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Co-conspirator gets probation

MONROE — A woman charged with her boyfriend in connection to a heroin-fueled crime spree had the most serious offenses dismissed this week in Green County Circuit Court after agreeing to testify against him in court.

Stephanie Retzlaff, 28, Madison, pleaded no contest to three misdemeanor counts of bail jumping and two misdemeanor counts of theft on Monday, April 22.

As part of a plea deal, related charges including armed robbery were dismissed. She was sentenced to three years on probation with a condition that she seek drug treatment.

She also entered a three-year deferred prosecution agreement on two felony counts of forgery. The felonies will be dismissed in April 2022 if she follows the stipulations of the agreement, including testifying against her co-defendant, 34-year-old Samuel R. Schutte of Monroe, consistent with statements she made to a detective in February.

Retzlaff has been cooperative with law enforcement, District Attorney Craig Nolen noted. Schutte was the “primary actor” in their months-long crime spree, while she was “strung out on heroin,” he said.

Retzlaff still has burglary and theft cases pending in Rock County and Dane County. Schutte is being held in federal detention on a charge out of Ohio of possessing a firearm as a convicted felon. He also has nine pending cases at the state level in Wisconsin.

Retzlaff and Schutte were being sought as fugitives when they were arrested on the run in Toledo, Ohio in October.

The week before their arrest, Mark Rohloff, then Green County Sheriff, announced an alert for area residents “to be on the lookout for two fugitives with local community ties” who were “traveling together in southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois and are suspects in a string of crimes over the past two months.”

Retzlaff and Schutte had fled police several times, even going so far as to lead police on a six-mile chase, crash a stolen vehicle and flee on foot, according to Rohloff.

Schutte was recently out of prison after serving time for a 2011 home invasion and robbery. Court records for that case indicate he and another man targeted the Monroe home because they knew one of the residents was prescribed Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine.

Schutte’s crimes with Retzlaff in Green County included an armed robbery of his mother for money, thefts from a Town of Exeter couple and thousands of dollars in forged checks, according to court records.

Schutte and Retzlaff “had been pawning jewelry, tools and lawn care equipment” over the course of the summer of 2018 in Green County and elsewhere, police reported.

In a letter to the court, Retzlaff’s father wrote that his daughter was kind, caring and “quite shy” growing up. Her parents were happy when she finally “came out of her shell,” but didn’t approve of the people she started gravitating toward, he wrote.

They worried about changes they saw in her.

“At that time we did not know what was going on, but we knew something had changed in her. It wasn’t until some time later that we found out what that was, (that) she had been exposed to opioids. Her mother and I were devastated, and as parents there was nothing we could do to change her, as she seemed to get deeper and deeper into her addiction.

“Stephanie started to make poor decisions that weren’t in her best interest, (and) we became estranged for many years. As parents knowing what our daughter was involved in and not knowing where or what was going on, we were heartbroken to say the least,” he wrote.

Addiction treatment is the best option to “get her on the right path” again, he added.