Former trucker in Wisconsin charged in 1990 murder of teenager

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 30, 2015 4:37 PM

By Brendan O'Brien

FOND DU LAC, Wis. (Reuters) - A former trucker was charged on Monday with the murder of an 18-year-old woman, who was found blindfolded and strangled in a roadside ditch in Wisconsin 25 years ago, authorities said.

Dennis Brantner, 61, of Kenosha, Wisconsin, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Berit Beck, who had been headed to a computer training class in Appleton, Wisconsin, in July 1990, but never arrived.

"We are encouraged and relieved for this day to have arrived for Berit and our family," her family said in a statement.

Brantner faces life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder, Fond du Lac District Attorney Eric Toney said on Monday.

Beck left her home in Sturtevant on July 17, 1990, to drive 110 miles north to Appleton for job-related computer training.

Her van was found two days later in a parking lot in Fond du Lac, 35 miles south of Appleton, and her body was found six weeks later in a ditch 10 miles from the van, authorities said.

An autopsy determined that Beck had been strangled. The state crime lab tests of fingerprint evidence in the van were originally inconclusive, according to a criminal complaint.

When investigators took another look at the cold-case murder in 2013, the state's crime lab found Brantner's fingerprints on several items including a Burger King cup found in Beck's van.

Brantner had been found guilty in 1995 of unlawful restraint and battery of his second wife in Illinois and had other run-ins with authorities, according to court records.

The criminal complaint also said an employee of a trucking company that Brantner worked for at the time of Beck's murder told investigators the location where her body was found was familiar to truck drivers.

Three co-workers at a manufacturer where he worked in 2014 also told authorities Brantner had a photograph of a woman who appeared to be Beck clipped to his toolbox, the complaint said.

Brantner was taken into custody in Kenosha County on Friday. His attorney could not be reached immediately for comment.

"I don't feel anything but that this was a tragedy," said Fond du Lac Sheriff Mylan Fink, who investigated Beck's murder as a detective early in his career.

(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien; Editing by Peter Cooney)