November 27, 2004
Wisconsin Community Grieves for Hunters
RICE LAKE, Wis. - Orange ribbons are tied around the lamp posts on Main Street. Tiny ones flutter from car antennas. A few are stuck on business signs.
The slaying of six hunters has saddened virtually this entire community of 8,500. Already one has been laid to rest. Three more will be buried Saturday, the other two Monday."There's nobody that's not touched in town," said Bob Stanonik, who stood on Main Street as 100 to 200 people gathered Friday to remember Mark Roidt, 28.
Chai Vang, of St. Paul, is accused of fatally shooting the hunters when they confronted him about trespassing on land owned by two of the victims. He also faces charges for wounding two others.
Vang, a Hmong immigrant, told authorities the hunters surrounded him and used racial slurs before one fired a shot at him. One of the survivors said Vang started shooting first.
Many of the mourners Friday wore orange ribbons on their coats.
Jodi Anderson knew Roidt because he often ate at the restaurant where she is a cook. She, like others in the community, still can't believe the hunters are gone.
"I'm very angry," Anderson said. "This is so wrong."
Roidt's mother, Karen Roidt, told mourners that her son died doing something he loved, according to family friend Pat Malesa. The funeral was closed to reporters.
The funerals scheduled Saturday are for Al Laski, 43; Robert Crotteau, 42, the owner of the land where the shooting happened; and his son, Joey Crotteau, 20. Jessica Willers, 27, and Denny Drew, 55, will be remembered Monday. Willers' father, Terry Willers, and Lauren Hesebeck were wounded. Both have been released from the hospital.
The deer hunting season, which ends Sunday night, is considered a holiday by many in the area.
"The hunting week up here is called holy week," Stanonik said. "Families get together, father, son, grandson."
Burnell Hanson, who employed Roidt for a few months doing some carpentry work, said the town needs time to heal.
Some hunters didn't return to the woods after the shootings, he said.
Orlen Eidahl of Rice Lake doesn't think the shootings will keep people from the hobby they love.
"We all are saddened, but things will go on," he said.
Associated Press writer Xiao Zhang contributed to this story from Rice Lake.