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Trial for Man Accused of Killing Environmentalist Begins

July 15, 1991

RACINE, Wis. (AP) _ A young man working for an environmental group was canvassing rural southeastern Wisconsin last year when, prosecutors say, he knocked on the wrong door.

Instead of finding a contributor, they say, James Madden found someone who was a time bomb waiting to kill.

Joachim E. Dressler went on trial Monday on a charge of first-degree intentional homicide in the mutilation death of Madden.

If convicted, Dressler, 43, faces life imprisonment.

″I consider this man as dangerous a criminal as this court will ever see,″ District Attorney Lennie Weber has said. ″I believe we have a very sick individual here.″

Jury selection began Monday in Stevens Point, about 150 miles northwest of Racine. The trial will move back to Racine County Circuit Court. A judge ruled last month that the jury be selected elsewhere because pretrial publicity made it too difficult to find an unbiased panel in Racine County.

Madden, 24, was going door-to-door collecting signatures and donations for the group Citizens for a Better Environment when he disappeared June 27, 1990, in the town of Raymond.

Two days later, a dairy farmer in a nearby town found Madden’s torso and legs in two yellow plastic bags on a roadside, police said.

Almost two weeks later, Madden’s arms, a hand that had been severed from the arm and his head were found seven miles away from where the torso was found. Authorities determined it was Madden through dental records and by a tattoo an arm.

Kenneth Bennett, a forensic anthropologist who performed the autopsy, said a hammer was used to break off the top of Madden’s skull. He said the brain was removed from the skull.

Dr. Jeffrey M. Jentzen, Milwaukee County pathologist who assisted in the autopsy, said it appeared Madden had been handcuffed and hung from a large object, and that his feet had been bound.

Police said they narrowed their investigation to Dressler after a friend of Dressler’s said he knew who killed the young environmentalist.

Less than two months after Madden’s body was found, Sherwin Beyer told police Dressler became scared when authorities obtained a search warrant for his house, records show.

Beyer told police that Dressler confessed to killing Madden, but said he shot the young man in the head by accident while they were shooting guns in his backyard.

″He said he panicked,″ Beyer told police. ″He said in order to destroy the evidence, he took out (Madden’s) brain and put it in the garbage disposal.″

In Dressler’s home, police found books, magazines, newspaper clippings, photographs and videotapes depicting homosexual acts and violent deaths.

Police found an electronic hoist and blood stains in Dressler’s garage, police said. They also confiscated dozens of guns, ammunition, a pair of handcuffs, ropes and blades.

Police later seized a safe-deposit box from a nearby bank in Union Grove. Court records show that after Madden’s death, Dressler’s wife, Kathleen, opened the account. Inside the box, police found Madden’s driver’s license, checks, and jewelry.

Dressler, who has pleaded innocent, has been held in the Racine County Jail since his arrest last August.

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