Isherwood cites his violent history
By Robert Cloud
Judge Vicki Clussman sentenced a man convicted of reckless endangerment to 10 years in prison.
John Brush, 37, was living in New London on June 14, 2015, when a 3-year-old boy in his care suffered severe head trauma. The boy, Michael Ziegler Jr., died at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Green Bay on June 29, 2015.
On July 24, 2015, Brush was charged with first-degree reckless homicide, first-degree reckless endangerment, felony child abuse, possession of methamphetamine, two counts of possession of paraphernalia for the manufacture, distribution and storage of methamphetamine, and possession of marijuana.
On March 15, 2016, Brush entered a plea of no contest to first-degree reckless endangerment. All other charges were dismissed but read into the record for sentencing purposes.
At the sentencing hearing on Wednesday, Oct. 19, Assistant District Attorney Veronica Isherwood said nobody knows exactly how Michael died because he was alone with Brush and Brush told multiple stories regarding the incident.
“We don’t know what happened between the time the mother left a healthy, normal 3-year-old with Mr. Brush and returned home to a comatose baby,” Isherwood said.
According to the criminal complaint, Michael’s mother, Melissa Carlson, had been dating Brush for a few months when she left the child in his care to go to her apartment in Appleton and collect a few belongings on June 14, 2015.
Less than 30 minutes later, Brush called Carlson and told her the boy was not breathing. She rushed back to New London.
Brush told Carlson that he had called 911. However, when the mother arrived, she found the boy lying on the floor.
“Brush and his parents were just standing around, no one doing anything,” she told police.
When she asked where the ambulance was, Brush said he had not called 911 because he had outstanding warrants.
The mother then carried her limp, unconscious son out to her car and drove him to the hospital.
Although Brush’s parents accompanied the mother to ThedaCare Medical Center-New London, Brush remained at his parents’ home.
Isherwood noted that Brush made numerous calls immediately before and after he called the mother.
According to his cellphone records, Brush called another girlfriend and his parents, but did not call 911.
“Nobody will ever know if the baby could have been saved if he called 911,” Isherwood said.
Isherwood said Brush has been abusive and manipulative in every relationship. She pointed to his long criminal history and his having multiple girlfriends at the same time.
She also described how he used his parents to hide from law enforcement.
Isherwood recounted a phone call Brush made to his other girlfriend after he was arrested for the boy’s death.
“I guess I gotta turn on her and make it her fault because she shouldn’t have left the kid with me,” Brush was recorded as saying. He called the dead boy’s mother “this stupid bitch.”
Isherwood described Brush as violent, vulgar, aggressive and mean.
His criminal record dates back to two disorderly conduct convictions in 1998. He was violating the terms of his extended supervision at the time of the boy’s death by living with his parents, who had been prior victims of his violent behavior.
On May 31, 2011, John Brush was sentenced in Outagamie County to three years in prison and two years of extended supervision after being convicted of second-degree reckless endangerment, battery and disorderly conduct.
He was discharged from prison on the earned release program on May 17, 2013, and placed on extended supervision.
Isherwood said that while the homicide and other charges were dismissed and read into the record, they could still be considered during sentencing. She asked for 10 years of initial confinement and five years of extended supervision.
Judge Clussman said sentencing in this case was especially difficult because there were conflicting expert opinions about how the boy died.
Because there was no jury trial, Clussman did not have the benefit of hearing the experts examined. She also noted there were no witnesses.
“I don’t think we’re ever going to know exactly what happened, but something did happen and it happened after Michael was left with Mr. Brush,” Clussman said.
She noted that the inaction of calling 911 resulted in the death of a child.
Clussman sentenced Brush to 10 years initial confinement and five years of extended supervision. She also ordered him to pay $5,818 in restitution to cover the costs of Michael’s funeral.