By Shereen Siewert
A judge this week denied a request for the trial of a 22-year-old Wisconsin man accused of inhaling chemical vapors before crashing into a group of Girl Scouts to be moved out of Chippewa County, ruling that a juror does not necessarily have to be unaware of a case to be neutral.
The 11 charges filed against Colten Treu include four counts of vehicular homicide and four counts of a hit-and-run resulting in death. The punishment for those charges alone is up to 160 years in prison.
Prosecutors say Treu was high on fumes from an aerosol can when he crashed into the Girl Scouts group picking up trash along a highway in Lake Hallie a year ago. Prosecutors say Treu and a passenger in his truck were struggling for the steering wheel before the vehicle careened off the road, striking the girls. The Girl Scout troop was working in ditches along the highway in Lake Hallie. Treu and his passenger allegedly told investigators they had been “huffing” from a computer keyboard cleaner they’d purchased that day.
The crash killed 9-year-old Jayna Kelley and 10-year-old Autum Helgeson, both of Lake Hallie, and 10-year-old Haylee Hickle and her mother, 32-year-old mother, Sara Jo Schneider, from the Town of Lafayette. Treu was previously convicted of drunken driving in Wisconsin and he was currently out on bail for another accident in September, when he was charged with driving his employer’s car into a ditch while intoxicated.
Treu’s trial is scheduled for Jan. 21. He is jailed on a $250,000 cash bond.