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Police still investigating Bewley crash that killed two

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON — More than a month after a crash involving state Sen. Janet Bewley killed a woman and her 5-year-old daughter, Ashland County District Attorney David Meany says there’s nothing new to report.

“Our office is still awaiting reports from law enforcement, the Ashland Police Department and the (Wisconsin) State Patrol,” Meany told Empower Wisconsin on Monday. “When we get these reports we’ll review them for the purpose of making potential charging decisions.”

Ashland Police Chief Bill Hagstrom did not return calls seeking comment.

Bewley, 70, a Democrat from Mason, pulled out from the entrance of Ashland County’s Maslowski Beach onto U.S. Highway 2 on Friday, July 22, when her vehicle collided with a westbound car driven by Alyssa Ortman, 27, of Clearfield, Penn., according to the police report.

Ortman’s vehicle then spun across the highway and struck another vehicle going eastbound.

Ortman was transported to a local medical center where she died of her injuries. Her 5-year-old daughter, who also was in the car, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Neither Bewley or the other motorist was injured.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that one of its interns was doing a phone interview with Bewley about the fall elections at the time of the crash. Bewley told the reporter she had cataract eye surgery the day before.

During the interview she stopped mid-sentence as the call went silent for a moment. She then returned and sounded concerned.

When asked if she was okay, Bewley replied, “Yeah, I’m okay. This is not a good accident.”

“This is a heartbreaking event for the community. Our thoughts and prayers are focused on the individuals involved, their families and their loved ones,” Bewley’s office said in a statement at the time. The Senate Minority Leader, who isn’t seeking re-election in November, has not commented since, as the investigation continues.

Peter Wasson, managing editor of the Ashland Daily News, in a July 31 column rebuked the newspaper’s readers for accusing Bewley of “being drunk and police covering that up.”

Others have simply wondered why the investigation is taking so long.

Meany said there’s nothing unusual about the timing.

“This is typical of involved investigations such as this, which has several aspects,” he said.

“You want to have these investigations move as quickly as appropriate,” the Republican and former assistant attorney general under former Attorney General Brad Schimel said. “I believe law enforcement are making sure their investigation is complete.”

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