BURNETT COUNTY -- The Court has sentenced Tara Appleton, of Webster, WI, for convictions stemming from a fatal vehicle incident that occurred in March 2020.
On March 31, 2020, DrydenWire published a press release from the Burnett County Sheriff’s Office regarding an investigation into the death of Preston Decorah. It was believed that a vehicle was involved in the incident. Assistance was provided to the Burnett County Sheriff’s Office by the St. Croix Tribal Police Department, the Wisconsin State Patrol, and the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office.
On April 1, 2020, DyrdenWire published an update from the Burnett County Sheriff’s Office regarding the incident that stated that Tara Appleton, age 31, had been identified as the operator of the vehicle. Appleton was taken into custody for Causing Death by Intoxicated Use of a Motor Vehicle and Reckless Homicide.
Information gathered through the joint investigation revealed that the victim of the incident, Mr. Decorah, had fallen onto the roadway while riding on top of a moving vehicle. The victim was left on the roadway for approximately an hour and then moved to the reporting party’s driveway where he was ultimately found, hours later, and transported to the hospital.
Charges of Class B Felony 1st-Degree Reckless Homicide; Class D Felony 2nd Degree Reckless Homicide; Class D Felony Homicide by Intoxicated Use of Vehicle; and Class D Felony Hit and Run-Involve Death were filed against Appleton according to online circuit court records.
A jury trial was initially scheduled for Appleton regarding her charges in October 2021, and later moved to November 2021, however, at a hearing in October 2021, Appleton entered a plea of No Contest to her charges of Class D Felony 2nd Degree Reckless Homicide and Class D Felony Hit and Run-Involve Death. The remaining charges against Appleton were dismissed and read in.
On March 28, 2022, Appleton appeared for a sentencing hearing on her convictions. The Hon. Melissia Mogen heard from parties to the case. Two victims made statements to the Court, and four character witnesses provided statements to the Court.
The Burnett County District Attorney and defense counsel spoke to the Court regarding sentencing recommendations for Appleton. The State argued for 7 years of initial confinement in state prison to be followed by 4 years of extended supervision, with concurrent sentences. Appleton’s defense attorney argued for 10 years of probation with 1 year of conditional jail time with an imposed and stayed prison term. Appleton also made a statement to the Court according to online court records.
The Court ordered Appleton to serve 4 and ½ years of initial confinement in state prison followed by 4 years of extended supervision on each conviction, to be served concurrently to each other. Conditions of supervision will require Appleton to maintain absolute sobriety and undergo both criminal thinking and substance abuse programming.
Online circuit court records indicate that a separate court case is pending against Appleton in Burnett County Circuit Court charging her with Misdemeanor Operating While Intoxicated. Details of that case are not known to DrydenWire, but online court records show that the State is awaiting crime lab test results on that case. At Appleton’s plea hearing in October 2021, additional charges of Class I Felony Possession of Methamphetamine, and Class H Felony Bail Jumping that were filed against her in this separate matter were dismissed and read in.
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Pursuant to the direction of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, as found in Supreme Court Rule 20:3.6, Trial Publicly, you are advised that a charge is merely an accusation and that a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.