Authorities say a Wisconsin man suspected of murdering four people before killing himself may have been imitating the abduction of Jayme Closs.
Chippewa County Sheriff Jim Kowalczyk informed the public at a news conference on Tuesday that 33-year-old Ritchie German Jr. reportedly killed three of his family members before driving to another home 10 miles away in Lake Hallie, Wisconsin, on Sunday.
German allegedly entered the home using his shotgun, shot and wounded Teng and Mai Chang Vang, killed their 24-year-old daughter, Laile Vang, and then shot himself.
When authorities arrived at the Vang household, they found both Laile Vang and German dead, the injured couple and four other people — three juveniles and one adult — who were hiding from the shooter.
Kowalczyk said that while the family did not know German, investigators found text messages between him and Laile Vang, including some that were sexual in nature. In the first text exchange between them, however, Vang said she didn’t recognize the number.
Investigators are still researching how German Jr. got Vang’ number in the first place.
During the news conference, Kowalcyzk drew a connection between German’s crime and the Jayme Closs’ abduction in October 2018, which occurred in the neighboring Wisconsin community, Barron County.
“If you think back to the incident up in Barron County, involving the Closs family, very similar in nature as to what happened down in Hallie,” he said. “Could’ve been the motive or the mode of operation in regards to what could’ve happened if he chose not to shoot the Vang girl.”
Closs was at her family home when Jake Patterson, 21, entered the house, killed both of Jayme’s parents and kidnapped the then-13-year-old. She was held captive in an isolated cabin for three months before she escaped and ran to safety.
Patterson has since been sentenced to life in prison.
Items found in the vehicle outside the Vang home suggested that German had intended to kidnap Vang rather than kill her; it was the items found in the car that led investigators to draw the comparison to the Closs case.
Authorities also found German’s mother, Bridget; brother, Douglas; and nephew, Calvin Harris shot dead in their home.
Kowalczyk believes that German’s family was already dead Saturday morning because he called his mother’s workplace to tell them she was sick and would not arrive for her shift.
A young neighbor also came to the Lafayette home to see if Calvin was available to play, but German said his nephew had gone to the grocery store with Bridget.
While the motive of these crimes may never be determined, the sheriff described the suspect as a “loner” without friends and a “troubled individual.”
Besides a disorderly conduct charge in 2006, resulting in one year of probation, the Chippewa County Sheriff’s Office had no previous contact with the suspect, other than traffic violations.
The sheriff said there may be another crime scene authorities have not yet found.
If you have any information regarding this case or have had any involvement with Ritchie German Jr., please call the Chippewa County Sheriff’s Office at (715) 726-4563.
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