Preston D. Kraft

A former Rusk County man was sentenced, Friday, Aug. 21 to life in prison without the possibility for parole for killing a Conrath man in May 2018.

In Rusk County Circuit Court on June 12 Preston D. Kraft, 33, was found guilty of one felony count of first-degree intentional homicide and one felony count of bail jumping.

During the hearing Kraft was removed from the courtroom due to a behavioral outburst and while moved to a room in the prison to continue the court proceedings, Kraft had to be silenced due to ongoing disruption on his part.

Kraft’s standby counsel attorney Eugene Harrington requested to speak on behalf of Kraft, however Kraft adamantly declined that request.

In court records, Kraft has stated he is innocent.

According to the criminal complaint, on May 18, 2018 at approximately 3:30 p.m., Rusk County deputies were dispatched to a Willard residence after receiving a 911 call from Tracy Pettit advising Kraft had shot her husband, Robert Pettit.

Upon arriving at the scene the deputies found Pettit lying in the driveway with what appeared to be a head injury and who later that evening died of his wounds.

Kraft fled law enforcement in a stolen white convertible in a high-speed chase where speeds reached 115 miles per hour and continued until deputies lost visual sight of the vehicle. According to the criminal complaint, the stolen white convertible was found at Christie Mountain Ski Hill with five spent 9mm shell castings located in the vehicle.

Before being taken into custody near Imalone Road, Kraft led law enforcement from multiple agencies on a five-day manhunt. The agencies involved in the man hunt were the Rusk, Barron, Washburn, Sawyer County Sheriff deputies, Birchwood Police Department, Wisconsin State Patrol, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Criminal Investigation.

On Friday, Aug. 21 Kraft was sentenced to one life sentence without the possibility for parole in the first-degree intentional homicide charge. He was also sentenced to three years incarceration and three years extended supervision to run concurrent to his life sentence.

As part of his sentence, Kraft was ordered to pay $27,269.40 restitution. The funds will be paid out of Kraft’s prison account and will not exceed 20 percent of his gross earnings. Kraft must not have any contact with the Pettit family, maintain absolute sobriety, provide a DNA sample and pay to surcharge and comply with all Department of Correction recommendations.

During the sentencing hearing Crystal Trudeau and Damien Pettit spoke on behalf of the victim, Robert Pettit.

Jacqueline Cassel spoke on behalf of Kraft.

Kraft has indicated he will seek post-conviction relief.