January 22, 2007

Slain Woman Found at Church; Police Arrest Bloody Onalaska Man After Drunken Driving Stop

By Dan Springer, La Crosse Tribune, Wis.

Jan. 22--Murder charges were filed Sunday against an Onalaska man suspected of killing a 23-year-old Stevens Point, Wis., woman whose body was found shortly before services Sunday morning at a La Crosse church.

Irwin M. Ramirez is accused of killing Danielle M. Gorectke, a Minocqua, Wis., native and University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point student who was in La Crosse visiting her sister, who attends Viterbo University.

Gorectke's fully clothed body was found about 8 a.m. Sunday outside Christ Covenant Church, 3630 Hwy. B, by a person plowing the church's parking lot for morning services.

La Crosse County Assistant District Attorney Tim Gruenke said Gorectke had several injuries to her face and head, but a cause of death won't be determined until an autopsy today.

Ramirez is being held in the Houston County Jail in Caledonia, Minn. He was arrested by La Crescent, Minn., police after an employee at Kwik Trip, 319 S. Third St., La Crescent, called police with a driving complaint about 4:08 a.m.

When police stopped Ramirez, officers saw blood on Ramirez, but Ramirez said he did not know where the blood came from and said he was alone all night, Gruenke said.

When Ramirez was booked into the Houston County Jail, he had a blood-alcohol level of 0.14 percent, according to a Wisconsin criminal complaint.

After arresting Ramirez, police found a woman's purse on the front seat of Ramirez's vehicle with the contents spilled out. Among the items was a debit card in Gorectke's name.

Police then called La Crosse police to ask whether they knew the woman. Gorectke's name did not appear in the LCPD's computer system, but they found the name and number of her sister, Michelle Gorectke.

According to police reports, Michelle Gorectke called police just before 6 a.m. to report she and her sister had become separated while at The Helm bar, 108 N. Third St., about 2 a.m. Sunday.

Michelle Gorectke said she was concerned about her sister and said it was out of the ordinary for the two to get separated while out, La Crosse Police Chief Ed Kondracki said.

Two hours later, Danielle Gorectke's body was found.

Road barriers from the La Crosse Street Department blocked entrances to the red-brick church throughout the day Sunday, with police vehicles behind those to keep people away from the church as investigators searched for evidence.

The church called off services as police conducted the investigation.

More than 4 inches of fresh snow in front of the church was trampled down by both footprints and tire tracks, and police used a tent and heater borrowed from the La Crosse Fire Department's Hazardous Materials Team to keep warm during the investigation.

Gruenke said investigators are uncertain whether Danielle Gorectke went with Ramirez willingly or was forced into Ramirez's vehicle.

Kondracki said police are hoping for help from the public to piece the entire story together.

Police agencies had two different Onalaska addresses for Ramirez on Sunday, one in the 600 block of Vilas Street and one in the 1900 block of Franklin Street. The owners of both properties told the Tribune late Sunday they did not know Ramirez and that he was not a tenant.

Ramirez, who is relatively new to the La Crosse area, is scheduled to be arraigned in Houston County Court later this morning. He is expected to be charged in Minnesota with driving under the influence, along with other potential charges, according to Houston County Sheriff Doug Ely.

The attempt to extradite Ramirez to La Crosse County to face first-degree intentional homicide charges will also begin but could take 30 days or more if Ramirez chooses to fight extradition.

How to help

La Crosse Police are asking that anyone who had contact with Danielle Gorectke in the downtown area on Saturday night or early Sunday morning or observed a blond-haired woman wearing a red Columbia coat, light brown V-neck shirt under a dark brown sweater, blue jeans and brown clogs getting into a 1992 silver Ford Thunderbird with Wisconsin license plates during that same period to contact the La Crosse Police Department at 608-789-7238 or La Crosse Area Crime Stoppers at (608) 784-TIPS (8477).

Kate Schott of the Tribune staff contributed to this report.


Copyright (c) 2007, La Crosse Tribune, Wis.

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