Try 1 month for 99¢

MIDDLETON — Investigators continue to gather evidence linking a man to last week’s slaying of an 82-year-old Middleton woman, but a motive has not been established, Middleton police said.

Jack Hamann, 53, has been arrested on suspicion of killing Agnes Bram, who had been renting a room to Hamann at her home in the 7100 block of University Avenue since November, Middleton Police Chief Charles Foulke said Monday.

“It was a violent crime of rage,” Foulke said of the homicide, Middleton’s first since 2004.

Hamann is expected to be charged and make his initial court appearance Tuesday, Foulke said. He was convicted of substantial battery in Dane County Circuit Court in 2009 for hitting his neighbor in Cross Plains over the head with a baseball bat after the neighbor had knocked on Hamann’s patio door to offer him a plate of food, according to a criminal complaint.

Foulke described a bloody crime scene in Bram’s garage where her body was found Friday. The Dane County Medical Examiner determined she died of blunt-force trauma to the head.

DNA evidence was collected there and from Hamann’s clothes and body as part of a search warrant, Foulke said.

Also, a bag that police believe belongs to Hamann that he abandoned sometime Friday was turned in to Middleton police and was sent to the State Crime Lab, Foulke said.

No items apparently were stolen from Bram’s home, Foulke said.

Hamann was arrested and booked into the Dane County Jail after he was found sleeping in a UW Hospital waiting room early Saturday morning, according to a Middleton police report.

“The totality of the circumstances” that included Hamann’s “spontaneous statements” to police, the fact that he had been missing since Bram’s body was found and observations at the crime scene led police to believe that Hamann killed Bram, Foulke said.

The murder weapon has not been found, Foulke said.

Bram was well-known in the Middleton area after working for 35 years at Harbor Athletic Club.

Previously, she and her late husband, Richard, ran Bram’s Bar on Main Street in Cross Plains. She also was a frequent visitor to the Middleton Senior Citizen Center and played cards there every Wednesday.

At Harbor, Bram was a jack-of-all-trades who would paint locker rooms one day and watch children in the nursery the next day, manager Todd Passini said.

“She was a sweet old lady,” said Passini, who also was a former neighbor who used to make pickles with her. “She loved to garden, she loved to can, she loved anybody who was game to come by and have a beer with her. I don’t think she missed too many parties.”

Bram also was a fiercely independent, “tell-it-like-it-is type of person,” Passini said. “She was just fun. You didn’t have to wonder if she disagreed with you. She’d let you know.”

The man whom Hamann struck with a bat in 2009 described Hamann as a loner who never had a visitor when they lived side-by-side in studio apartments in Cross Plains.

“I always felt sorry for him. He was an odd duck,” said Joseph D. Friedel, 56, who now lives in Marshall. “I gave him spare cash when he needed it, gave him my phone when he needed to make a call, took him food all the time.”

Both Foulke and Friedel didn’t think Hamann had a steady job.

“He said he was a gardener but I think he received financial help from his mother in Minnesota,” Friedel said.

A three-inch scar on the right side of Friedel’s forehead is a reminder of what happened after Friedel knocked on Hamann’s patio door to offer him a plate of Chinese food.

“He opened the door and hit me with the bat almost simultaneously,” Friedel said. “He had this dead look about him.

“It was kind of eerie. He didn’t say anything. When he hit me, I said, ‘Jack, what are you doing?’ Then he went back inside and never said a word.”

According to a criminal complaint in that incident, Hamann consented to a breath test at the jail and had a blood alcohol concentration level of 0.318, nearly four times the legal limit for drivers.

He later sued Hamann in Small Claims Court in Dane County in 2012 and was awarded $10,000, online court records show.

“I got a check from him for $17 about a year later. That has been it,” Friedel said.

Friedel didn’t learn that Hamann was a suspect in the Middleton homicide until late Monday afternoon.

Subscribe to Breaking News

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Homicides in Dane County since 2004

Click on a marker to see details of the case and photos of the victims, when available.

Rob Schultz has won multiple writing awards at the state and national levels and covers an array of topics for the Wisconsin State Journal in south-central and southwestern Wisconsin.