Alleged confession preceded charges in 1984 death

Prison cell file photo.
File photo.

MILWAUKEE (AP) – A Wisconsin Rapids man accused of murdering his wife decades ago was charged because he allegedly confessed to the killing to relatives and fellow inmates, court records show.

Joseph B. Reinwand, who is scheduled to make an initial appearance in court Tuesday, was charged last week in the 1984 death of his 19-year-old wife, Pamela Reinwand.

She’d been shot once in the head, and her death was initially classified a suicide. But Portage County authorities reopened the case in 2008 while investigating another homicide in which Joseph Reinwand, 55, was charged.

The latest investigation culminated in prosecutors charging Reinwand on Thursday with first-degree murder.

Reinwand, who was 25 when his wife died, told investigators he was angry at her that night. He said they’d gone out with friends, and he grew enraged when he saw her slow-dancing with another man.

He said they went home and she went into the bedroom, pulling out a shotgun and a few shells. He said he asked her what she planned to do, and she said she was going to kill herself. He “slapped her around” every time she gave that answer, until he eventually hugged her and told her he and their 6-month-old daughter loved her, he said.

Reinwand gave conflicting answers for how his wife died. He initially told deputies she picked up a handgun from a table and shot herself. He told one brother she was moving the gun from the counter to a table when it slipped, and there was a sudden bang. And he told another brother she was on the phone to a suicide-prevention hotline when she shot herself.

The medical examiner at the time concluded that suicide was a possibility but said there wasn’t enough evidence to distinguish between a suicide and something else.

When the case was reopened, another forensic pathologist reviewed the old medical and ballistics evidence. He noted that Pamela Reinwand was left-handed but was shot in the right temple, and said the bullet’s trajectory was “highly atypical” of a self-inflicted wound.

Reinwand’s public defender, David Dickmann, did not immediately return a message left Monday.

Other individuals also told investigators they’d heard Reinwand acknowledge killing his wife.

Two inmates who served time with him when he was imprisoned on other charges said he described shooting her and making it look like a suicide. And a man who fathered a child with Reinwand’s daughter said Reinwand told him he’d killed his wife and, “I can or will do the same thing to you.”

Some of the new information came to light as detectives investigated the February 2008 fatal shooting of a 35-year-old Wisconsin Rapids man.

Portage County Sheriff John Charewicz told Gannett Wisconsin Media in 2008 he always thought Reinwand was lying about his wife’s death, but there wasn’t evidence to prove it.

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