Middleton man found guilty in bludgeoning death of elderly landlady
A Middleton man was found guilty Friday of bludgeoning his elderly landlady to death in her home in April 2017.
A 12-person jury deliberated for four hours before finding Jack Hamann, 54, guilty of first-degree intentional homicide in the death of 82-year-old Agnes Bram. Some members of Bram’s family burst into tears when Dane County Circuit Judge John D. Hyland read the verdict inside a packed courtroom.
Prosecutors said Hamann beat Bram over the head with a blunt instrument like a hammer in the laundry room of her home in the 7100 block of University Avenue on either April 26 or April 27. They said he dragged her body to the garage and left it by some garbage cans. Bram’s daughter, Rose Kelso, and grandson, Casey Kelso, discovered her body on April 28.
Hamann had rented a room in Bram’s home.
“It’s a mystery why Mr. Hamann chose to bash Agnes Bram’s brains in, but there’s no mystery” who did it, Dane County Assistant District Attorney Matthew Moeser told the jury during his closing argument.
The prosecution called all of the witnesses during the five-day trial, and most of the testimony centered on Hamann’s whereabouts from April 26 through April 29 when he was arrested at UW Hospital.
Attorneys from both sides described Hamann as an alcoholic who suffered from some mental illnesses. He did landscaping work and relied on money from his mother to pay his rent and other bills. He stood or sat stoically throughout the trial, including when Hyland read the verdict.
Moeser began his opening statement and ended his closing argument with Hamann’s comment to Middleton police after they found him hanging out at the hospital and asked him where he lived. Moeser told the jury that Hamann said, “I’m the person you are looking for.”
Even though no murder weapon was found, Moeser told the jury that blood and DNA analysis by the state Crime Laboratory showed that Hamann was most likely at the crime scene. He also reviewed high-tech photos of the crime scene introduced as evidence that highlighted blood trails in the laundry room, garage and Hamann’s room and nowhere else in the Bram residence.
“What does common sense tell you happened?” Moeser asked the jury.
Moeser also reminded the jury of testimony that showed Hamann never left the Middleton area on April 26 or April 27.
Video surveillance from the Middleton Public Library on April 26 showed Hamann walking in the front doors there around 5:45 p.m. in different clothes than when he walked in three hours earlier. Video surveillance from a local convenience store shows him buying beer on two occasions.
Testimony also showed Hamann stayed at the Bram home on April 26 and 27. Besides bloody shoes, headphones Hamann rented from the library on April 27 and a transfer ticket from riding a bus that day were found in his room when police searched it on April 28.
One of Hamann’s friends testified that he was driving Hamann home from Dean Clinic on April 28 when Hamann spotted police there and told him to drive to another residence. The owner of that residence testified that Hamann asked to stay there because he was locked out and his landlady was on vacation.
According to testimony from Bram’s attorney Megan Phillips and accountant Gary Lukken, Bram was having problems with Hamann and was going to tell him to leave.
Norma Weiler, who rented a room to Hamann before evicting him prior to him renting a room from Bram, testified that she felt threatened by Hamann. Like Bram, Weiler said Hamann had problems keeping his room and the house clean and fell behind with his rent payments.
But unlike Bram, Weiler didn’t confront her tenants when there were problems, Moeser told the jury.
“Agnes (Bram) wasn’t going to take anything from anybody,” he said.
None of the family members or friends of Bram or Hamann wanted to comment after the verdict was read.
Hamann’s attorney, Charles Glynn, told the jury in his closing argument that the prosecution used logic to create a scenario where they could make an assumption that Hamann killed Bram.
After describing Hamann as disheveled and discombobulated, Glynn told the jury, “there isn’t a bit of logic that applies to this poor guy.”
Glynn told the jury that the prosecution’s case was weak because the homicide investigation focused only on Hamann, who chose not to testify.
He said none of the crime lab results of the DNA and blood work offered proof without any reasonable doubt that Hamann killed Bram.
Glynn spent much of the trial trying to pin the homicide on a former tenant whom Bram had sued in small claims court for back rent after he broke his lease in 2016. That case was settled less than a week before she was killed.
In his rebuttal, Moeser told the jury that Hamann’s lawyers chose not to call anybody to testify because they had no other explanation for how Bram was killed.