The prosecution of a man accused of killing Keith Habenicht and fleeing the crash scene on Appleton Ave. in Germantown on Aug. 23 has moved forward, following the defendant’s initial court appearance this week.
Adam Neuhaus, 31, of Menomonee Falls, allegedly hit Habenicht after drinking beer for three hours in Fat Charlie’s, a tavern in Richfield. He didn’t report the crash, and had an attorney contact the Germantown Police Department on his behalf nearly 24 hours later.
Germantown police discovered clothing fragments on the windshield of Neuhaus’ car that matched the shirt Habenicht was wearing when he died in the ditch about one mile from his home in Germantown.
The 50-year-old father of three had taken his bike to a local store, and authorities found pieces of bread and car parts strewn across the road, about 200 feet south of Bark Lake Rd. Lights on the front and rear of Habenicht’s bicycle were still flashing when police arrived on the scene, about 8:40 p.m., and an investigation later determined his bike would have been visible from about 400 feet away, in the twilight conditions.
Prosecutors in Washington County charged Neuhaus with homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle and hit and run causing injury, charges that carry a maximum penalty of nearly 11 years of prison time.
According to the criminal complaint, Neuhaus had a beer at the Waukesha Gun Club on Watertown Plank Road earlier that Sunday. He returned home to Menomonee Falls about 4:45 p.m. and arrived at Fat Charlie’s on Highway 175, near Holy Hill Road, about 5 p.m.
Witnesses said he had three or four beers at the bar, and left about 8 p.m., after appearing upset.
A neighbor reported that Neuhaus left for work in his pickup truck the next morning. The neighbor told police that it was unusual, because Neuhaus typically drove his silver Mazda 3, later found to have a smashed front bumper and windshield.
Another witness told police she had tried to contact Neuhaus after he left Fat Charlie’s and he didn’t respond. He texted her the next morning, with a message that said he was not OK and that he was an idiot.
Nuehaus is scheduled to enter a formal plea on the charges June 15.
His case is similar to another crash that killed a bicyclist in 2015.
Eric Banaszak crashed into James Schafer about 2:30 a.m. on Feb. 14 near Redgranite, fled the scene and turned himself into police one day later. He was convicted of a hit-and-run causing a death and sentenced to eight years in prison. Witnesses also reported Banaszak had been drinking shortly before the crash.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation and the Wisconsin Bike Fed have collaborated in an effort to prevent these types of fatal crashes from happening.
According to the DOT, Wisconsin has the highest rate of drunken driving in the nation and roughly 33,000 people are convicted of drunken driving each year. More than 26 percent of Wisconsin adults who were surveyed admitted that they had driven under the influence of alcohol in the previous year, according to a nationwide study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Here’s how you can avoid an arrest or killing someone.
- Choose a sober designated driver before you start drinking.
- If you’re feeling buzzed, you likely are over the 0.08 limit and should not drive.
- Take mass transit, a taxicab or ask a sober friend to drive you home.
The Wisconsin Bike Fed reports on crashes involving cyclists as part of the Share and Be Aware program, to remind people driving cars that their actions could have fatal consequences. Overall, cycling in the state has become safer over the past 20 years, but failures to obey traffic laws and drive with caution continue to claim lives.