One man convicted in connection with beating of restaurant owner

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Jacob Erwin

Kellen Jeffords

Thomas Wilkins

By Ted Pennekamp


One of the three men charged in connection to the brutal beating of a Prairie du Chien area restaurant owner in October of 2015 has been found guilty of amended charges in Crawford County Circuit Court.

Jacob H. Erwin, 25, has pleaded no contest to criminal damage to property, criminal trespass to a dwelling, and entry into/onto a building, construction site or room. The three amended charges are misdemeanors.

The charges were amended from the felony counts of burglary-building or dwelling as a party to a crime, and aggravated battery-intend bodily harm as party to a crime. 

Erwin was sentenced to 168 days in jail for each count to be served concurrently. The 168 days has already been served by Erwin. Erwin has also paid restitution of $4,234.98 to Young Su Kim, the owner of the Wasabi Japanese Restaurant. Erwin also paid $5,980 in restitution to Brian Park, the owner of the building. 

The restitution paid to Kim is for damage to property owned by Kim, most of which included damaged computers and spoiled food. The restitution paid to Park is for damage to the building including a broken window, damage to an office wall, and damage to the cooler and compressors.

Erwin, of Salem, Ill., also owes the court assessments of $1,359 for jail costs.

Erwin’s case is closed and he is out of jail. 

The other two men charged in the case remain in the Crawford County Jail. Kellen Jeffords, 25, of Wamac, Ill., and Thomas Wilkins, 23, of Salem, Ill., face charges of burglary-building or dwelling as a party to a crime, and aggravated battery-intend bodily harm as a party to a crime.

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

Jeffords has a pre-trial conference scheduled for April 6. Jeffords’ trial is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. on April 25. Wilkins has a status conference scheduled for March 9.

According to the criminal complaint, on Oct. 21, 2015, 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. 

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 is no longer hospitalized.

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