Peter Hanson sentenced to life in prison

OCONTO – An Oconto Falls man will spend the rest of his life behind bars for a murder 16 years ago.

Peter Hanson was convicted of shooting and killing 19-year-old Chad McLean after a night of drinking in February of 1998.

Prosecutors claimed Hanson dumped McLean’s body in the Pensaukee River.

Chad McLean
Chad McLean

Hanson walked into Oconto County Court Thursday afternoon, almost a year after the family of McLean was finally able to end its search for the teen’s killer.

“His last 15 years of freedom for us have been 15 years of injustice for Chad,” said Lori Neilson-Grigg, McLean’s cousin.

Early last year, witnesses came forward with new information, enough to charge Hanson.

The long wait for that charge is why McLean’s cousin told the courtroom her family wanted no chance of parole.

“Knowing my cousin, I will never wrap my head around what this scrawny, soft-spoken kid could have done to cause someone to want to end his life, not only end his life, but throw him away like garbage,” said Neilson-Grigg.

Hanson chose not to speak on his own behalf. However, his attorney asked the judge for a chance at parole after 20 years, when Hanson would be 73 years old.

“I think what is important to understand is that a parole eligibility date is not an automatic,” said Jeffrey Jazgar, Hanson’s attorney.

Judge Michael Judge sided with the prosecution and McLean’s family.

“The agony that Mr. Hanson caused to this family for 16 years, there’s no other word for it, it’s despicable,” said Judge.

“It’s just what we’ve been waiting for, for 16 years,” said Bob Neilson, McLean’s uncle. “It’s just too bad it couldn’t happen sooner. People could have come forward, but it means a lot and it’s the resolution we wanted.”

The years of waiting are why McLean’s family is encouraging people to come forward in any cold case, no matter how minor the information might seem.

“It is important and this case proved it because just somebody hearing a gunshot brought forward other people and this is the result,” said Neilson.

Charles Mlados, who also faces charges of killing McLean, is scheduled to go to trial in August.

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