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Man dies from gunshot wound to head following incident at Gays Mills house
crime scene

Donald J. Macleod, 29, died Saturday, April 12 at Gundersen Lutheran Hospital in LaCrosse from a gunshot wound to the head that he had received the previous day in Gays Mills.

On Friday, April 11 at approximately 3:50 a.m. the Crawford County Dispatch Center received a 911 call from a residence in the village of Gays Mills, according to the sheriff’s department. The caller, 44-year-old Branston Haggerty stated he needed medical attention for his friend who had shot himself.

The Ocooch Mountain Rescue Squad responded, along with Crawford County Sheriff’s Department Deputies.  When the deputies arrived at the Orin Street residence, they found Donald Macleod seated in a chair with what appeared to be a gunshot wound to the head. Occupants of the residence were applying pressure to the wound and giving first aid, according to the sheriff’s department. 

Macleod was transported to Vernon Memorial Hospital and later to Gundersen Hospital in LaCrosse. He remained in critical condition until Saturday, when he died.

The investigation of the incident revealed that on Thursday, April 10 and into the early morning hours of Friday, April 11, Macleod and Haggerty had been drinking together for several hours. The sheriff’s department reported the men were drinking at a bar in Viroqua and later at a bar in Gays Mills. 

At some point during the evening at the Halver’s Town Tap in Gays Mills, they were joined by 42-year-old Diane Lynch, a Boscobel resident who was a friend of the pair, according to authorities.   

During the early morning hours of Friday, April 11 the trio relocated to the nearby residence of Branston Haggerty in Gays Mills. Lynch and Haggerty told authorities that Macleod picked up a loaded .22 caliber revolver belonging to Haggerty. They further reported that Macleod was talking about being in the military and said that he didn’t fear death. 

Lynch and Haggerty said Macleod was talking crazy and told them he wasn’t afraid to play Russian roulette, according to the sheriff’s department. Macleod allegedly removed three bullets from the six-shot revolver leaving every other cylinder empty, according to Lynch and Haggerty.  Then, Macleod, who was sitting in a chair, put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger, the gun went off causing the fatal injury. 

The sound of the gunshot woke up Branston Haggerty’s father, Jay Haggerty who was asleep in an upstairs bedroom. 

Branston Haggerty and Diane Lynch were taken to the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department where they were questioned and later released. Sheriff Dale McCullick described both witnesses as cooperative and forthcoming in their statements about the event.

Not much is known about Macleod who moved to the area recently from Phoenix, Arizona.  He was married to a local woman and lived with her family on the outskirts of the village.

Court records show Macleod was arrested for an accident that allegedly occurred on Jan. 18 and pled guilty to a variety of misdemeanor charges related to the event.

The Wisconsin State Crime Lab was called to assist with the processing of the crime scene and the Wisconsin State Patrol reconstruction team was called to diagram the crime scene. 

An autopsy was performed in Madison on Monday, April 14. Preliminary results were similar to those often associated with a self-inflicted gunshot would. The pathologist conducting the autopsy informed the sheriff’s department that a contact wound at the bullet’s point of entry at the victim’s temple would be consistent with what might be expected in a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

A test to determine Macleod’s blood alcohol content and toxicology tests to determine the presence of drugs were taken, but the results were not available.

Lynch apparently crashed her car at the intersection of County E and Highway 131 near Steuben, as she drove from Boscobel to Gays Mills. She left the car wrecked in a ditch at that location and told investigators that some boys driving up 131 gave her a ride to Gays Mills. The sheriff’s department has been unable to locate anyone, who may have given her a ride to the village.

Neither Diane Lynch nor Branston Haggerty were tested for blood alcohol content or the presence of drugs, according to authorities. However, McCullick confirmed both were impaired at the time of the incident.

The case remains under investigation, according to Crawford County Sheriff Dale McCullick.