Three charged in Beating

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Thomas Wilkins

Kellen Jeffords

Jacob Erwin

 

Trio charged in vicious beating of 

restaurant owner

By Ted Pennekamp

 

Three Illinois men were each charged Nov. 2 in Crawford County Circuit Court in regard to the beating of the owner of a Prairie du Chien area Japanese restaurant. 

Jacob Erwin, 24, of Salem, Kellen Jeffords, 24, of Wamac, and Thomas Wilkins, 22, of Salem, were each charged with one count of burglary to a building or dwelling as a party to a crime and one count of battery - bodily harm - as a party to a crime.

If convicted of both counts, Erwin, Jeffords and Wilkins each face up to 18.5 years in prison and $35,000 in fines. 

Erwin and Jeffords made their initial court appearance at 2 p.m. on Nov. 2. Wilkins is scheduled to make his initial appearance at 8:45 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 4. 

According to the criminal complaint, on Oct. 21 at approximately 3:30 p.m., the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department received a report of an unresponsive subject at the Wasabi Restaurant at 37505 Highway 18, in the town of Bridgeport. Emergency medical services were dispatched to the restaurant as well. 

Upon arrival, deputies saw EMTs providing treatment to a man later identified as Young Su Kim, the owner of the restaurant. Kim was transported to Crossing Rivers Health and then med-flighted to Gundersen Lutheran Hospital in La Crosse due to the severity of his injuries. 

According to the complaint, an employee reported to work at approximately 3:30 p.m. on Oct. 21 and found Kim unconscious in the restaurant. Deputies looked through the restaurant and saw a significant amount of blood on the kitchen floor and an article of clothing that contained blood stains. There was property damage in the dining area, including a large window that was broken, electronics that were broken, and a table that was tipped over. In the front office area, property and a desk were in disarray. Loose coins were found scattered around the parking area of the restaurant, along with a blaze orange shirt with reflective striping and the name “Railworks” in black lettering on the ground on the north side of the restaurant.

It was later determined that employees of a company called “Railworks” were staying at a Prairie du Chien motel. Deputies went to the motel and talked with the foreman of Railworks who said his crew was Jeffords, Wilkins and Erwin. 

Jeffords told investigators he ate dinner at Wasabi the evening prior and that two of his coworkers joined him for dinner and drinks. Jeffords said he had no recollection of events after dinner due to his level of intoxication, according to the complaint.

Erwin also told investigators that, after dinner and drinks at the restaurant, he, Jeffords, Wilkins, Kim and another man went to a bar in downtown Prairie du Chien to have some drinks. Erwin said, after leaving the bar, they gave Kim a ride back to the restaurant, the complaint said. 

Erwin told investigators that, upon returning to the restaurant, Wilkins punched Kim in the face, causing Kim to be unconscious. Erwin said one of the men took Kim’s keys and attempted to gain entry into the restaurant, but was unable. Erwin said he then broke out the window, gained entry, and unlocked the door, according to the complaint. 

Erwin said Kim was dragged or carried into the restaurant. Erwin said he saw Jeffords kick Kim in the face while Kim was lying on the floor in the kitchen, the complaint said. Erwin told investigators that Wilkins damaged things and burglarized the restaurant, the complaint said.

Erwin said he started to walk back to their motel and that Jeffords and Wilkins picked him up in their vehicle a short distance away. According to the complaint, Erwin told investigators the cash register of the restaurant was in the vehicle. Erwin said they pulled into an area behind a motel across the highway from the restaurant and attempted to open the cash register, the complaint said. 

Investigators found many loose coins and parts from a cash register in a cornfield behind the motel. The remains of the cash register were found later along a road in the general area of another motel where the men had been staying, the complaint said. 

A deputy has attempted to keep in contact with Kim, however, due to Kim’s injuries and medical condition, Kim is unable to communicate. 

Among the injuries sustained by Kim were an intracranial bleed including a subdural hematoma, subarachnoid hemorrhages more prominent in the right cerebral hemisphere of the brain, and fractures about the nose and face. Records indicate, “Critical care was required due to acute hypoxic respiratory failure.” One of Kim’s lung lobes was completely collapsed. Kim remains hospitalized.

Nearly $3,300 has been raised via the Go Fund Me web page in Young Su Kim’s name.

Preliminary hearings have been scheduled for Erwin and Jeffords for 2 p.m. on Nov. 9 in Crawford County Circuit Court.

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