An investigation into the way police handled a child’s death investigation is continuing and officers were questioned in recent days, Wausau Police Chief Ben Bliven told the Police and Fire Commission on Monday.
“There were interviews being conducted last week at Wausau Police Department of the Wausau police staff,” Bliven told Police and Fire Commission on Monday, as part of his update into the investigation. “It is my understanding that the chief anticipates having the report written within the next couple of weeks. That would be then submitted to the president of the Police and Fire Commission upon completion for the next steps.”
The chief Bliven referred to spearheads a Fox Valley area department that has so far not been named publicly. Bliven chose the chief, at the direction of the Police and Fire Commission, after the group received complaints from Alyssa Froom and Julie Leist in December last year. None of the PFC members asked any questions about the review and continued to maintain their silence about the girl’s death.
Froom and Leist each filed complaints alleging a “shoddy” and “questionable” investigation into the 2020 death of 7-year-old Eliana Froom, Alyssa Froom’s daughter and the step granddaughter of Leist. Eliana Froom died Oct. 7, 2020, roughly two weeks after she collapsed at a Wausau home where she was staying with her father. Though a medical examiner’s report shows Eliana died of natural causes, her mother and Leist dispute that finding and allege the girl was a victim of neglect.
Unclear is whether the interviews were recorded, a detail Froom wants answers to.
Last month, Froom filed an additional complaint “regarding the interaction with a member of the WPD regarding the tainting of the investigation.”
Froom said she is trying to secure legal representation “but due to the complexity of the manner of this, I haven’t obtained an attorney.” She added she has “created a public platform raising awareness to what happened to Eliana and how her death has been treated.”
“I will be starting a protest at the next PFC meeting,” Froom said.
In its two meetings in February, the Wausau Police and Fire Commission dismissed complaints against the police chief but ordered investigations of the other officers named in the complaints. Both Froom and Leist challenged that ruling and filed appeals.
However, the commission, acting before the 30-day window in which Froom could file an appeal, did not change course. The status of the appeal is not clear as neither the PFC nor an outside counsel, Samuel Hall, assisting the PFC on the matter, has provided any update. Hall’s position has been that he has already spoken about the matter and will not comment further until the “ongoing investigation” is complete.
During the PFC meeting on Monday, Froom held a paper to ask questions including whether the deputy chief was also dismissed from the Dec. 21 complaint, why the appeal is remaining unaddressed and why the outside agency investigating the matter has been kept secret. She received no answers to those questions.
There was no update about the investigation that Bliven himself was asked to conduct. PFC members remained silent.
The commissioners reelected William Harris and William Graef as president and vice president of the PFC. Cheryl Bahr was reappointed as secretary of the body.