Prosecutors: Man accused in hit-and-run was drinking beforehand; said he hit ‘a deer or something’

Jesse Zellmer

VILLAGE OF MERTON — Charges have been filed in connection with a hit-and-run crash that happened Friday night, Sept. 7 in the Village of Merton in Waukesha County, injuring a man and woman who were inside the vehicle he’s accused of hitting.

Jesse Zellmer, 40, of Colgate faces two counts of hit-and-run, great bodily harm and two counts of intoxicated use of a vehicle, great bodily harm. He was also cited for OWI, first offense.

According to a criminal complaint, on Friday night, shortly before 10:30 p.m., Waukesha County sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to the area near Sussex Road and Dorn Road in the Village of Merton for a report of a crash. There, they found a four-door sedan with heavy damage on the passenger side, still partially in traffic. The male passenger had to be extricated and taken to the hospital via Flight for Life. The driver was taken to the hospital by ambulance.

At Froedtert, deputies learned the male passenger was taken into surgery in critical condition. The complaint says the female driver suffered a spinal fracture, ankle fracture, rib fractures and a collapsed lung. As of Sept. 10, the male passenger remained in the surgical ICU on a ventilator, unresponsive.

The driver advised she saw a “Detour Ahead” sign, so she decided to turn around, and as she was pulling out of a driveway, her vehicle was struck by another. She estimated the striking vehicle was traveling at 80 miles-per-hour in the 35 miles-per-hour zone. Investigators learned the woman’s vehicle had been struck by a pickup truck, which then fled eastbound.

The complaint says investigators followed tire tracks and suspected vehicle fluid which led them to a driveway, where they found a pickup truck with its hazards on — with significant front end damage. It was determined the truck was registered to Zellmer, who was found sleeping on the couch inside the home. The complaint says investigators noticed an odor of intoxicants, and when asked where he’d been, Zellmer said “we were out.” He said he was at the Waterfront in Pewaukee and said the damage to his vehicle was caused by “a deer or something.” He said he’d consumed beer and “two shots of Fireball,” and when asked how much he’d had to drink, he said “enough” and “plenty, for sure.” The complaint says field sobriety tests were performed poorly, and a preliminary breath test revealed a result of .252. Zellmer was arrested and taken to the hospital for a blood draw.

Investigators recovered receipts from Mugshotz Bar in Pewaukee, Beer Depot in Pewaukee and O’Lydia’s inside the home where Zellmer had been sleeping. At Mugshotz, the complaint says Zellmer was caught on camera “drinking multiple cans of beer” before leaving. Investigators spoke with a bartender at another bar, who said Zellmer was drinking beer there, and at one point he stopped serving Zellmer and asked if he wanted water, “which made Zellmer mad.”

Zellmer made his initial appearance in court on Sept. 10. A preliminary hearing was set for Oct. 11, and cash bond was set at $75,000.