Prosecutors in Wisconsin charged a man with intentional homicide for mowing down five people as his SUV barreled through a Christmas parade — and announced a child’s death Tuesday as more charges were pending.
The Sunday rampage killed Virginia Sorenson, 79; LeAnna Owen, 71; Tamara Durand, 52; Jane Kulich, 52; Wilhelm Hospel, 81; and Jackson Sparks, 8. More than 60 people were injured, many of them kids.
The maroon SUV driver, Darrell Brooks Jr., 39, was given $5 million bail at his first court hearing Tuesday.
“I’ve not seen anything like this in my very long career,” Waukesha County Court Commissioner Kevin Costello, a 40-year veteran of the criminal justice system, said while accepting the prosecution’s $5 million bail request.
Prosecutors detailed Brooks’ extensive criminal history in their argument for the $5 million cash bail. Brooks’ public defender gave a short counterargument in which he mentioned that Brooks is broke.
Costello noted in previous cases, small bonds didn’t prevent Brooks from jumping bail. He set several conditions, including a GPS monitor, should Brooks come up with $5 million in cash.
Brooks could be heard crying during Tuesday’s court proceeding, leaning over with his head nearly in his lap, with his lawyer resting a hand on his back.
Three of the victims — Sorenson, Owen and Durand — were members of the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies, a group of grandmothers ranging from their early 50s to mid 70s that perform at more than a dozen parades every year.
“Our group was doing what they loved, performing in front of crowds in a parade, putting smiles on faces of all ages, filling them with joy and happiness. While performing the grannies enjoyed hearing the crowds cheers and applause which certainly brought smiles to their faces and warmed their hearts,” the group said on Facebook Monday.
“Those who died were extremely passionate Grannies. Their eyes gleamed … joy of being a Grannie. They were the glue … held us together.”
Police do not believe the incident was terrorism, but said Brooks was fleeing from a domestic disturbance minutes earlier. Brooks was not being pursued at the time of the crash.
Brooks has a lengthy criminal history, including domestic abuse charges for which he had been released on bond only two days before the parade carnage. The woman, reportedly the mother of his child, claimed Brooks had punched her, then chased her to a gas station parking lot and run her over with his car. Police noted dried blood on her face and tire tracks on her left pant leg.
The Milwaukee County district attorney’s office had said the $1,000 cash bond for the November charges was “inappropriately low.”
“The bail recommendation in this case is not consistent with the approach of the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office toward matters involving violent crime, nor was it consistent with the risk assessment of the defendant prior to setting the bail,” the DA’s office said in a statement.
Brooks’ preliminary hearing was tentatively scheduled for Jan. 14.
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