Though he had no criminal record, homicide suspect Christopher O’Kroley was being investigated for sexual assault when he allegedly shot a former co-worker to death last week outside a Far East Side grocery store.
O’Kroley, 26, also had been picked up on warrants for unrelated matters at least twice — by Madison police in September 2013 and by Cottage Grove police in September 2014, according to law enforcement sources and court records. O’Kroley also was briefly hospitalized in September 2014 after trying to kill himself, according to an ex-girlfriend who told the Wisconsin State Journal he has been mentally ill for the past decade.
However, nothing in his past — not the alleged suicide attempt, or the apparent mental health issues or his past run-ins with police — rose to the level of preventing him from legally buying the Smith and Wesson handgun that police say he used to kill Caroline E. Nosal, a former girlfriend who rejected his advances, on Feb. 2.
Madison police spokesman Joel DeSpain said O’Kroley legally purchased the gun from a local store on Feb. 1, but, citing the ongoing investigation, declined to say where it was bought or where O’Kroley told police he practiced shooting it later the same day in preparation for the alleged murder.
Nosal, 24, of Stoughton, was walking to her car outside Metro Market, 6010 Cottage Grove Road, when she was shot around 8 p.m., shortly after finishing her shift at the store. A court complaint Friday charged O’Kroley with first-degree intentional homicide in her death and with first-degree reckless endangerment for allegedly firing at the first Madison police officer who tried to arrest him.
A separate filing for a warrant to search O’Kroley’s car on Friday notes O’Kroley “was listed as a suspect in a sexual assault” that allegedly occurred Dec. 26 at his home in the 800 block of North Thompson Drive.
A Madison police report filed the next day said the victim, a 20-year-old woman who knew O’Kroley, reported falling asleep at his house after watching a movie and waking to find “some of her clothing isn’t the way it should be,” police spokesman Joel DeSpain told the State Journal.
“She believes she may have been sexually assaulted,” DeSpain said. “In those types of cases, typically someone is not arrested immediately. You need to do the forensics.”
Police talked to O’Kroley about the sexual assault allegations at his home later on Dec. 26, DeSpain said, after the woman reported the incident. Both agreed to undergo forensic exams at a local hospital, and investigators are awaiting the results, DeSpain said.
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“It’s an active investigation of an acquaintance sexual assault,” DeSpain said. “He was cooperative in the sense that he voluntarily went in for an exam. He was somewhat vague about what he remembered happening overnight.”
The warrants issued for O’Kroley in 2013 and 2014 appear to be tied to civil matters involving long-running disputes over the birth and support of his son, now 8, with Amanda M. Joers, 26. She and O’Kroley met in high school.
DeSpain said Madison police jailed O’Kroley in September 2013 after an officer making a traffic stop found a warrant for not paying child support. The traffic stop came after O’Kroley drove through a red light on West Doty Street.
Then on Sept. 11, 2014, Cottage Grove police picked up O’Kroley on a warrant, Dane County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Elise Schaffer said. Schaffer could find no record of what that warrant was for, but Joers said it was for non-payment of bills involving their son’s birth.
Later in September 2014, Joers said she called for an ambulance after finding O’Kroley overdosing in a bathtub at his mother’s Cottage Grove home, where he had gone for an arranged day of child visitation. The medications were prescribed to O’Kroley’s mother, Joers said, adding that O’Kroley was not on any medications that she knew of for mental health issues at the time of the attempted suicide.
O’Kroley left the hospital where he was treated within a few days, Joers said, and returned to his job at Metro Market.
State and federal laws say nothing about barring guns for people who attempt suicide. Only those involuntarily committed to a mental institution because they pose a danger to themselves or others, or those who are judged unfit to own a weapon by court order, are prohibited from owning guns for mental health-related reasons.
O’Kroley told detectives after his arrest for the fatal shooting on Feb. 3 that he was a “sociopath” who killed Nosal out of anger because she “ruined his life,” according to the court complaint. O’Kroley said he blamed Nosal for getting him fired after she reported to store managers that he was harassing her after their relationship soured.