An unemployed Wisconsin man who gunned down three relatives before storming into another home and gunning down a 24-year-old woman may have been imitating the October abduction of teenager Jayme Closs and murder of her parents, a sheriff said.
Chippewa County Sheriff Jim Kowalczyk told reporters during a news conference Tuesday that Ritchie German Jr., 33, fatally shot his 66-year-old mother, 32-year-old brother and 8-year-old nephew at their home in Lafayette on Saturday before driving to the Lake Hollie home of Laile Vang and shooting her in the head late Sunday.
German, who then took his own life inside Vang’s home, killed the woman after shooting her parents in the hand. It’s unclear whether German was planning to kidnap Vang, whom he had sent unsolicited texts prior to the shooting, leading her to reply that she didn’t know him. But Kowalczyk said the circumstances of the quadruple slaying are “similar to the Closs situation,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.
“Why is he going armed to a residence he’s never been to before?” the sheriff said during the news conference. “I’m not saying that was the motive, but it is just unlikely that some of the same incidents up in Barron County happened in Chippewa County.”
German had left his brother’s Kia Sorento running outside of the Vang home and had handcuffs and a loaded ammunition clip inside, prompting investigators to suspect he may have been planning a similar abduction.
Like German, Jake Patterson, 22, used a shotgun to blast his way into Closs home on Oct. 15 in Barron, some 48 miles from away from Vang’s home. He was sentenced to life in prison in May for kidnapping the 13-year-old girl and holding her captive for three months after killing her parents.
Authorities have said Closs was Patterson’s intended target during the home invasion.
“It did not work for him,” Lake Hollie Police Chief Deputy Chad Holum told reporters when asked if German intended to kidnap Vang.
There’s no evidence that the two had ever met, according to Kowalczyk. Investigators are analyzing roughly 10 cellphones to determine how German obtained Vang’s phone number, although it’s suspected that he may have gotten it online.
Vang’s parents — Teng Vang, 51, and Mai Chang Vang, 39 — were shot in the hands during the attack. Each needed to have an arm amputated as a result of their injuries, but are expected to survive, police said.
Four other people inside the home, including three children, hid during the shooting and were not hurt.
German’s father, meanwhile, had been estranged from his family since the 2015 divorce from his wife, Bridget, who was killed in the shootings along with 32-year-old Douglas German and 8-year-old Calvin Harris. German Sr. said he believes his son — who was unemployed and stayed mostly in his bedroom — was struggling with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia prior to the quadruple slayings.
“I told his mother to get him help,” Ritchie German Sr. told the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
With Post wires
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