Suspect accused of child neglect
By Scott Bellile
A mother who allegedly left her 4-year-old child home alone after 3 a.m. to help two “creepy clowns” scare passersby in Menasha Oct. 7 was cited in New London for disorderly conduct hours earlier.
Jennifer M. Conery, 26, of Menasha, allegedly chased cars while dressed as a clown in a New London neighborhood around midnight Oct. 6, according to a New London police report.
A dash cam video released by Menasha Police Department shows officers approaching Conery’s two “creepy clown” partners on a sidewalk in Menasha later that morning. Conery wasn’t in the video, as she was found inside the vehicle she used to drive the two men around, according to Menasha Police Department.
The footage was picked up by news outlets across the U.S., Canada and the U.K.
It all began in New London Oct. 6 around 9 p.m. Two officers were dispatched to the intersection of Pine and Mill streets for reports of a person dressed as a clown chasing cars, according to a New London police report. They didn’t find anyone and left.
After midnight, the officers returned in response to a second call. They found and stopped Conery. She allegedly told them she was bored and thought it’d be fun to walk around in a clown costume, like people nationwide have been seen doing on the news, the police report stated.
Conery told police she didn’t chase any cars, according to the police report. The report stated she allegedly was scaring residents by staring at them in costume from across the street.
New London police cited Conery for disorderly conduct and issued her a Dec. 14 municipal court date. The police report didn’t specify whether anyone else was acting with Conery.
A few hours later in Menasha, before 4 a.m. Oct. 7, Menasha police discovered Conery had driven around a 20-year-old man and 29-year-old Bryce D. Cook of Menasha so the two men could chase cars in clown masks near Midway and Appleton roads, according to WFRV-TV Channel 5.
“During the course of the investigation it was determined that the 29-year-old male and 26-year-old female had left their 4 year old child at home unattended for a minimum of a few hours while they were out participating in this prank,” Menasha Police Department stated on its Facebook page. “As a result, the child was placed by the Department of Human Services outside of the home and the parents were referred to court on charges of Child Neglect.”
Conery was charged in Winnebago County on Oct. 14 with disorderly conduct and resisting or obstructing an officer. Cook was charged the same day with disorderly conduct. Both have Nov. 1 court appearances scheduled.
The 20-year-old was not charged.
New London quiet since
New London Police Chief Jeff Schlueter said Monday, Oct. 17, police haven’t received any more clown reports.
“If people see stuff and they’re scared, they just need to give us a call right away so we can check it out,” Schlueter said.
But people can’t hesitate to call or the suspicious subjects could be gone before police arrive, Schluter said, like Oct. 6-7 when New London police couldn’t locate the suspect for three hours.
This year’s “scary clown” hysteria has created all sorts of unusual situations.
According to various media reports, schools around the country have been put on lockdown due to sightings, professional party clowns are losing business, Target has pulled clown masks off shelves, and McDonald’s is suspending iconic mascot Ronald McDonald until the fad blows over.
The “creepy clown” craze may have already hit its peak, according to paranormal researcher Chad Lewis, who has researched Northeast Wisconsin folklore and lectured in New London in the past.
At one time unusual sightings were hard to document, but nowadays smartphones and social media make pranksters easier to catch in the act, Lewis said. And whereas stories of odd phenomena used to become local legends that didn’t travel far, nowadays such tales can traverse the globe quickly.
As authorities ticket more clowns who disturb the peace and threaten others, fewer tricksters will hit the streets to participate, Lewis said.
Lewis said decades ago Americans viewed performers like circus clowns and TV personality Bozo the Clown fondly. But as Chicago-area serial killer John Wayne “the Killer Clown” Gacy made headlines in the late 1970s, and Stephen King released “It” in 1986, some began viewing clowns as sinister beings. Pranksters began dressing up as clowns on country roads where they could scare passersby without being caught, Lewis said.
Lewis said clowns are an intriguing trend. Normally it’s teens and young adults who are captivated by the stories of the strange, but he sees the clowns catching on among older Americans.
“I’m lecturing a lot this month,” Lewis said, “and everywhere, every library I go, the librarians want to talk about the creepy clown syndrome thing … So this is widespread everywhere, like people wanted to replace ‘Pokemon Go’ with something.