EC man jailed for stabbing to death on Thanksgiving Day in 2020

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August 6—EAU CLAIRE — An Eau Claire man will spend seven years in prison in connection with the death of another man on Thanksgiving Day 2020 at an Eau Claire residence.

Kelly B. Weiberg, 52, 641 Franklin St., was convicted in Eau Claire County Court Friday of a felony of murder by negligent use of a weapon.

Judge Michael Schumacher ordered Weiberg to supervise for three years after his release from prison.

As conditions of surveillance, Weiberg may not have contact with the victim’s family, possess weapons, drink alcohol or enter taverns. He must complete an alcohol and drug assessment and pay $12,170 in refund.

Weiberg gets credit for the 617 days he spent in Eau Claire County jail with $20,000 cash bail since his arrest.

The victim, Travis L. Smith, 37, of Laurel, Ind., died December 3, 2020 at a hospital in Rochester, Minnesota.

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Weiberg and his defense team have claimed self-defense in this incident.

Schumacher said Weiberg waived his self-defense claim when he pleaded guilty to the charge of manslaughter by negligent use of a weapon.

“There were options to participate in this confrontation,” Schumacher said of Weiberg. “He could have just walked away.”

Smith’s “death was really an accident,” Weiberg told Schumacher during his sentencing hearing.

Eau Claire County Assistant District Attorney Robert Stoiber demanded nine years in prison for Weiberg.

“We believe that long-term incarceration is necessary. There is nothing more serious than loss of life,” Stoiber said.

“The suspect could have run away,” he said. “He grabbed a hunting knife and decided this was going to end now.”

Attorney Karl Schmidt said Weiberg had a viable self-defense argument.

Smith repeatedly attacked Weiberg during the incident. Weiberg “had no way out,” Schmidt said.

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Weiberg pleaded guilty because he regrets his actions, Schmidt said.

“It’s hard to stand up and plead guilty,” he said. “(Weiberg) has always understood the seriousness of his actions here.”

According to Eau Claire Police and the indictment:

Police responded shortly after 1 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020, at the 600 block of Franklin Street, after a caller reported a stabbing. When officers arrived, two people were in a backyard and one person was covered in blood near an unresponsive man on the floor.

Officers used a chest seal to prevent Smith from getting air into his chest and provided critical assistance. The witness told them that Weiberg, who was in the house, had stabbed Smith. The wound was just above Smith’s heart.

Smith was taken to the Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire and underwent emergency surgery for ruptured arteries and damage to his heart and lungs.

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Weiberg came out when officers ordered him to, but refused to show his hands or obey orders to surrender. Officers used a less lethal “foam sponge round” to buy time to take Weiberg into custody.

Weiberg had gotten into an argument with Smith, which resulted in Weiberg’s facial injuries. In response, he stabbed the man.

The indictment offered different versions of events from Weiberg, who said he was assaulted by Smith in the house, and a witness who said the fight leading up to the stabbing took place outside.

Both accounts confirm that there were previous incidents of “push and shove” between the two earlier in the day.

Prosecutors charged Weiberg with a repeat offender, citing a 2018 conviction for a felony of strangulation and suffocation.

Smith was later transferred to the hospital in Rochester, Minnesota for treatment.

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