By Shereen Siewert
WAUSAU — A 27-year-old Unity man convicted of shooting his girlfriend and a second victim at an Abbotsford home will spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of release.
The sentence was handed down during an emotionally-charged sentencing hearing Friday in a packed Marathon County courtroom.
Tyler Zimmerman was sentenced Friday to life in prison on two counts of first degree intentional homicide. Under Wisconsin law the charges carry an automatic life sentence, but judges decide at sentencing whether suspects convicted of such crimes will ever be released on extended supervision.
Circuit Judge Greg Huber ultimately sentenced Zimmerman to life without the possibility of release.
Zimmerman pleaded guilty to both charges Dec. 19 in Marathon County Circuit Court. As part of a plea agreement, additional charges of attempted first degree intentional homicide and three counts of reckless endangerment were dismissed but read into the record and were considered at sentencing.
Police say Zimmerman on Jan. 20, 2018 shot and killed his girlfriend, 21-year-old Cierra Hardrath, at an Abbotsford home because he believed she was cheating on him. Zimmerman and Hardrath shared a home in Owen, about 13 miles from where the shooting took place.
According to Zimmerman’s statement contained in court documents, Hardrath left the couple’s home at about 8 p.m. on Jan. 19, 2018, telling Zimmerman she was headed to a friend’s house to watch movies. But Zimmerman said he was suspicious of Hardrath’s story and used an app on Hardrath’s iPad to track her phone, pinpointing her location.
When Zimmerman arrived at the home around 3 a.m., he pounded on the door, and Duane R Hostetler, Jr., 25, answered. Hostetler had been staying in the home but had never met Zimmerman before, police said. Hostetler’s legal name is Duane R. Lopez, Jr., but police say he was widely known by the name Hostetler.
Zimmerman asked to speak with Hardrath, and Hostetler denied knowing her, but let Zimmerman enter the house after Zimmerman explained that Hardrath’s vehicle was parked outside.
Once inside the home, Zimmerman discovered Hardrath asleep alone in one of the bedrooms. After confronting Hardrath with suspicions that she was cheating on him, Zimmerman pulled out a .40 caliber handgun and shot Hardrath in the head, according to the criminal complaint.
After shooting Hardrath, Zimmerman also shot and killed Hostetler, then shot and injured Hostetler’s fiancee, 18-year-old Megan Dupee, police said. Dupee survived the attack and was taken to Marshfield Medical Center for treatment.
The homeowner, a former boyfriend of Hardrath, and the homeowner’s 5-year-old twins were inside the home during the shooting but were not injured.
About 13 minutes after the shooting was reported, Zimmerman posted a public message on his Facebook page that read “Farewell everyone, I’m sorry for all that I have hurt from this, someone pick up Maisy and derby for me please.”
More than a dozen witnesses gave victim impact statements before Zimmerman was sentenced, giving tearful and powerful testimony about the devastating impact the shootings had on their lives.
Zimmerman has been held in the Marathon County Jail on a $1 million cash bond since his January 2018 arrest. He will now be transferred to the Wisconsin Prison System.