Prosecutors argue Amy Van Wagner killed husband for money, defense says she was filled with grief

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WAUKESHA COUNTY -- Opening statements were heard on Wednesday, March 1st in the trial of 53-year-old Amy Van Wagner -- the Oconomowoc woman accused of killing her own husband.

Amy Van Wagner

Amy Van Wagner

Prosecutors outlined an alleged motive and showed evidence of the crime found throughout the Van Wagner's Oconomowoc home.

The defense argued Amy Van Wagner could never kill her husband -- painting a picture of a woman whose life was turned upside down when she found her husband of more than 20 years dead.

Photos from the Van Wagner's home office show key evidence, prosecutors say, of Amy Van Wagner's attempts to cover up her husband's murder.


"There was an ottoman in the middle of this room and underneath it is a deer skin, and what you're going to learn is this deer skin was always on top of the ottoman, and under that deer skin was a pool of Stan Van Wagner's blood," the prosecutor said.

Amy Van Wagner trial

Amy Van Wagner

Amy Van Wagner

Prosecutors say in May of 2015, Amy Van Wagner shot Stanley Van Wagner in the office, and then moved his body to the basement -- arguing she killed him so that she could gain access to his personal bank account.

"She's scared she's gonna lose everything," the prosecutor said.

Prosecutors say after the crime, Amy Van Wagner used the money to pay people back from whom she had secretly borrowed money from over the past few months.

"She withdraws money from Stan's account -- the account that Stan really doesn't let her have access to because they have separate accounts. She withdrew $500 at one time," the prosecutor said.

David Hanson

David Hanson

According to the criminal complaint, Amy Van Wagner ran to her neighbor's house when she discovered her husband's body in the basement. That neighbor recounted their interaction on the witness stand Wednesday.

"She dropped like a sack of potatoes," David Hanson said.

The defense said Amy Van Wagner's behavior shows she was grief-stricken upon learning her husband was dead -- arguing someone else must have killed him.

Amy Van Wagner

Amy Van Wagner

"We don`t know what Stan was up to. Stan wasn't up to what everybody thought, including my client," John Schiro, Amy Van Wagner's attorney said.

On Tuesday, jury selection took an unexpected turn when the court learned several potential jurors had watched news stories on television Tuesday morning in the jury assembly room about this trial.

Apparently, jurors were not aware they were being summoned for jury duty for this particular case until they saw the news Tuesday morning.

Below are details from the criminal complaint, filed against Amy Van Wagner in this case:

Amy Van Wagner was taken into custody early Wednesday morning, February 24th, 2016 by Oconomowoc police -- nine months after her husband was found dead.

Oconomowoc police were first called out to the Van Wagner home on Sunday evening, May 17th, 2015,  shortly before 7:00 p.m.

Officials said Van Wagner's wife found her husband's body in the basement and contacted a neighbor, who then notified police.

According to the criminal complaint, the neighbor told police he went over to the Van Wagner's home across the street after Amy Van Wagner came to his home asking for help, indicating that she thought she found her husband in the basement unresponsive.

The neighbor told police he observed an individual lying on the basement floor covered in a tarp.

Stanley Van Wagner

Stanley Van Wagner

Stanley Van Wagner was pronounced dead at the scene.The complaint indicates responding officers found Stanley Van Wagner suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. Investigators found a computer and a pillow near Van Wagner's body with bullet holes in them.

According to the complaint, Amy Van Wagner said she had gone down to the basement on May 17th to start a load of laundry, and she wanted to get some sewing/craft items from a room in the basement where Stanley was found. The door was closed and locked, and Amy told investigators she found that odd because the door was usually never locked. Amy said she went upstairs to get a tool to open the door, and when she came back down and opened the door, she saw Stanley in the room under the tarp. She then went to the neighbor's home.

Amy Van Wagner allowed investigators to perform an initial search of the home, according to the complaint. There was no sign of forced entry to the home.

The next day, officials conducted a more thorough search of the Van Wagner residence. Stanley Van Wagner's missing cell phone and some missing firearms were not located.

Investigators learned Stanley Van Wagner had kept "several" handguns and rifles in the home -- secured in a gun safe, with one gun kept in a nightstand in the bedroom. Amy Van Wagner told investigators her husband owned an older .22 caliber rifle, a hunting rifle, a .223 caliber rifle, a shotgun, two .380 caliber handguns, a .45 caliber revolver and a small derringer revolver.

Van Wagner home in Oconomowoc

Van Wagner home in Oconomowoc

Amy Van Wagner indicated only Stanley knew the combination for the safe, and where the key for the safe was kept. According to the complaint, Amy Van Wagner said Stanley had accused her of taking money out of the safe without his permission, which is why only he knew how to access the safe.

According to the complaint, Amy Van Wagner indicated she hadn't seen Stanley since the Friday morning (May 15th) before he was found dead -- something she said wasn't uncommon because of their busy schedules.

Officials with the Wisconsin State Crime Lab came to the home for a search, and found two fired bullets in the office, which were identified as .380 caliber bullets, and a large blood stain under an ottoman and rug in the basement. According to the complaint, investigators noted that it "appeared someone placed the rug over the blood stain to conceal it."The complaint indicates during a search of the home, two shell casings were located in the office upstairs, along with blood, a hole in the drywall, and an empty leather handgun holster lying on the floor near the gun safe.

Investigators noted that it "appeared Stanley Van Wagner was shot in the office (upstairs), and dragged downstairs to the basement, where his body was "found" by Amy Van Wagner.

Amy Van Wagner

Amy Van Wagner

Two days after Stanley Van Wagner's death, investigators interviewed Amy Van Wagner again. She further re-iterated that she hadn't seen Stanley since Friday, May 15th -- two days before he was found dead.

The 16-year-old son of Stanley Van Wagner and Amy Van Wagner told investigators the last time he had seen his dad was Wednesday, May 13th or Thursday, May 14th.

A friend of Stanley Van Wagner told investigators he tried calling Van Wagner on May 15th, and that Amy Van Wagner called him back and said Stanley was sick, which he said he thought was odd because Stanley "never called in sick," according to the complaint. Stanley Van Wagner's employer reported there was no record of Stanley calling in sick on May 15th. A co-worker told Van Wagner's boss he had received a text message from Stanley indicating he was "sick as a dog."

The complaint indicates investigators seized and searched Amy Van Wagner's work computer. It was noted that on May 15th, Amy Van Wagner searched for a rental carpet cleaner using an "in private" browser function that allows searching without leaving any evidence of search history.

According to the complaint, investigators learned Amy Van Wagner has a concealed carry permit and that she sometimes carried a .380 handgun.

According to the complaint, investigators also learned Stanley Van Wagner's cell phone pinged a tower near Amy Van Wagner's workplace on the morning of May 15th.The complaint indicates investigators learned the three recovered fired .380 caliber bullets in this case were fired from the same firearm. All of the fired bullets and shell casings had characteristics similar to a .380 handgun belonging to Amy Van Wagner.

The complaint makes reference to ATM withdrawals made from Stanley Van Wagner's account between May 15th and May 18th. Amy Van Wagner was seen on video at least one of the banks, making withdrawals.

Amy Van Wagner is currently being held in the Waukesha County Jail. Bail has been set at $100,000.

This incident was the first homicide in Oconomowoc in at least six years.

Police said their investigation into this case was hampered by uncooperative family members, including Amy Van Wagner.