Media Center

Federal Judge Denies Relief in Sauk County Homicide Case; Van Hollen Applauds Decision


MADISON - Adopting arguments made by attorneys from the Wisconsin Department of Justice, a federal judge on Tuesday denied convicted murderer Peter T. Kupaza's petition for release from state prison.


Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen applauded the decision.  "This was a particularly brutal crime, and I'm pleased the federal district court found no grounds for his release," said Van Hollen.  "Kupaza's life sentence is an appropriate punishment for his crimes."


In 2000, a Sauk County jury convicted Kupaza of murdering his cousin, Mwivano Mwambashi, dismembering her corpse and concealing it in the Wisconsin River.  He received a life sentence in prison for the murder and a consecutive 5-year prison sentence for concealing Mwambashi's corpse. 


After unsuccessfully challenging his convictions in Wisconsin state courts, Kupaza filed a petition for federal habeas corpus relief in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.  He alleged that his trial attorney failed to adequately challenge the testimony of a canine handler involved in the investigation.  He also challenged the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his convictions, as well as the state courts' conclusion that any error in admitting the canine handler's testimony was harmless.  Applying the standards governing federal review of state court decisions in criminal cases, United States District Judge C.N. Clevert, Jr., concluded that the state court decisions comported with federal constitutional law.


Peter T. Kupaza remains incarcerated at the Dodge Correctional Institution in Waupun, Wisconsin.  The Sauk County District Attorney's Office prosecuted Kupaza in state circuit court.  Assistant Attorneys General Gregory M. Weber and Sally L. Wellman represented the State of Wisconsin in Kupaza's appellate and federal court proceedings.