A petition drive is under way to deny parole for the man convicted in 1990 of killing Grant County Deputy Sheriff Tom Reuter.
Gregory A. Coulthard of Cuba City was 18 when he shot Reuter to death on New California Road in the Town of Clifton March 18, 1990.
After a Waukesha County jury convicted Coulthard of first-degree intentional homicide four months later, Iowa County Circuit Judge James Fiedler sentenced Coulthard in September 1990 to life in prison, with first parole eligibility on March 19, 2015, 25 years and one day after the shooting.
A parole hearing is scheduled for March 19, though neither a time nor a location has been set, according to the state Department of Corrections.
The Officer Down Memorial Page has a form to email the state Parole Commission to deny Coulthard — listed as inmate number 204039 — parole. The form can be found at http://www.odmp.org/noparole/prepare/36 as part of ODMP’s No Parole for Cop Killers initiative.
The Parole Commission also receives letters at 3099 E. Washington Ave., P.O. Box 7960, Madison, WI 53707-7960.
Fiedler sentenced Coulthard under the 1988 “life-means-life” state law that allowed judges to set a parole eligibility date for a life sentence, or to deny a parole date entirely. The earliest date for parole eligibility would have been 13 years and four months; Grant County District Attorney Emil Everix sought 40-year parole eligibility.
Reuter, 38, graduated from Platteville High School and became a full-time deputy in 1985. He was on his way home from his 4 p.m.-to-midnight shift March 18, 1990 when he saw what appeared to be a disabled tractor on New California Road west of Wisconsin 80 around 11:25 p.m.
Coulthard, who was a farmhand on the Lynden Grove Farm outside of Livingston, had taken a tractor from the farm intending to drive to Platteville that night. Coulthard was on probation on a criminal damage to property charge from 1989.
Coulthard was captured by a Dane County K-9 dog shortly after 4 a.m., almost five hours after the shooting.
Reuter was survived by his wife, Diane, and five children, one of whom, Dan, is now a Grant County sheriff’s deputy. His burial was held at St. Mary Catholic Church in Platteville, attended by an estimated 700 law enforcement officers from throughout the U.S., including a procession to Rock Church Cemetery in Clifton with more than 200 squad cars.
Coulthard’s attorneys, public defenders Seth Stoltz and Dale Pasell, argued that Coulthard should have been convicted of first-degree reckless homicide, instead of intentional homicide. The jury took less than two hours to convict Coulthard of the intentional-homicide charge.
Coulthard appealed his conviction, but the state Court of Appeals denied his appeal in October 1992. Coulthard’s appeal claimed that Fiedler erred when the jury wasn’t polled on its verdict when the verdict was announced. Before Coulthard’s sentencing one month later, the jury was brought back to Lancaster and re-polled on their verdict.
The Court of Appeals ruled that the polling before sentencing meant that “no reasonable possibility exists that one or more jurors not only falsely responded to the collective poll [when the verdict was announced] but also to the individual poll” at sentencing.
The state Supreme Court refused to hear Coulthard’s appeal later in the 1990s.
Coulthard is presently at the New Lisbon Correctional Institution.
Editor Steve Prestegard was a reporter for the Grant County Herald Independent, and covered the Reuter death and Coulthard trial in 1990. A tribute to Reuter can be seen online at www.grantcountysheriffwisconsin.com/Tribute/Tribute.php#top.