FOND DU LAC, Wis. – A man accused of killing a young go-go dancer three decades ago told his soon-to-be wife years later that at the same nightclub, he had met someone once and things went "horribly wrong," according to a criminal complaint filed Tuesday.
Thomas Niesen faces one count of first-degree murder in the 1976 death of 19-year-old Kathleen Leichtman. Conviction would mean a mandatory life sentence.
Fond du Lac County Circuit Judge Dale L. English set bail for Niesen on Tuesday at $500,000 and scheduled a preliminary hearing for March 6.
Leichtman, from Milwaukee, came to Fond du Lac on July 14, 1976, to work as a go-go dancer at The Other Place nightclub. The next morning, a motorist found her body on a road. Her throat was slashed and she had been stabbed multiple times.
Detectives put together sketches of two men seen leaving The Other Place with Leichtman but never made any arrests. According to the criminal complaint, a photo of Niesen from around 1976 matched one of the sketches.
A DNA sample taken from Leichtman's body yielded no matches at the time.
Last October, however, the state crime lab matched the DNA to Niesen, who had been forced to submit a sample after he was convicted of child abuse in Brown County, prosecutors said. Police arrested him last week in Ashwaubenon, near Green Bay.
In January, detectives spoke with Ja Cee P. Crull, Niesen's ex-wife, and she told them she and Niesen used to frequent The Other Place. Shortly before they got married in 1986, Niesen told her he hadn't been to the club in a long time because the last time he was there he met someone, things went "horribly" wrong and the woman ended up dead, the complaint said.
Niesen and Crull divorced in 1997.
District Attorney Dan Kaminsky said police have spoken to the man they believe is depicted in the second sketch, but he wouldn't elaborate. He wouldn't comment on why Crull hadn't come forward earlier, on a possible motive.
Niesen's attorney, Mary Wolfe, accused Kaminsky of violating ethical rules by speaking about the case during a news conference Monday. She said Kaminsky's remarks about the strength of the case and revealing how the DNA sample led investigators to Niesen jeopardize his right to a fair trial in Fond du Lac.
Kaminsky argued he exercised an "abundance of caution."
Wolfe didn't immediately respond to a call seeking additional comment Tuesday.
Fond du Lac, a city of about 42,000 people, lies at the south end of Lake Winnebago about 70 miles from Madison, Milwaukee and Green Bay, the state's three largest cities.