Inside the Courtroom: Little Wolf River Tubing Shooting

WAUPACA, Wis. (WFRV) – The case of a shooting along the Little Wolf River took three years to conclude.

For the victim, it was a disappointing plea deal where the seven-year sentence for defendant Cornelius Russell didn’t seem to fit the crime.

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“Firing a gun at someone else’s head is not an attempt to hurt them. His intention was clearly to kill me,” victim Matthew Demeny of Green Bay told the court. “Even though it didn’t take my life, it took all the aspects of who I was.”

Demeny then held up a picture of him in a hospital bed where he was in a coma for days.

Demeny’s fiancée, Heather, also spoke before the court before sentencing and identified Russell as the shooter, who is also the boyfriend of the victim’s cousin.

Demeny said he did retrieve a beer can that was tossed into the water by someone else during a family tubing party.

Both he and Heather insist that there was no confrontation about the beer can and that Demeny’s back was actually to Russell when they say Russell pulled out the gun.

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“Everyone was there talking and laughing,” Heather told the judge. “So, Cornelius stood up again, walked towards Matthew, turned around, and grabbed a silver 45 handgun out of his backpack that he had in the tube. He turned around that’s when Elizabeth (the victim’s cousin and defendant’s boyfriend ) started screaming. I hollered for Matt. He heard the commotion, put both his hands up in the air, and he shot him.”

Russell changed from a private attorney to a public defender.

The defense said there was plenty of reasonable doubt should the case go to trial.

“The Waupaca County Sheriff’s Office conducted an investigation that left more questions than answers,” State Public Defender Alex Gelhar said. “There were numerous witness reports pointing at numerous possible suspects aside from Mr. Russell. Yet, a number of those witnesses were not identified by law enforcement, nor was their contact information included in reports.”

Then, it was time for Judge Raymond Huber to speak.

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“The court is at a loss quite frankly of why a group of people who were floating down the Little Wolf River, apparently as a group of friends and relatives, suddenly there’s a problem and allegedly a gun pulled and an individual shot. I don’t know what the triggering events were, it’s clear from what the court heard, that there were a number of individuals who were being evasive. I’m not going to second guess the amendment the state made in this action. Mr. Russell is going to be placed in prison for a long period of time, and I intend to do it.”

The sentence was seven years with another five years of extended supervision. Because of another case against Mr. Russell, his defense said he was looking at ten years behind bars when all was said and done.