RICE LAKE, Wis. – In a close-knit town where many families gather this time of year to hunt deer, residents instead are sharing their grief for six hunters shot and killed in Wisconsin's northwoods.
Orange ribbons tied around the lampposts along Main Street pay tribute to the hunters, as do bows adorning some business signs and car antennas in this northwestern Wisconsin town of about 8,500.
The deaths have saddened virtually the entire community, said Bob Stanonik, who was selling Christmas trees on Main Street as up to 200 people mourned Mark Roidt (search), 28, at the first of the funerals.
"There's nobody that's not touched in town," he said.
Authorities said the six were killed and two others wounded after a confrontation last Sunday with a hunter who was trespassing on private land. Chai Vang, 36, of St. Paul, Minn., remained in jail in lieu of $2.5 million bail pending formal charges.
Court records show Vang, a Hmong immigrant, told authorities the others surrounded him and used racial slurs before one fired a shot at him. One of the survivors gave a different account, saying Vang started shooting first.
At a snowy cemetery outside town Friday, small groups of people hugged after Roidt's funeral service, which was closed to reporters. Jodi Anderson, a restaurant cook at Dobie's BWR, where Roidt often ate, said the deaths have stunned many in the community.
"I'm very angry. This is so wrong," she said.
Friends described Roidt as an outgoing man who loved hunting, motorcycling and other motor sports and was a jack-of-all-trades in carpentry and construction work.
Family friend Pat Malesa said the victim's mother, Karen Roidt, told mourners that at least her son died doing something he loved. Many in the area consider the deer hunting season a holiday; the season ends Sunday night.
"The hunting week up here is called holy week," Stanonik said. "Families get together, father, son, grandson."
Also Friday, mourners gathered in Rice Lake for the wakes of Allan Laski, 43, and father and son Robert and Joey Crotteau. Funerals for all three are set for Saturday.
At Laski's wake, mementoes of his passion for the outdoors were everywhere, including a photo album with Laski on its cover, smiling as he posed with an elk he shot during a hunting trip. The inside lid of his casket featured a scene of a whitetail buck standing at attention.
Elsewhere, the caskets of the Crotteaus were lined up end-to-end at a Roman Catholic church, flanked by flowers, some of those who attended said. A black-and-red racing cap that Joey Crotteau often wore was tucked into his casket, according to family friend Sandy Barney. And photos of the men while they were hunting and snowmobiling, or at the family cabin, were displayed.
"It's too much right now," said Dan Crotteau, 40, a cousin of the victims. "A lot of people are angry."
On Monday, funerals will be held for Dennis Drew and Jessica Willers.