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Details emerge in Hillsboro murder-suicide
Press conference reveals past threats, acts of violence
Satterlee booking photo
Joseph C. Satterlee is pictured in a booking photograph from an arrest in July of this year. - photo by Courtesy Vernon County Sheriff's Department

A quiet Tuesday afternoon in Hillsboro turned deadly when Joseph C. Satterlee, 55, of rural Wonewoc, tracked down and murdered his wife of 33 years, Anita K. Satterlee, 53, by ramming her vehicle with his own then firing eight rounds at her–even stopping to reload his weapon–before he climbed into the front passenger seat of her vehicle and shot himself.

The murder, according to Vernon County and Hillsboro law enforcement personnel and court records, was the culmination of several events indicating that Satterlee planned to kill his wife rather than live without her.

“The short version is he was on a mission,” Vernon County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Nathan Campbell said at a press conference in Viroqua. “He knew what he wanted to do and he was going to follow through with it.”

Anita Satterlee filed for divorce earlier this year. She also filed for a restraining order in La Crosse County after Joseph Satterlee was arrested for disorderly conduct on July 9 for an incident in which he grabbed her and told her that he was going to use a gun to kill her and himself.

“We see it hundreds if not thousands of times in reports,” Vernon County District Attorney Timothy Gaskell said. “People are going to have to make a voluntary choice to abide by conditions of a restraining order. Mr. Satterlee made a choice to violate that and take it further.”

Joseph Satterlee carried out what he had originally called a “really stupid” statement in the disorderly conduct criminal complaint. When pressed by a deputy, he said he had told Anita Satterlee he would “rather both of us be dead than not being able to live together.” He also stated that he still loved his wife and was having difficulty dealing with the pending divorce. Despite his apparent remorse, he would do exactly that less than a month later.

Joseph Satterlee tracked down his wife and intentionally crashed into her vehicle on Tuesday, Aug. 2 at 5:10 p.m. on East Madison Street. He then exited his vehicle and began firing a .357 magnum revolver until he ran out of ammunition. The revolver holds only six shots, but eight were fired. He reloaded and fired two more rounds; the last ended his own life as he sat next to his wife in her vehicle.

A witness saw Joseph Satterlee exit his vehicle and enter Anita Satterlee’s vehicle. The witness could not see him shooting a gun, but heard what was determined to be the sound of gunfire.

Police officials said that Joseph Satterlee was ordered to surrender all of his firearms as part of the restraining order filed against him by Anita Satterlee. He handed over two “long guns” and two handguns to authorities. Campbell said local authorities are working with the ATF to find out how and where he acquired the revolver.

Campbell also praised the work of several law enforcement and emergency agencies including the Hillsboro Police Department. According to Campbell there is an indication that Joseph Satterlee had spoken with a member of the clergy in Hillsboro shortly before the murder-suicide.

The case is part of an ongoing investigation.

Several sources were used in this story including reports first published by The Vernon County Broadcaster and The La Crosse Tribune.