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After four days of testimony and less than three hours of jury deliberation, former Franklin business owner Matthew Neumann was convicted Friday of killing his two employees and burning their remains.
Neumann, 44, was convicted of two counts each of first-degree reckless homicide and hiding a corpse, setting him up for a maximum prison sentence of 155 years. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Jan. 31.
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“He almost got away with it – if he hadn’t made a couple stupid mistakes, if he had another week,” said Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney Michaele Schindhelm during his closing argument.
Robert C. Hajduk, 40, of Racine and Richard L. Conklin, 35, of Milwaukee were reported missing between Jan. 2 and 3, not long after spending time with Neumann or stopping by the commercial cleaning business he owned, Spot Free Cleaning, at 8581 S. 27th St., Franklin, according to police.
Days after their disappearance, the badly damaged human remains of two people were found in a fire pit on hunting property that Neumann leased in Walworth County. One set of the remains has been identified as Hajduk, while the second set — thought to belong to Conklin — requires additional testing that may take more than a year to complete, according to Franklin police.
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Over the course of the trial, Schindhelm acknowledged several times that police and prosecutors had no direct evidence tying Neumann to the men’s deaths. But they did have mountains of circumstantial evidence pointing to him.
Neumann’s defense offered little in the way of a counternarrative, and his own attorney, Michael Steinle, even admitted during his closing argument that aspects of the case troubled him. He even acknowledged that “it could be probable” his client is guilty.
Nevertheless, he argued the evidence did not rise to proof beyond a reasonable doubt and attacked the credibility of several key witnesses, including Neumann’s wife, who said she saw one of the bodies in her husband’s truck the morning of Jan. 2. He suggested she was financially motivated to put her husband behind bars.
Tammy Neumann testified that around 5 a.m. Jan. 2, she was awakened by Matthew Neumann fiddling with a gun in their bedroom after he and Conklin had spent the night drinking together. Later, as she was leaving the house with her daughter, she said she saw a dead body in her husband’s pickup truck parked outside their house.
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Tammy Neumann said her husband pointed a gun at her and told her not to tell anyone. Their daughter, Ashley Neumann, also testified that she feared for her life after seeing the body and told police she overheard her father say he killed the man over a pack of cigarettes, according to the criminal complaint.
It’s thought that Neumann shot Conklin while the two were at Spot Free Cleaning early Jan. 2. Carrie Lieggett, who lived across the street from the business in January, testified that she heard three gunshots that night.
Prosecutors are uncertain when, how and where Hajduk was killed, but Schindhelm posited that on Jan. 3, he became aware of Conklin’s murder after visiting Spot Free Cleaning, so Neumann killed him, too.
The remains were found a week later on hunting property Neumann leases in Walworth County. Traces of the victims’ DNA were found in Neumann’s truck, trailer and driveway, Schindhelm said.
Contact Elliot Hughes at or 414-704-8958. Follow him on Twitter .
This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
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