Tim Ryan firstname.lastname@example.org
(Editor’s note: This is the third of a four-part series looking back at the unsolved hit-and-run that took the life six years ago of Timothy J. Meade. Details of the investigation have been culled from the Shawano County Sheriff’s Department’s 144-page case file.)
Meade, 22, of Stephenson, Michigan, was found about 2:30 a.m. June 28, 2013, in the eastbound lane of traffic on County Road M at the state Highway 29 overpass.
After an initial flurry of investigative activity that followed his death, authorities found themselves without any real leads to follow.
As early as the first anniversary of his death in 2014, sheriff’s detectives were calling the case “open but cold” and implored anyone with information to come forward.
Jesse Sperberg, the new detective assigned to the case in 2015, followed up on several tips, but they led nowhere, and the people named in those tips were ruled out as suspects.
The department even reached out to confidential informants, but they had no information on the crash.
Then, in February 2018, investigators got a tip from a source at the Antigo Police Department who passed along second-hand information from the father of a woman whose sister, this source said, had been at The Shack on the night of the hit-and-run.
According to this source, the woman and her friend were picked up at the bar around closing time by the friend’s sister, who “apparently told (them) that she thought she ran someone over,” according to the case file.
When they were en route back to their residence, they passed near the crash scene and saw squad cars on scene, according to this source, the case file states.
Sperberg then reviewed the case record, including information gained from a 2013 “tower dump,” which is information gathered via search warrant from cell phone providers that identifies names and phone numbers of people who had made cell phone calls within the vicinity of the accident scene on the night it occurred.
The search warrants, which went to several cell phone providers, requested information on calls placed and received between 2:08 a.m. and 2:33 a.m. for any and all towers covering an area about one mile west of Shawano on County Road M.
Among the 23 names and phone numbers gathered in that dump was the name of the woman who, the source said, had picked up her sister and her friend at The Shack and whom the sheriff’s department would later identify as a suspect.
According to the case file, the woman made a cell phone call to her sister that began at 2:25 a.m. and ended at 2:27 a.m., shortly before Meade’s body was spotted by another party who called 911.
Authorities then tried to track down the suspect’s vehicle, which was identified through an unrelated traffic stop in July 2013.
According to the case file, the vehicle had been repossessed in 2015, sold to an auction company in 2016 and was later purchased by a person in East Chicago, Indiana.
Authorities have said from the outset of their investigation they believe the vehicle that killed Meade was a sport utility vehicle or some other large vehicle. The vehicle believed to have been driven by the suspect was a 2006 Chevy Impala, a mid-sized passenger car.
Sheriff Adam Bieber, who took over the department in 2015, was asked about that discrepancy.
“Clearly the former detective had no evidence or reason to believe it was a truck or SUV that hit Tim Meade,” Bieber said. “There were no vehicle parts left behind nor were there eyewitnesses. They were speculating which is not good practice and may have hindered the investigation from the start.”
The original lead detective on the case was Wade Wudtke, who left the department in March 2015, but the first investigator to propose the vehicle had been a truck or SUV was Detective Sgt. Gordon Kowaleski, who heads the department’s investigative team.
He based that assessment on the injuries to Meade and the absence of any vehicle parts left behind.
“If it was a small car with a plastic front end, I would expect to see a lot of broken pieces of plastic there. If there’s no car parts there or readily visible, I’m thinking truck, SUV, something with a little more metal on it,” he said.
However, Kowaleski added, that first impression did not limit detectives to any specific type of vehicle during their investigation.
Authorities questioned the suspect in April 2018.
The woman said she was driving home from the Cadott country music festival with her sister and a friend and said she wasn’t drinking. She said when she passed the bridge, she saw a truck with no lights on coming at her and called her dad and told him about it.
She denied any involvement in the hit-and-run and said she wanted to speak with an attorney. Detectives advised the woman to call her attorney and get back in touch with them.
The attorney later contacted sheriff’s detectives and told them the woman would not answer any further questions.
Detectives then tracked down the friend who, according to the source at the Antigo Police Department, had been with the suspect and the suspect’s sister on the night of the hit-and-run.
She told investigators that the suspect had dropped them off at a friend’s house after returning from the Cadott music festival and left. She said the suspect later called and said she thought she saw someone on the road and heard cops coming.
The friend said the suspect never said she hit someone, only that she saw someone in the road.
Contrary to what the original source said, there was no mention in this person’s account as detailed in the case file of having been at The Shack bar.
Then, in May 2018, Meade’s family passed along information to investigators about someone who had shared information with them involving a possible suspect.
Authorities in June interviewed this person, who told investigators she had spent time with Meade at The Shack bar the night he was killed. She said she passed that information on to Shawano Police Officer Mike Musolff the next day because she felt authorities might want to know something about who Meade was. Musolff is now a lieutenant with the department.
She said she talked with a friend of the suspect while working at Luigi’s later that day and said that this friend had been with the suspect when they saw Meade lying in the road.
This would be the same friend whom detectives had already interviewed and who said she was not in the car when the suspect saw Meade’s body in the road.
The witness told authorities she had found the friend’s comments strange and said she passed this along to then-Lt. Dan Mauel, who is now Shawano police chief, either the next day or the day after.
Detectives then contacted Mauel, who, according to the case file, said he remembered talking to that person. He said he passed that information along to someone at the sheriff’s department after receiving it in 2013, but couldn’t recall who.
There is no documentation at the city or the county level regarding the call.
In August 2018, authorities spoke with a woman who was apparently the original source of the second-hand information relayed to detectives by an Antigo Police Department employee, but her story differs from the information provided by the Antigo source.
The woman, whose sister is the friend of the person identified as a suspect, told authorities that her sister and her sister’s friend were dropped off by the suspect after returning from the Cadott music festival.
After the suspect left, the suspect called and “said something about seeing someone in the road maybe,” according to the case file. She also stated she had no first-hand knowledge of any of this.
The case was officially closed June 28, 2019, because the statute of limitations had expired on any potential prosecution.