Authorities investigate a makeshift solar-powered bunker in the woods west of Wausau, where a hunter discovered a fugitive wanted on child sexual assault and child pornography charges who hid out there for more than three years.
RINGLE — A Wisconsin fugitive wanted on child sexual assault and child pornography charges hid out for more than three years in a makeshift bunker powered by solar panels and a pedal generator before a hunter stumbled onto him last week, police said.
Several months ago, Thomas Nelson, of Wausau, found a bunker with a log door carved into an embankment on state land in the town of Ringle west of Wausau, about 145 miles north of Madison, WSAW-TV reported. He became curious and returned to the bunker on Friday morning to see what was inside.
The door was unlatched so he went inside. He discovered 44-year-old Jeremiah Button, who disappeared in February 2016 just weeks before he was scheduled to stand trial on child sexual assault and child pornography charges.
“I pushed the door open, and I look inside and I can see canned foods, there’s little storage boxes, and I’m like ... I gotta go in,” Nelson told the television station. “I come around the corner a bit and there he is, laying in his bed. I mean, I was shaking when I went in, I was shaking when I went out.”
He moved away and called police, guiding them to the bunker’s door. A 20-minute stand-off ensued before Button surrendered. Marathon County Sheriff’s Deputy Matt Kecker said Button seemed almost glad for human interaction.
Kecker said Button told deputies that he had been building the bunker while his case was moving through court, stockpiling it with items he found in the Marathon County landfill.
You have run out of free stories. To continue reading, take advantage of our LOWEST offer yet!
Sheriff’s Lt. Jeff Stefonek said Button set up solar panels on the bunker’s roof to power LED lights, radios, cooling fans and all manner of electronic equipment. He also had a pedal-powered generator for cloudy days. The bunker was small enough that it stayed warm in winter and cool in summer.
“He was not only surviving, but thriving in this structure through all of the different supplies he was able to find,” Stefonek said.
Button is back in custody on a $100,000 cash bond and is due back in court for a pre-trial conference on Sept. 16. His attorneys, public defenders Anne Renc and Jessica Phelps, didn’t immediately return phone messages Wednesday. Court records show they were assigned to Button’s case on Tuesday.
His attorney in 2016, Gary Kryshak, withdrew from the case in February 2017, a year after Button fled. He didn’t immediately return a message left at his office Wednesday.
Shots fired between vehicles in Beltline gun battle Friday morning, police say
Jury passes on attempted homicide charge, finds man guilty of other felonies for shooting near La Follette
Teenager flees after crashing stolen car in Windsor, Dane County Sheriff's Office says
Shooting on State Street ruled accidental; Middleton man arrested
East Side homeowner tussles with would-be burglar who is caught after fleeing, police say
Indiana man, 40, charged with multiple child sexual assaults of 12-year-old girl
Local newspaper reporter dies after high-speed, rear-end crash on I-94, police say
1 dead, 3 injured in drunken driving hit-and-run on Near East Side, police say
Couple walking dog escapes injury as flurry of shots fired car to car on North Side, police say
Bullet hits woman sleeping in North Side apartment, lodges in her bed, police say
Sleeping people shaken when bullet whizzes into North Side apartment, lodges in wall, police say
Former Badgers wide receiver Quintez Cephus acquitted of sex assault charges
Wrong-way driver who crashed into Howard Moore family car was 2.5 times over alcohol limit, paper reports
Police: Drunken driver crashes into house outside Columbus, trapping woman in bedroom
Offered ice cream, man asks Culvers worker for Bloody Mary before arrest for 7th OWI, Madison police say
Madison man loses $3,000 to swindlers, despite clerk’s warning, police say
Drew Luber gets 6 years in prison for role in Dalton Ziegler's beating death
Man sentenced to 7 years in prison for fatal beating last year
Capital W: Plug in to Wisconsin politics
Subscribe to our Politics email!
You'll get a weekly recap of the goings-on at the State Capitol, delivered free to your inbox every Friday.