By Jerilea Hendrick
A May 14 preliminary hearing has been delayed for Preston Kraft, 32, who is facing charges of first-degree intentional homicide and five other charges for the alleged killing of a Conrath man.
A request for substitution of judicial assignment was submitted on May 13. Barron County Circuit Judge Michael Bitney has been assigned to Kraft’s three open Rusk County Circuit Court cases.
Between November and March Kraft underwent an inpatient competency evaluation and at a hearing on March 29 in Rusk County Circuit Court was found competent to stand trial.
In Rusk County Circuit Court, the criminal complaint claims that 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.
According to the criminal complaint, 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.
Kraft is being held on a $250,000 cash bond. If convicted Kraft faces a maximum penalty of life in prison for first-degree intentional homicide, plus two years for the repeater modifier and up to eight years for the felony bail jumping charge or $10,000 in fines for the felony bail jumping charge.
At this time, no future court dates are scheduled.
In Chippewa County Circuit Court three charges against Kraft were dismissed. Just three weeks prior to allegedly shooting and killing Robert Pettit, 53, Chippewa County Sheriff’s Office received a call from Pettit stating Kraft had fired a gun into the air and then threatened to kill him.
On April 25 and order was files to have the three charges dropped in Chippewa County Circuit Court dismissed. Kraft had been charged with one count second-degree recklessly endangering safety, one count disorderly conduct and one count misdemeanor bail jumping.