JEFFERSON — Just days after her attorney signaled she was headed toward a plea deal, former Jefferson County Sheriff’s Deputy Janelle Gericke was back in court Wednesday facing a new burglary charge, with felony bail-jumping added on.
The charge stems from a Feb. 24 incident in which she was caught on camera inside a Jefferson home around 8:30 that morning, according to a criminal complaint. The homeowner had received a notification on his phone from his home security system that someone was trying to get inside and called the Jefferson Police Department.
Gericke was out on a $10,000 signature bond in her previous case — which involved similar circumstances of breaking into homes. She was charged in December 2019 with one count of burglary.
Each burglary charge carries a maximum sentence of 12 years and six months imprisonment and the felony bail-jumping charge carries a maximum sentence of six years in prison. She also could be fined up to $60,000.
The homeowner reported he was missing prescription hydrocodone pills from a bathroom drawer.
The security video showed a white woman wearing black calf-height boots, black leggings, a dark jacket, glasses and a dark knit hat with pink on the bottom, according to the complaint. The homeowner told police he believed it was Gericke in the video because he knows her personally and knew she worked at the sheriff’s office.
When reviewing the video, Jefferson Police Lieutenant Alan Richter recognized Gericke from past professional contacts, the complaint states.
Later that day, Richter and Jefferson Police Detective Eric Weiss went to Gericke’s home to ask where she had been that morning. Gericke said she had been at home with her young child, but the police noted she was wearing clothes similar to the woman in the security footage.
Gericke was a deputy in the Jail Division of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office from 2016 until she was terminated in July 2019.
The original criminal complaint describes seven instances in which she was seen in person or on surveillance video outside of people’s homes. Her targets included people she knew to be at the funeral of loved ones, co-workers, acquaintances and even one person she knew to be dead, according to the complaint.
The original burglary count with which she was charged stems from an incident in Fort Atkinson, but that complaint outlines instances in which she was seen in homes across the county.
The sheriff’s office was investigating the break-ins, but once Gericke emerged as a suspect, the case was passed along to the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ). The complaint even outlines a day DOJ special agents spent following a pregnant Gericke as she went into people’s homes.
In court Wednesday, Gericke made her initial appearance on the new charge over video-conference from Jefferson County Jail. A cash bond was set by Circuit Court Judge William Gruber at $2,000 and she was put under home confinement with GPS monitoring to ensure she stays in her own residence.
She will be allowed to attend scheduled counseling appointments.
“Apparently while on felony bond already for another burglary case, the defendant has been, it would appear to be continuing to burglarize homes in this community,” Assistant Attorney General Adrienne Blais said. “I believe that in the interest of community safety and to ensure further compliance with bond, the cash bond is appropriate at this time. Quite frankly, I can imagine the fear and the anger that the community must feel right now seeing this and knowing the course of conduct which led to the first case appears to still be ongoing.”
The new cash bond was applied to the initial case, modifying the original $10,000 signature bond. Her defense attorney, Michael Witt, argued the cash bond should be set at a reasonable level because it would not provide as much assurance for the community as the GPS monitoring.
“So I don’t know that the cash would provide as much security for the community as the GPS monitoring,” Witt said. “We would certainly have no objection to GPS monitoring. I think that would provide much more assurance to the court and everyone else that this behavior wasn’t going to be repeated.”
Under the GPS monitoring, Gericke will not be permitted to leave her property, with the exceptions of counseling and emergencies. The condition of the original bond, which is to have no contact with any victims or witnesses, still will apply.
At the hearing, Gruber said he would be disqualifying himself from the case, as would Judge Robert Dehring — who had been assigned to the original case. Gruber did not say why the judges were disqualifying themselves, but he did say the case likely will be reassigned to Waukesha County.
“I’m almost certain … this is going to be transferred to Waukesha County, one of the five criminal branches over there,” Gruber said. “Judge Dehring is disqualifying himself. This court, this branch would disqualify itself on an anticipatory basis, based upon what was alleged in the complaint.”
Witt, Wisconsin Department of Justice and Jefferson County Circuit Court did not immediately respond to a request for comment about why the judges were disqualifying themselves.
Gericke had a plea and sentencing hearing scheduled for April 16 in Dehring’s court, but a new court date has not yet been set. Gruber indicated her next appearance likely would be a status conference in Waukesha.