- Associated Press - Monday, March 30, 2015

MILWAUKEE (AP) - A murder charge has been filed against a Wisconsin man in the slaying of a woman nearly 25 years ago, a case that a local sheriff says has “haunted” some detectives for their entire careers.

Dennis J. Brantner, 61, of Kenosha, was charged with first-degree murder in the death of 18-year-old Berit Beck, who was traveling from her home in the southern Wisconsin community of Sturtevant to a computer training seminar in Appleton, about 110 miles north. The van Beck was driving was located in the parking lot of a Kmart store in Fond du Lac, two days after her July 17, 1990, disappearance.

Beck’s body was found more than a month later in a ditch in the Fond du Lac County Town of Waupun. An autopsy showed she had probably been strangled. A red gag was found tied around her head, according to investigators.

Bond for Brantner was set at $1 million cash during a court appearance Monday and he remained in the Fond du Lac County Jail. Brantner’s attorney asked for $10,000 bail, saying his client was not a risk to flee.

“Mr. Brantner is innocent. He has been nothing but cooperative with investigators since they named him as a suspect one year ago,” defense attorney Craig Powell of Milwaukee told The Associated Press on Monday.



Fond du Lac Sheriff Mick Fink was a detective at the time Beck was killed. Fink said he wasn’t celebrating the arrest.

“I don’t see a win in this. I don’t see a win for the Beck family. I don’t see a win in it for anyone,” Fink said at a news conference Monday. “I don’t feel anything other than it was tragedy.”

According to the criminal complaint, Brantner was targeted as a suspect in February 2014 after a State Crime Lab analyst matched previously unidentified fingerprints from Beck’s van to him. Additional fingerprints were submitted to the crime lab earlier this month and an analyst found two additional matches in Beck’s van - a cellophane cigarette wrapper found under the front passenger seat and on the inside middle door window, the complaint said.

“If that’s the evidence they have, it is an extremely weak case,” Powell, the defense attorney, said.

The complaint said an individual has previously stated a different suspect had admitted killing Beck and showed him her body. Investigators interviewed the individual again earlier this month and he recanted his story, according to detectives.

Even though so many years have passed, Fink said the “bold stranger abduction” of Beck and her death has never been forgotten.

When detectives interviewed Brantner in 2014, he denied killing her, then began crying and added he couldn’t remember anything and didn’t want to, the complaint said.

District Attorney Eric Toney said Monday that investigators believe Brantner acted alone.

___

Associated Press reporter Jeff Baenen contributed from Minneapolis.

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