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A Deerfield man was charged Friday with felony murder after police said he repeatedly punched a man at a Deerfield bar in an incident described initially as a bar fight, but one in which investigators saw and heard no evidence of any punches thrown by the man who died.

Cody J. Bauer, 27, was charged with causing the death of Nathan L. Priewe, 28, of Cambridge, who was found dead the following morning at an apartment in Deerfield, where Priewe and a friend had gone after the incident at Kurt’s Never Inn, 26 N. Main St. in Deerfield.

An autopsy found that Priewe died from blunt injury to his head, and that the manner of his death was homicide, according to the complaint, filed in Dane County Circuit Court.

“Bar fight” was initially used to describe what happened, Assistant District Attorney James Quattromani said, but doesn’t really describe what happened.

“The victim never strikes the defendant,” he said. “The defendant strikes the victim in the head.”

Among Priewe’s injuries, he said, was a skull fracture.

The complaint doesn’t state what motivation Bauer may have had for punching Priewe.

Court Commissioner Brian Asmus set bail for Bauer at $100,000 after an appearance Friday in Dane County Circuit Court. Bauer will be back in court for a preliminary hearing on Sept. 14.

Felony murder is charged when a death occurs during the commission of another crime. In this case, the underlying crime is aggravated battery, according to the complaint. Bauer faces a maximum penalty of 21 years of combined prison and extended supervision — six years for aggravated battery and 15 more years for causing Priewe’s death.

According to the complaint:

Police were called on Aug. 26 to an apartment on Washburn Road in Deerfield after Christopher Blume reported waking up to find his friend Priewe lifeless in a reclining chair.

Blume told police that he and Priewe had met up the night before and went to three bars, including Kurt’s Never Inn. At the bar, Blume said, Priewe got into a fight with Bauer. Blume said he asked the bartender to call 911, but Blume, Bauer and Priewe were instead kicked out of the bar.

He said the fight resumed outside, until he was able to get Priewe to leave. They walked back to Blume’s apartment. Blume told police that Priewe complained of pain and ringing in his ear and a knot on his head.

A witness who was at Kurt’s told police that she was having a girls’ night out and that Bauer was bothering them, trying to butt in on conversations. She said she later saw Bauer and Priewe outside, with Bauer swinging at and striking Priewe. She said she never saw Priewe fight back or punch Bauer, and after receiving four punches, Priewe began walking away from the bar with Blume.

Dane County Sheriff’s Detective Jessamy Torres watched a surveillance video from Kurt’s and saw Priewe and Blume sitting at the bar when Bauer came up and stood next to Priewe, lowering his head and face close to Priewe’s. At times, Priewe put his head down and his hands over his face, and when Bauer put his face down to Priewe’s face, Priewe backed his face away from Bauer, Torres noticed.

After about seven minutes, the two of them shook hands, but the handshake lasted for about a minute, and they appeared to be pulling their hands back and forth. Then Bauer grabbed Priewe, shoved his back into the bar and threw several punches, hitting Priewe in the head.

Torres wrote that Priewe stood up, grabbed Bauer around his waist and the two stepped out of the camera’s view as Priewe tried to hold Bauer back at arm’s length. She noted that she never saw Priewe strike Bauer.


Ed Treleven is the courts reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.