Case sent to jury for man accused of shooting ‘Weasel’s’ owner
Edwin D. Hughes faces four charges
BY KEVIN BONESKE
Closing arguments were presented Wednesday afternoon in Oneida County Circuit Court in the jury trial of a 30-year-old Appleton man accused of shooting the owner of Weasel’s Exotic Entertainment club in Three Lakes almost seven years ago.
Edwin D. Hughes faces felony charges of first-degree reckless injury, attempted armed robbery and armed burglary as well as a misdemeanor count of intentionally accompanying a person who takes a vehicle without consent.
The case went to the jury on the third day of the trial when Wisconsin Department of Justice assistant attorney general Annie Jay urged jurors to convict Hughes on all four charges and believe the testimony presented at the trial by the individual stating he committed the alleged crimes with Hughes, Daniel Frausto, 42, who was previously sent to prison with the charges he faced in Oneida County being consolidated with cases in other counties.
Online court records note other felony cases are pending against Hughes with multiple burglary charges he faces in Outagamie and Calumet counties.
Jay said Hughes and Frausto “were professionals at this” with them also committing burglaries elsewhere. She stated the two wore masks in the commission of the crimes in Three Lakes for which they have been accused, also seeing to it they wouldn’t leave forensic evidence at the scene.
Hughes is accused of being with Frausto and going with him to Don Dal Ponte’s house Feb. 9, 2011, pretending to be snowmobilers who ran out of gas. The two men allegedly first left after Dal Ponte had told them he had gas in the garage, but returned approximately 5 minutes later when he opened the door and was struck on the left side of his face.
The two men are accused of having a physical altercation with Dal Ponte and asking him where the money was. Hughes allegedly pushed his pistol against Dal Ponte’s leg while Frausto went through the house looking for money. Dal Ponte reportedly refused to give them the combination to a safe Frausto threw off a balcony and they threatened to shoot him.
After Hughes allegedly shot Dal Ponte through his legs, Frausto, who didn’t intend to shoot Dal Ponte but was only trying to scare him into cooperating, said he lost all interest in finishing the robbery and the two left the home, taking nothing other than the empty casing of the round that was fired. After fleeing the scene, Frausto said he later threw the gun in the Fox River in Kaukauna.
According to medical records cited in the court complaint, Dal Ponte was admitted Feb. 9, 2011, to St. Mary’s Hospital in Rhinelander for gunshot wounds to both of his thighs and a closed head injury. Surgery was performed on the gunshot wounds and he was released from the hospital on Feb. 12, 2011.
Frausto stated March 6, 2012, in an interview at the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office that he decided to rob the owner of Weasel’s, in part, because he had netted $50,000 in a similar burglary involving Sapphire’s Strip Club and that he and Hughes had made several trips to Oneida County to prepare for the crime. During one of the trips, Frausto said he observed a safe in Dal Ponte’s garage and determined Dal Ponte would likely have a safe inside his home.
The defense attorney representing Hughes, Elizabeth M. Svehlek, focused much of her closing statement on challenging the credibility of Frausto, referring to him as a “self-professed monster” with his testimony being “self-serving” in an effort to seek a reduction of his 60-year prison sentence.
Svehlek questioned where the evidence was other than Frausto’s testimony stating Hughes was at Dal Ponte’s house. She noted there was no weapon or bullet casing found as well as no fingerprints or footprints at the scene linking her client to the alleged crimes.
Following the incident reported at Dal Ponte’s house, Weasel’s was destroyed by fire Dec. 31, 2011. Dal Ponte passed away at age 63 in April 2014.