A delayed verdict
Robert Pulvermacher got life in prison for the 2019 murder of 88-year-old Harold Johnson in the parking lot of the Ho-Chunk Gaming Wisconsin Dells casino in Baraboo. The trial saw a delay of nearly ten months after the defendant contracted COVID-19 while in detention for violating probation for another crime.
life in prison without the chance of parole
Pulvermacher pleaded no contest to first-degree intentional homicide during his sentencing hearing at Saulk County Court on December 1. Judge Michael Screnock sentenced the 70-year-old defendant to life in prison without the chance of parole. He rejected the defense’s request for his release in 2042.
Details of the crime
According to Johnson’s daughter, Lori Udelhofen, her father had lent Pulvermacher $100 while both men were at the Ho-Chunk casino on January 11 last year. After Pulvermacher failed to show up to pay his debt the following day, Johnson arranged to meet him on January 13 at the same location.
The criminal complaint recounted that Johnson met Pulvermacher outside the Wisconsin casino to collect the debt. Outdoor surveillance footage on the day showed both men walking together in the parking lot before entering a car. Pulvermacher later appeared to walk into the casino facility alone, where he spent some hours playing blackjack.
Pulvermacher then offered to pay a casino patron $100 to drive him to the Madison suburb of Middleton, his place of residence, at approximately 1am.
two fatal stab wounds to his neck, two to his back, and one in his shoulder
A security officer found Johnson’s body the following day. An autopsy established he had two fatal stab wounds to his neck, two to his back, and one in his shoulder. A manhunt followed, with police arresting Pulvermacher on January 23. Officers located him after he tried to enter a business in the middle of the night. Pulvermacher’s attorney said he had been without shelter for several days.
Arguments within the trial
According to local news reports, Pulvermacher’s defense centered on his health problems. Throughout the trial, his attorneys David Susens and Leonie Dolch detailed several health complaints, including a heart attack and a stroke which led to other medical issues. The defense also said a gambling addiction had affected Pulvermacher’s life since the 1990s and insisted he could not remember killing Johnson.
Meanwhile, Sauk County District Attorney Michael Albrecht referred to the defendant’s long list of previous felonies. In 1997, Department of Corrections records show that Pulvermacher had a number of convictions related to theft, burglary, recklessly endangering safety, and gun possession. He also escaped from prison for nine days in 1998.
Screnock commented during the trial: “It is impossible to make sense of the suffering that Mr Johnson went through.”