for the beating deaths of the sisters, ages 85and 90, inside their Kewaunee County farmhouse.

LaBatte was sentenced to life in prison for each count.Efforts to reach LaBatte on Tuesday were unsuccessful.

Kewaunee Enterprise reporter Kevin Boneske contributed to this report.

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