WISCONSIN RAPIDS, Wisconsin – Investigators plan an "exhaustive" investigation into the background of a man accused of kidnapping and sexually assaulting two young men to see if he is connected to other cases, the Wood County sheriff said Thursday.
Thomas Reichert said his agency will dig into Edward Lanphear's past and cross-reference him with other missing persons cases. Other law enforcement agencies likely will do the same, he said.
Lanphear, 46, of the Town of Saratoga, is being held on $1 million bond after police say he held two men in his house, stripped them, beat them and sexually assaulted them several times.
Lanphear's attorney has disputed the allegations. Formal charges have not yet been filed.
Online court records in Wisconsin show nothing for Lanphear except a divorce.
The case has shocked Wisconsin Rapids, a city of about 18,000 in central Wisconsin.
Robin Smalley, 45, lives near Lanphear in a rural subdivision with large, wooded lots. She met him two years ago when their sons took a hunter safety class together.
Smalley described Lanphear as a quiet but friendly man who worked hard and had a nice home and truck. He "latched onto" her 13-year-old son and wanted the boy to shoot at the range behind his house, she said. Her son never went.
Smalley wondered what would have happened to the missing men if they hadn't been found. It wasn't unusual to hear shots in their neighborhood, she said.
"He could easily kill someone with a gun," she said. "No one would bat an eye. Everyone shoots out here."
Mark Belke, 44, said he never met Lanphear although he lives about two houses away. With so many children in their neighborhood, the news of the abductions was particularly unsettling, he said.
"We are still kind of shocked, I guess," Belke said. "Especially given the fact it can happen this close to our house."
Lanphear's next door neighbor Dave Kostyn, 42, described him as an average guy who enjoyed fishing, hunting and playing pool. The two also worked together at a local paper mill.
Lanphear had joint custody of his son, who often practiced target shooting at his range, Kostyn said. He never saw Lanphear drink, but sometimes he would send his son over with a beer when Kostyn was mowing the lawn. It was a neighborly thing to do, he said.
"I have nothing but good to say about the guy," Kostyn said. About the allegations, he said, "Everybody at the mill, everybody who knows him is flabbergasted. It is just unbelievable."
Those who know the victims were equally stunned.
Travis Klingforth, 24, of Wisconsin Rapids, attended elementary and junior high school with one of the victims and helped set up a Facebook page asking for help after the 23-year-old man disappeared Friday. Klingforth said he tried to text message his friend Thursday, but didn't get a response.
"I'm sure he's pretty messed up," he said.
Klingforth likened reports of the kidnappings to the movie "Saw," where a serial killer kidnaps people and chains them up.
"Just very nuts," he said. "That's just crazy."
The 23-year-old victim's family declined to talk to a reporter Thursday. His ex-girlfriend, Lauren Figge, said he was trying to take it easy after the ordeal.
"He is at home recovering with family and friends and doing well," said Figge, who was at the man's parents' home in Wisconsin Rapids. "That is all they have to say. When they are ready, they will talk."
Lanphear offered the man a ride home Friday and then hit him over the head and abducted him, according to an affidavit. A second affidavit says he kidnapped a 21-year-old man sometime Sunday or Monday after the man got drunk at a Wisconsin Rapids bar and passed out in his car.
The second man broke his chains and escaped, Reichert said. He went to the home of a neighbor, who called police.
The Associated Press identified the 23-year-old man in a story on the case before the sexual assault allegations were made. The news organization has stopped using his name because it does not generally identify people who are alleged victims of sexual assault.