Sponsored By
An organization or individual has paid for the creation of this work but did not approve or review it.



Man convicted of putting a gun to a woman's head, noose around her neck gets 20 years in prison

A ew Richmond, Wis., man who suddenly appeared in the backseat of his ex-girlfriend's car, then forced her to drive a loop through western Wisconsin with a gun to her head and a noose around her neck was sentenced Monday.

A ew Richmond, Wis., man who suddenly appeared in the backseat of his ex-girlfriend’s car, then forced her to drive a loop through western Wisconsin with a gun to her head and a noose around her neck was sentenced Monday.

St. Croix County Circuit Court Judge Scott Needham sentenced Daniel J. O’Keefe to 20 years in prison and 19 years on extended supervision. O’Keefe was convicted in December after pleading guilty to kidnapping, first-degree recklessly endangering safety and possessing a firearm silencer.

“It was the powerful versus the powerless,” Needham said at Monday’s hearing.

The 50-year-old was charged in June 2015 after an incident that began outside the victim’s workplace in New Richmond, where O’Keefe entered the victim’s car with a copy of a key he’d made for himself.

According to a criminal complaint, O’Keefe hid in the car until the woman got off her shift, then popped up from the backseat as she drove at night on Interstate 94. The man, later identified as O’Keefe, allegedly held a gun to the woman’s head and forced her to drive as far as Eau Claire, before turning back to Menomonie, where the woman flagged down police at a gas station.


Prosecutors said a search of a duffel bag O’Keefe stashed in the car turned up two fully loaded handguns, a homemade gun silencer, latex gloves, zip ties, a rope and other items.

O’Keefe later told investigators he didn’t know why he committed the crime, calling it “stupid” -- a claim Needham flatly rejected.

“It was calculated, it was planned,” the judge said. “The instrumentations certainly were planned in terms of weaponry.”

The woman was able to convince O’Keefe that she would take him back during the ride, Needham noted. O’Keefe then allowed her to stop at a Menomonie gas station, where she got out and flagged down police who happened to be there.

“But for the decisions of the victim to get into, in essence, your good graces … who knows what would have happened,” Needham told O’Keefe.

The victim spoke during the hearing, saying the incident ruined her life.

She described nonstop feelings of fear and numbness that keep her sealed up in her home, afraid to let her children or grandchildren see the terrified person she’s become.

“I just want to feel safe again,” she said, choking back tears. “I want to be happy again.”


Needham praised the woman for coming forward to face O’Keefe in court.

“You were courageous, you were strong and you endured what most of us only read about in the newspaper,” he said.

O’Keefe issued apologies to the victim and the court during a brief statement Monday.

“I still, myself, cannot figure out why this happened,” he said, later adding that he had been suffering from a lack of sleep and control of his diabetes at the time of the incident.

Defense attorney Brian Smestad said his client was also diagnosed with an avoidant personality disorder, the symptoms of which include hypersensitivity to rejection and criticism.

Mixed with other health issues, O’Keefe experienced a “perfect storm” of problems at the time of the kidnapping, Smestad said.

He rejected St. Croix County Deputy District Attorney Michael Nieskes’ notion that O’Keefe was plotting to kill the woman. The kidnapping incident, Smestad argued, was likely an effort to win back the woman.

“He picked a very, very bad way to go about it,” Smestad said, later calling the incident an aberration in a life that -- apart from a disorderly conduct charge in the early 1990s -- was law abiding. “It’s not in his character to act this way.”


Needham acknowledged that O’Keefe’s actions were seemingly mysterious, which he said diminished the possibility of rehabilitation as a solution.

“But I don’t know what to fix,” the judge said.

What To Read Next
Get Local