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2 charged in Oconomowoc crime spree that sparked manhunt last week

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Posted at 5:24 PM, Jul 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-07 00:00:45-04

OCONOMOWOC  — Prosecutors charged two men with a host of charges including attempted kidnapping, bank robbery and armed carjacking in the crime spree in Oconomowoc last week that led law enforcement on a one-day-long manhunt.

Law enforcement say one of the suspects stole two vehicles, robbed a Oconomowoc bank and then crashed as police tailed him. A co-worker, who police say knew about the plan to rob the bank, later called police and identified the suspect. Police used that information to track the suspect down and arrest him.

But both men now face charges in the crime spree that at one point led law enforcement to issue a shelter in place order to nearby residents last Tuesday.

A criminal complaint released Tuesday identifies the suspects as 44-year-old Kaia Mueller of Delavan and 21-year-old Malachi Eli-Joseph Thorne-Gray of Whitewater.

Mueller was charged with attempt to operate without consent/possession of a weapon, attempted kidnapping/seizing or confining without consent, operating without consent-possession of a weapon, robbery of a financial institution, possession of a firearm as a convicted felon and taking and driving a vehicle without consent.

Thorne-Gray meanwhile was charged with attempt to operate without consent/possession of a weapon (as a party to a crime), operating without consent-possession of a weapon (as a party to a crime), robbery of a financial institution (as a party to a crime) and straw purchasing of firearm.

The criminal complaint states it all started when Oconomowoc police learned of an attempted carjacking at 211 W. 2nd St. around 1 p.m. on June 29. The carjacking victim told investigators that she was walking from her vehicle to work when a man grabbed her and tried dragging her back to her car.

The victim says the man then revealed a firearm and threatened to kill her, while he tried to force her into her own vehicle. However, she refused and was able to break free, and ran to her workplace, locked the door and called the police, according to the complaint.

She took the car keys with her, she told investigators, and so the suspect abandoned the vehicle and ran off.

About 10 minutes later, police received word of another carjacking at 210 S. Main Street. A 88-year-old victim later told investigators that he had just returned home and pulled into an underground garage, when a suspect reached through an open window, pulled the victim out of the car and threw him onto the ground, the complaint states. The suspect then drove off in the victim's vehicle.

Five minutes after the second carjacking, police say they learned of a bank robbery at Waukesha State Bank on Corporate Center Drive. Responding officers found that the bank had been robbed at gunpoint. The suspect stole $5,711 from the bank, police say. Law enforcement also concluded that surveillance video at the bank shows the suspect in the two carjackings and the bank robbery appears to be the same person.

The same video shows the suspect enter the bank, point a firearm at a teller and demand she fill a bag with cash, the complaint states. The suspect repeated the demand to a second teller at the bank, police say. The suspect then exited the bank and drove off in the stolen vehicle, according to the complaint.

Soon after, a Summit police officer spotted the stolen vehicle on I-94. While tailing the vehicle, the officer saw the suspect vehicle drive off the freeway and crash into an embankment near Golden Lake Road. Officers moved in but discovered the vehicle to be empty, the complaint states.

Almost five and a half hours after the first report of a carjacking, police received a report of a stolen vehicle on Valley Road. The victim there said the car was missing when he returned home, prosecutors say.

That stolen car was later discovered at the Road T boat launch on Okauchee Lake. A witness at the launch told investigators that he saw one person drive up, take something from the trunk and drive off in an SUV that had been parked there.

A second suspect

The criminal complaint states police later received a call from Thorne-Gray, who said he believed the suspect in the crime spree to be Mueller. Thorne-Gray said Mueller matched the suspect's description, had been in prison before for a bank robbery and believed the gun the suspect had was Thorne-Gray's gun, the complaint states. Thorne-Gray added that he and Mueller have the same employer.

Thorne-Gray initially said he believed Mueller stole the firearm from his vehicle, according to the complaint, and that Mueller was acting suspiciously on the day of the crime spree.

Thorne-Gray continued to investigators that on that day, Mueller asked him to pick him up near the area where the suspect had crashed the stolen vehicle off the freeway, the complaint states. But Thorne-Gray could not get to the area because of the police perimeter and so drove off.

But when Thorne-Gray returned to his home, he noticed Mueller pulling into his driveway. Mueller told him that he "had the craziest day of my life," the complaint states. Thorne-Gray says Mueller changed his shirt and left.

Thorne-Gray said he later received word from Mueller, and asked him then where his firearm had gone. Mueller responded that he should not report the missing gun to the police, the complaint states.

Mueller's co-workers told investigators they believed Mueller had drug and gambling problems.

The next day, officers were dispatched to State Highway 67 and Valley Road regarding a hit and run. A victim there said he was hit by a SUV at the stop light. Police found the suspect vehicle's license plate matched that of Mueller's SUV.

Late that evening, police used data from the phone number Mueller had allegedly used to call Thorne-Gray to track Mueller to the Lake Delton area in Sauk County, where officers arrested him, the complaint states.

In an interview, Thorne-Gray told police that he had actually told Mueller where he kept the firearm in his car, that Mueller was going to use the gun to rob a bank and that Thorne-Gray had followed Mueller to the boat launch, where Mueller left his car. Thorne-Gray then drove Mueller to Oconomowoc. Thorne-Gray also told investigators that he was going to get money from Mueller after the bank robbery.

Thorne-Gray added that if he did not hear from Mueller at a certain point, Mueller told him that he should call police and report the gun stolen.

The criminal complaint does not include any police interview with Mueller.

Mueller was convicted of robbery of a financial institution in Walworth County in 2015, and was sentenced to four years in prison, court records show.

Mueller and Thorne-Gray both attended their initial appearance Tuesday. Future court dates have not been scheduled.

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