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Murderer, sex offender was living in Onalaska home where day care was provided, authorities say

Terrance Shaw

Shaw

A report of a day care being operated in an Onalaska residence occupied by convicted murderer and rapist Terrance Shaw has forced him to find a new home.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Corrections Sex Offender Registry, Shaw has moved to America’s Best Value Inn in La Crosse. The registry had previously reported his address as a residence in Onalaska.

Onalaska police chief Charles Ashbeck said the existence of the day care was confirmed by DOC.

“We had some conversations with DOC staff about the possible day care in the home, and so that may have triggered Mr. Shaw moving out while that matter was investigated by DOC staff,” Ashbeck said. “We weren’t part of their internal discussions; they had notified us once they decided to remove him from the home.”

Shaw, 73, was convicted in the April 14, 1981, murder and sexual assault of Susan Erickson at her Onalaska residence. He was arrested a year later after he was seen prowling in an Onalaska neighborhood. He was convicted in 1982 and sentenced to life plus 20 years in prison. The Wisconsin Parole Commission initially granted parole to Shaw Feb. 19, 2021, but delayed his release because his original housing plan fell through.

Shaw was released from Racine Correctional Institution Sept. 7, 2021, after another living arrangement was made. A Milwaukee woman who supported Shaw’s parole bid said Friday that Shaw moved in with his son and daughter-in-law and that his son acted as a caregiver. Joyce Ellwanger said the daughter-in-law was told she may no longer operate the child care center in her home even though Shaw had left the house after being ordered by DOC.

“Terrance was not in the home the day they came and shut it down,” Ellwanger said.

DOC spokesperson John Beard said Friday that DOC officials had previously visited the residence and had not been informed that non-family children were being cared for at the residence.

“DOC was made aware last week that Mr. Shaw’s family members, with whom he was previously residing, were watching children in a separate section of the home from where he was living,” Beard said.

Beard said Shaw, who has “severe limitations on his mobility,” was living in the lower level of the home, while non-family children were cared for in the upper level of the residence. Beard said the residence wasn’t a licensed day care facility.

“Mr. Shaw has no known offenses involving minors and no restrictions regarding contact with minors,” Beard said. “Nevertheless, DOC thought it best that he be moved to another location.”

State law prohibits anyone who has committed certain criminal offenses, including homicide and sexual assault, from working or residing in an area where licensed day care services are provided.

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Parole minutes released

The Wisconsin Parole Commission released the minutes of Shaw’s mandatory parole hearing Friday in response to an Open Records request.

State law requires a regular parole hearing for anyone imprisoned for crimes prior to Dec. 31, 1999. Shaw would not have been eligible for release under “truth in sentencing” guidelines that apply to offenses committed after that date.

It was Shaw’s 29th parole hearing.

The commission concluded that Shaw’s institutional and program participation have been satisfactory and that releasing him would not involve unreasonable risk to the public.

The commission’s comments state that Shaw was “mentally unstable at the time” due to post-traumatic stress syndrome triggered by military service, a family breakup and lingering effects from being sexually assaulted as a child.

The commission noted that Shaw had no prior criminal record. His prison record includes one major and six minor conduct reports with none occurring since 2011.

The report says Shaw can support himself on Social Security and disability income.

“Based on a review of the record, it is clear that you no longer resemble the individual who entered the system over 38 years ago,” the commission wrote. “Within these years, you have maintained positive and institutional adjustment, have completed all essential programming, have transitioned through reduced security. ... Given this significant growth and the fact that you have an approved release plan, an argument can be made that you have reduced your risk to an acceptable level.”

The Parole Commission consists of four members. The governor appoints the chairperson for a two-year term, who is subject to confirmation by the state Senate. The remaining three commissioners are hired in accordance with the civil service system and report to the chairperson.

Ellwanger criticized the coverage of Shaw’s release. She said the publicity has resulted in “personal suffering” for Shaw’s family.

“The family feels threatened by the sensational headlines and the coverage by the press,” Ellwanger wrote in a Sept. 23 correspondence with the Tribune. “Mr. Shaw has not only had his peaceful return of over a year interrupted, he has lost his home — though he will have to continue to pay the mortgage along with his son so that the family may stay in the home — and he is being reviled not only in the media but has been referenced by politicians who are running on a ticket of eliminating parole, suggesting that he is threat to the community.”

La Crosse Tribune reporter Steve Rundio can be reached at steve.rundio@lee.net.

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