August 2, 2006
dropped in Cadigan slayings
Project helps clear LaBatte in '91 deaths
Gannett Wisconsin Newspapers
Kewaunee County prosecutors on Tuesday dismissed murder charges against
Beth LaBatte, 39, the woman who was once convicted — and imprisoned for
10 years — for the 1991 deaths of sisters Ceil and Ann Cadigan.
case was championed by the University of Wisconsin Law School's
Innocence Project. Kewaunee County District Attorney Andrew Naze
announced the state's decision to drop the charges as the case was
gearing up to go to trial a second time.
The Innocence Project won motions to have evidence from the case
re-analyzed using current DNA technology and planned to use those
findings at trial.
"The defense case got better and better as the months went by after the
new trial was granted," said First Assistant State Public Defender
Henry Schultz. LaBatte has been free after relatives posted $112,000
worth of property as bail.
Outagamie County Circuit Court Judge Dennis Luebke, who heard the
original trial, in November granted LaBatte a new trial. The move
hinged on the new DNA results that showed that blood on items connected
to the Cadigan murders did not belong to LaBatte.
Naze said key witnesses in the case have died and considering the
"significant passage of time and the high cost to taxpayers, a
successful outcome at a new trial is unlikely.
"We have pursued all available leads in attempting to develop
significant new evidence," Naze said. "However, after conferring with
the investigators and my staff, I am satisfied that the state would not
be able to meet the heavy burden of proving the case beyond a
Schultz gave credit to the two lawyers and six students from the
Innocence Project. "I've been doing this over 25 years and there's only
two or three times I've had a first-degree murder case dismissed,"
LaBatte was arrested for the Cadigan murders in 1996 and eventually
convicted of two counts of first-degree intentional homicide and two
counts of armed robbery for the beating deaths of the sisters, ages 85
and 90, inside their Kewaunee County farmhouse. LaBatte was sentenced
to life in prison for each count.
Efforts to reach LaBatte on Tuesday were unsuccessful.