Monday, October 12, 2009

Eau Claire, WI: State paying for series of surgeries for inmate who murdered woman

Polk County (WQOW) - Reconstructive surgery for an inmate who murdered a woman is raising the question, "Just how far should your tax dollars go behind bars?"

In 2002, Daryl Strenke shot his ex-girlfriend, Sam Verby, near the Barron County, Polk County line. After he killed her, he turned the gun on himself. He survived, but was disfigured. He's spending 30 years behind bars for second-degree intentional homicide. The Department of Corrections will now pay for a series of expensive surgeries for him.

"He has to live with what he did. There's no fixing it now," says Larry Verby, Sam's father.

Larry says there were no warning signs. Sam Verby and Daryl Strenke had been broken up for several months when he helped Sam and her father work on a new seasonal campground near Staples Lake. The very next night, Sam was hanging out in her new trailer when Daryl came to visit. He started yelling at her to come outside to talk to her.

"She said if you want to talk to me, you can come in here and talk to me. He walked inside the trailer, down the hallway and 10 feet away, shot her in the head. He then shot himself right there," says Larry.

The blast from a 12-gauge shotgun blew off the lower part of his face. Daryl survived, but the injuries make it impossible for him to eat or speak normally.

Later in October, he's expected to have the first, in what could be a series of, surgeries on his face. Those surgeries will be paid for by the state.

Rep. Ann Hraychuck, who was Polk County sheriff at the time of the shooting, says, "I do understand that institutions are responsible for providing necessary medical treatment, and given the economic climate, I can't imagine the Department of Corrections secretary would okay any kind of surgery that isn't absolutely necessary."

Sam Verby's father says he can understand picking up the cost for victims, "But when the perpetrator does it himself to himself with the idea that he went there on a death wish in the first place, he did it to himself. And being that he murdered my daughter, I have no sympathy for him."

Daryl Strenke's mother admits she would have felt the same way Larry Verby did, before this happened. But now she says, "It doesn't matter who they are or what crimes they've committed." She goes on to say, "Prisoners are still human beings and still deserve medical care."

A major question now is how much will his surgeries cost. That's tough to guess as the Department of Corrections isn't talking about Daryl's case, because of patient confidentiality rules.

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