OUTSIDE MILWAUKEE, WI -- A local man's obsession with protecting children and his delusion that an old friend was a child sex offender led him to plan to murder the man, according to police, as detailed in a criminal complaint.
Daniel G. Plevak, 54, of East Troy, was charged Thursday in Milwaukee County Circuit Court with attempted first-degree intentional homicide and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Although Plevak never actually confronted his intended victim, the complaint shows, Wauwatosa police believe he had the ways, the means and the clear intent to commit the crime of murder, that he was about to do so, and that their actions stopped its commission.
According to the criminal complaint:
About 5 p.m. on Dec. 30, a resident called Wauwatosa police about a suspicious vehicle. Around 3:30 p.m., he said, he'd seen a yellow Penske rental truck drive by his house. A short time later, he saw it go by again. Over the next 45 minutes, he said, it went by five or six more times.
A patrol officer was dispatched, and he spotted the truck driving slowly down West Argonne Drive near West Concordia Avenue. The first thing he noticed was that the driver was wearing sunglasses despite the fact that the sun had set half an hour before.
The officer stopped the truck in the 9800 block of Argonne, walked up and found Plevak at the wheel — wearing a long black curly wig, makeup, a fake mustache, a parka and a Chicago Bears cap.
Plevak immediately told the officer he did not want to answer any questions, but he volunteered that he had a loaded gun on the floor near his feet, the complaint says.
The officer asked Plevak to get out of the truck so he could search him. He found that under his parka, Plevak was wearing an improvised holster made out of a belt. The officer asked Plevak what his business was driving around the area, and told him that if it was legitimate he might be let go.
Plevak told him, "I don't think you will be releasing me," the officer said in his report.
A firearm — and a fake arm
A second officer arrived on the scene and went to the passenger side of the truck, where he found several printed handbills on the seat. They pictured a man, gave his age and address, and said that the subject "...targets and sexually assaults little girls 5 to 12 years old. Protect your kids."
(Wauwatosa police would later learn that such handbills had been appearing in the neighborhood for two years, and that Milwaukee police had been taking them down.)
While Plevak was held outside the truck, the second officer continued his search of the cab. His next find was the gun Plevak had admitted having. It proved to be a .22-caliber Ruger semi-automatic handgun loaded with hollow-point cartridges — one in the chamber and 10 in the magazine.
The gun was on top of a Walmart bag, and in it was a 50-count box of .22 hollow points containing 19 more rounds. On the floor next to it were a pair of yellow gloves. The right-hand glove was attached to two rolls of taped-together bubble wrap that, the officer said, matched the dimensions of a false arm.
Wauwatosa police declined for now to release pictures taken at the scene of Plevak in full disguise and of the fake arm.
Intended victim a longtime friend
A detective presented with the strange evidence observed that if Plevak were to have placed the false arm with attached glove in the right sleeve of his parka, while wearing the left glove, it would appear that his hands were empty – but in fact he could have had his right hand inside his parka with access to the holster, ready to draw.
Also collected from the Penske truck was a receipt dated Dec. 23 from McMiller Sports Center in Eagle, where there is a shooting range. It noted a charge of $15.22 for "1 Range All Day."
On the back of the receipt was a hand-written note, reading: "arma balas, holster, night vision monocular, puddy (sic) knife, pepper spray, coat, peluca, bigote, brazo, abrigo, cinta, flyers." The detective translated the Spanish words in the list as, "bullets, wig, mustache, arm, coat and tape."
Next stop was the home of the man on the handbills, a nearby resident of Argonne Drive. He was shown a picture of Plevak, without his disguise, and immediately recognized him as a former friend he had known since college but hadn't seen in a number of years.
He said a neighbor had told him about similar handbills that he had seen in the neighborhood, but he had apparently never been shown one. He identified the photo as one taken of him and Plevak years before by Plevak's son. Plevak had cropped himself out of the photo, he said.
The man denied all of Plevak's allegations against him of criminal behavior and proved to have no criminal record.
Notes outline a basic plan
Police next obtained a search warrant for the trailer home and premises listed to Plevak in East Troy. There, they found a trove of oddities, including repeated rough outlines of a plan to kill someone. Among the finds:
- A folder containing another handbill like the others
- An old envelope addressed to Plevak from the intended victim's address
- Photos of the intended victim
- A handwritten note listing the rules and fees of the Eagle gun range
- A handwritten note reading, "CCI Velociraptor Hypervelocity ammunition 22 long rifle, 40 grain plated lead hollow point"
- A handwritten note reading, "Practice draw while wearing a coat/jacket. 1. Draw weapon 2. Safety off 3. Aim and fire 4. Flee 5. Safety on 6. Holster"
- A Walmart receipt for binoculars, ammunition and powder solvent dated Nov. 21
- Another handwritten note reading, "Practice drawing pistol while wearing a coat or jacket 1. Draw weapon 2. Safety off 3. Aim and shoot-shoot-shoot 4. Flee 5. Safety on 6. Holster," and below that, "Binoculars for range and surveillance, gun grease, spray cleaner, cleaning kit, targets and disguise."
- A calendar filled with multiple notes similar to the above.
- A handgun case
- A night-vision scope
- Gun-cleaning supplies, and a receipt for many of the items mentioned or found, including the bubble wrap
- Fifteen more handwritten notes with personal information about the intended victim and/or his fiancée including their employers and their addresses, maps, and the couple's interests and activities (all of which proved to be substantially correct).
- Three packages of self-adhesive fake mustaches, with one mustache missing; and
- A 100-count box of .22-caliber hollow-point ammo, minus 75 rounds.
Testimony piles up against defendant
There were still other people to talk to. Among yet other evidence that mounted up against Plevak:
- A range officer at McMiller Sports remembered Plevak practicing at the range just before Christmas and said he proficiently fired hundreds of rounds from various distances on the 25-yard range.
- A statement from a Waukesha police detective that Plevak in 2010 had reported that the intended victim had sexually assaulted his daughter 14 years before, and that she, by then 26, needed to file a complaint. She never did, the detective said, and so the matter was never investigated.
- Plevak's daughter told police that her father was obsessed with the intended victim and has been growing more so since the death of her brother about a year ago. She told police she believed her father would kill the man. She said nothing about any sexual assault on her involving the intended victim or anyone else.
- Plevak's brother told police that he believed him to be a very dangerous person and needing help. He said his brother constantly talked about protecting children, particularly his grandchildren.
- The statement alluded to above from a Milwaukee police officer that for some two years he has been responding to alerts from neighbors near the intended victim about the accusing handbills and has been finding them and taking them down all that time. There is no mention that the Milwaukee police ever thought to talk to the subject of the handbills about what was going on.
- Plevak's own criminal record: He was convicted in 1980 of two felony counts of battery of a police officer, hence he should never have owned, possessed or used a gun. He was also convicted in 1997 of battery. In that case, two more charges were filed but then dismissed, but were allowed to be read into the court record. They were: disorderly conduct; and recklessly causing bodily harm to a child by a parent or guardian.
Adding all that up, Wauwatosa police and an assistant district attorney concluded that Plevak was "on W. Argonne Drive waiting for his opportunity to kill" his old friend and that the facts "demonstrate unequivocally, under all of the circumstances, that he had formed that intent and would commit the crime except for the intervention of the Wauwatosa Police Officers."
Plevak is scheduled for a preliminary hearing at 1:30 p.m. next Monday.
The attempted homicide charge carries a penalty of up to 60 years in prison plus five more for the use of a dangerous weapon, if Plevak is convicted. A conviction on the separate weapons charge would add 10 more years if the sentences were to be served consecutively.