Second man in Culver’s armed robbery death gets 15 years in prison

December 18, 2018
Xavier Fleming, left, gives a statement Monday during his sentencing hearing in Dane County Circuit Court. Next to him is his lawyer, Diana Van Rybroek.

The second of two men whose late-night robbery of a Culver’s restaurant led to the heart attack death of a man installing a floor there was sentenced Monday to 15 years in prison.

Dane County Circuit Judge Jill Karofsky told Xavier V. Fleming, 26, of Madison, that she was not sentencing him because of the difficulty he faced as a child or any of the other challenges he faced as he grew into adulthood.

“I’m sentencing you because you engaged in a course of conduct where you terrorized and traumatized other people and it ended with the death of Christ Kneubuehl,” Karofsky said. After sentencing him to 15 years in prison, followed by 10 years of extended supervision, she added, “It is my belief that Mr. Fleming is a danger to our community and needs to be out of our community for that time.”

The June 27, 2017, robbery at Culver’s, 2102 W. Beltline Highway, was the last in a series of four robberies that Fleming carried out with Nicholas A. Ivy, 33, who was sentenced by Karofsky last month to 25 years in prison.

Fleming pleaded guilty in August to felony murder. Before he was sentenced, Fleming apologized to Kneubuehl’s family, which was gathered both in the courtroom and on a phone call set up in court, and said he accepts responsibility for what happened.

“I never intended for anybody to be hurt,” he said. “That’s not my character. When I heard what happened the next day, that news devastated me and it was a lot more baggage I had to carry with everything else that happened in my life.”

Fleming also apologized to the victims of the three other robberies and told Karofsky he would use his time in prison to rehabilitate himself, further his education and “become a better person.”

Kneubuehl, 56, of Twin Lakes, was at Culver’s with three members of his work crew replacing a tile floor at about 2 a.m. when Ivy and Fleming arrived, brandishing a gun later determined to be fake.

Kneubuehl agreed to cut open a safe with a grinding tool so that the incident would end quickly and safely. But afterward, he began to experience the symptoms of a heart attack. Fleming wanted to leave, saying he didn’t want to “catch a homicide,” but Ivy insisted on staying while he pulled coins from the open safe.

Deputy District Attorney Matthew Moeser, who asked for a 20-year prison sentence, said that with prompt medical attention, Kneubuehl had a good chance of surviving, based on the response time of an ambulance that arrived once the crew was able to call 911.

Fleming’s lawyer, state Assistant Public Defender Diana Van Rybroek, asked for seven to 10 years in prison, citing evidence that longer prison sentences have not been shown to be beneficial in the rehabilitation of people convicted of crimes.

A defense sentencing memorandum also cited Fleming’s difficult childhood that included periods of homelessness, and his drop into despair in 2016 when his best friend drowned. The memorandum also states that Fleming committed crimes with Ivy because he was afraid of him, though Karofsky said she did not see evidence supporting that contention.

Kneubuehl’s daughter, Jazmyne Kneubuehl, said that as a nurse she has seen people die from heart attacks.

“I’ve been there, I know what Xavier saw that day,” she said, “I could see it in my mind. I could not shake that. These are now things that are part of my family history.

“I know that he recognized that my father needed help,” she said. “He knew the severity of this situation, somehow more than Ivy. Even after committing atrocities he’s already done, he could have changed my dad’s fate.”

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