- Associated Press - Thursday, June 9, 2016

BARABOO, Wis. (AP) - The attorney for a Wisconsin man accused of killing an Illinois woman in an interstate drive-by shooting says the man has significant mental health issues.

Zachary Hays, 20, briefly appeared in court Thursday in Sauk County, where he faces one count of first-degree intentional homicide and three counts of reckless endangerment. Hays is accused of killing Tracy Czaczkowski in a May 1 drive-by shooting as she was returning with her family to Illinois from Wisconsin Dells.

“He’s obviously got significant mental health issues,” Jon Helland, Hays’ attorney, said to reporters following the two-minute appearance.

Asked whether he’s looking at competency as a defense, Helland said they’re exploring all avenues and will address those issues when the time comes.

“It’s a tragic situation. It’s tragic for all the families involved,” Helland said.

A black mop of hair obscured the top half of Hays’ face during the appearance, and he only spoke once to waive his right to a preliminary examination. Judge James Evenson set a pretrial conference for July 15.

Hays also faces one count of first-degree reckless homicide in Milwaukee County, where investigators believe he shot a neighbor at his West Allis apartment building the morning of the drive-by.

A different attorney, Jane Christopherson, is representing Hays in Milwaukee County. Helland said they are communicating with each other, but he doesn’t know how the counties will proceed with the cases.

Prosecutors allege Hays shot and killed 42-year-old Gabriel Claudio-Sanchez in West Allis the morning of May 1, then drove northwest with two of his brothers. The three were driving south on Interstate 90/94 when Hays opened fire on Czaczkowski and her family in their car. Czaczkowski, 44, was hit in the neck and later died of the wound.

Investigators have said the shooting appears to be random. According to court documents, one of Hays’ brothers told police that Hays had smoked marijuana a few days earlier and had been acting extremely paranoid, especially about cars with tinted windows. The Czaczkowski’s BMW sedan had tinted windows.

Police ultimately stopped Hays’ Chevrolet Blazer using a spike strip. Sheriff’s deputies shot and wounded Hays when he emerged from the vehicle with a gun, according to investigators. He was taken to University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison. His right arm was in a sling during Thursday’s court appearance.

If convicted of first-degree intentional homicide in Czaczkowski’s death, Hays would face a mandatory life sentence.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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