Fugitive from justice appears in Lewiston court as part of extradition process

Justice Rick E. Lawrence (left) and public defender Richard Charest (right) look to prosecutor Patricia Reynolds Regan for comment during an appearance by Kelly Zuhlke (center) in 8th District Court on Friday. Zuhlke was arrested on a fugitive from justice warrant and is expected to be extradited to face criminal charges in Wisconsin and Montana.
Amber Waterman | Sun Journal
Justice Rick E. Lawrence (left) and public defender Richard Charest (right) look to prosecutor Patricia Reynolds Regan for comment during an appearance by Kelly Zuhlke (center) in 8th District Court on Friday. Zuhlke was arrested on a fugitive from justice warrant and is expected to be extradited to face criminal charges in Wisconsin and Montana.
Posted Jan. 15, 2012, at 4:28 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 15, 2012, at 5:36 p.m.

LEWISTON, Maine — Maine may not extradite every defendant picked up on out-of-state warrants, but there are plenty of cases in which defendants are processed for return to their home states for trial.

Including the case of one of Montana’s “most wanted,” Kelly Zuhlke.

On a tip, police last week found Zuhlke, 49, hiding out at a Pine Street address, using the name of his deceased brother, Jay Scott Zuhlke, who died in August 2011, as well as his Social Security card and Montana driver’s license.

On Friday, three days later, Kelly Zuhlke was at 8th District Court, ready to fight extradition to Montana, where authorities said he was wanted on a felony charge of assault with a weapon in connection with a throat slashing in which the victim’s artery was severed.

Zuhlke has been listed on Gallatin County’s Most Wanted List in Montana since October 2008, when an arrest warrant was issued for him in the knife attack.

According to a report of the crime in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, witnesses told Gallatin County Detective Thomas Pallach that the incident happened in the parking lot of a transmission shop on U.S. Highway 191 next to Zuhlke’s apartment.

According to that report, “a group was sitting around drinking beer at about 6 p.m. when a man arrived at the shop” and, according to one witness, “everyone was sitting around talking when [the man] reached out and slit the victim’s throat . . . [He] dropped the knife and then fled the scene.”

Since that time, the county has worked with the state’s violent offender task force and U.S. Marshal’s Office to apprehend Zuhlke, according to Gallatin County Undersheriff Brian Gootkin.

On Friday, Gootkin said investigators there were pleased Zuhlke has been arrested in Maine. He acknowledged Montana would have to “wait in line” to prosecute Zuhlke because other states — including Wisconsin where he is wanted on a burglary charge — also are seeking to extradite him on outstanding warrants.

Maine Assistant District Attorney Patricia Reynolds Regan said she had every expectation that Zuhlke would be taken back to Montana and tried for the crime with which he’s charged.

By the time Zuhlke walked into the Lewiston courtroom Friday, officials in Maine would have checked three times with Montana officials to confirm he would be taken back to the state where the crime he’s accused of committing took place.

Before he was even picked up by local police, officers checked with officials in Montana and Wisconsin to make sure Zuhlke would be extradited on those warrants.

When he was taken to Androscoggin County Jail, officials there would have checked with the charging states to make sure Zuhlke would be extradited. And when his case landed on her desk, Reynolds Regan double-checked with Montana, the warrant she was handling Friday, to ensure that state would be coming to get the fugitive when the time came.

In the meantime, Judge Rick Lawrence made sure Zuhlke understood his rights, had a chance to decline waiving extradition and was scheduled for a probable cause hearing later this month. He also was expected to meet with a court worker to determine whether he was entitled to a court-appointed attorney.

The attorney who represented him at the hearing, Richard Charest, said his court-appointed lawyer would address the issue of bail at a later date.

In 2004 in Wisconsin, Zuhlke was convicted of eluding a police officer, a felony in that state, and operating under the influence. He is listed on a most-wanted list in Winnebago County in that state, on warrants charging burglary and contempt of court.

Sun Journal Managing Editor/Days Judith Meyer contributed to this report.

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