JEFFERSON COUNTY, Wis. (WITI) -- Janelle Gericke, 29, a former Jefferson County sheriff's deputy accused of breaking into or trying to break into homes of grieving families was in court Monday, Dec. 30 for her initial appearance.
Gericke faces one count of burglary of a building or dwelling, filed Dec. 17.
In court Monday, a $10,000 signature bond was set, and Gericke was ordered to have no contact with the victims and witnesses in the case. She then waived her preliminary hearing, and an arraignment was scheduled for Feb. 20.
The criminal complaint against Gericke said attempts to gain access to homes “occurred while the homeowners were attending the funeral of a family member. In such instances, the deceased person's online obituary listed the homeowners as surviving relatives along with the date and time of funeral services. If confronted, Gericke would explain that she was there to complete a transaction arising from Facebook.”
As people were mourning the loss of Lake Mills Firefighter Chris Truman in January, who was struck and killed while helping a stranded motorist on New Year's Eve, a deputy spotted a woman he recognized on Truman's front porch. Prosecutors said Gericke said she was trying to purchase a baby item from Facebook Marketplace, but the name or address she gave didn't match any locations in the area. She later texted the deputy, saying she found what she was looking for at the home next door.
There was a problem because the next-door neighbor didn't sell anyone anything.
That was one of seven homes in Jefferson County, in Fort Atkinson, Lake Mills, and Watertown, prosecutors said Gericke tried to break into or broke into. Four of the crimes happened while families were away for funerals, and some happened while under surveillance by the Wisconsin Department of Justice.
Prosecutors said she tried getting into a co-worker's home while that person was out of town, and was spotted in surveillance video. When confronted by the co-worker, prosecutors said Gericke denied it was her.
Gericke had been employed by the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office since February 2016 and was a deputy assigned to the Jail Division. Her employment was terminated on July 3, 2019.