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Rhonda's View Rendezvous: Robbery motive for attempted homicide

6:38 PM, Jun. 18, 2013  |  Comments
Rhonda Whetstone
Rhonda Whetstone
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A most strange story took place 105 years ago, in May 1908, and it generated enough interest that newspapers as far away as Iowa carried the story of what happened and the followup.

On Sunday, May 10, Biron mill co-workers and friends Michael Stankovich and Stanislas (Stanley) Zdunek attended church services in Grand Rapids and were walking home. The men, who lived in Biron, were both Russian immigrants who came to this area most recently from Milwaukee.

On their three-mile walk home, they decided to stop at Curtis Crotteau's saloon to cash their paychecks, each a little more than $100 - a good deal of money in 1908.

About three miles north of the city of Grand Rapids, Stankovich said that he was tired and suggested to Zdunek that they head into some nearby woods and perhaps rest a bit. Zdunek refused the idea, saying he was not the least bit tired, and continued walking. Stankovich remained behind him as they walked.

According to Zdunek, the first inkling he had that something was amiss was when he was startled by a rope being thrown over his head and tightened around his neck. As soon as the rope was around Zdunek's neck, Stankovich began to twist it, nearly rendering Zdunek unconscious.

Zdunek struggled furiously with his assailant, and ,somehow, in the frenzied fight for life, Zdunek managed to get Stankovich's finger between his teeth and bite hard enough that Stankovich let go of the stranglehold he had. Nearly exhausted, Zdunek succeeded in fully releasing himself from the rope, and summoning all his strength, ran to Biron for assistance.

It was not long before Sheriff Welch found Stankovich and arrested him on charges of attempted murder.

Stankovich was jailed in Grand Rapids until he was to appear in court, but he had other plans. On Tuesday, Stankovich attempted to take his own life by hanging himself with his suspenders. He was found by the sheriff and cut down before he could complete the job. His preliminary hearing was postponed another week.

The Wisconsin Valley Leader reported that when Stankovich finally did appear in court, Zdunek testified that he felt that robbery was the motive for the attempted strangulation, that Stankovich wished to kill him so he could have the $110 that Zdunek had in his pocket.

Stankovich pleaded guilty to amended charges of assault with intention to do great bodily harm and was sentenced to one year hard labor at Waupun.

Even at that time, people were baffled as to why the sentence was so light when there was no doubt that Stankovich was serious in his intent to murder Zdunek over the sum of $100. It is only hoped that even that one year sentence served to teach him that "crime does not pay."

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