A City of Brookfield engineering project manager is facing charges after he allegedly strangled his wife and held police officers at bay from inside his Sussex home after a night of drinking last week.
John Laning, 40, was charged in Waukesha County Circuit Court Friday with domestic abuse strangulation and suffocation, false imprisonment, battery and two counts of felony intimidation of a victim. If convicted, he faces up to 33 years in prison and $80,000 in fines.
According to the criminal complaint:
On Thursday, Laning was out for a trap shooting league and drinking when he sent a text message to his wife at 9:41 p.m. asking if he could stay out until 11 p.m. She said she would prefer he got home earlier, but at 11 p.m. Laning was still gone.
She sent him another message at 11:04 p.m. asking where he was and six minutes later he walked in the door of their home located in the N7900 block of Martin Court, visibly intoxicated. When she asked where he was, Laning didn’t say but swore at her and told her to divorce him.
She found a receipt for The Sussex Place in his wallet, so she asked why he was there when he was supposed to be at the Fairway. He instead grabbed the receipt and other receipts and tore them up.
Argument turned physical
Laning then shoved her into a kitchen counter, so she punched him in the face and tried to get away, the complaint alleges. But Laning threw her to the ground and began to punch her in the face and grab her arms. Their children were nearby so the mother yelled for them to call 911, but they began to cry.
He let her up and she grabbed a phone to call police, but he threw it out of her hand and ripped the phone jack out of the wall. She tried to run out the garage, but Laning chased after her, caught her and dragged her back inside, holding her up against the kitchen sink in a wrestling hold.
Their daughter again began crying, so he let his wife go, who then grabbed the girl and tried to run out the garage yet again, but Laning caught them. He let his wife take the girls upstairs, but while she was walking up, he grabbed her again and pulled her back down.
His wife then tried calling 911 with a cell phone, but Laning grabbed it and threw it across the house. She told him continuously to just leave, but he eventually agreed to talk with her in the back yard.
Once outside, she ran to a neighbor’s house and began to ring the doorbell repeatedly. When the neighbor answered the door, Laning had this wife pushed up against a pillar where she was yelling for him to call 911, while Laning was saying not to because he would go to jail.
She was eventually able to escape and get into the neighbor’s house, where they called police. Laning ran back to their home and stayed inside with his two daughters, keeping police at bay for a period of time until he agreed to come out. When he exited, he kept his youngest daughter in front of him, according to the complaint.
Defense disputes charges
Brookfield City Attorney Karen Flaherty said Wednesday that the city was not aware of the details of the criminal complaint and will monitor the outcome to determine whether his employment will be impacted. Laning, an engineering project manager who supervises road and bike path projects, was back at work this week.
"We will wait and see what happens," she said.
Laning's attorney, Jonathan LaVoy, said there were "two sides to the story" and Laning had a different version but it was too premature in the case to provide it.
"We have some substantial disputes with that (criminal complaint) version of events," LaVoy said. He added Laning had a "significant facial injury, essentially it's a black eye. The issue is who is defending who. There certainly was violence from her to him as well."
Laning posted $25,000 bond and has moved to Pewaukee while under a court order to have no contact with his wife and children. He was scheduled to return to court Friday for a preliminary hearing.