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DNR cleanup of fugitive’s Marathon County bunker complete; no threat to public safety

MARATHON COUNTY (WKOW) — The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources this week dismantled and cleared the property where a makeshift bunker was built and occupied by a fugitive in the woods off the Ice Age Scenic Trail.

The Marathon County Sheriff’s Office arrested the fugitive, Jeremiah Button, on Aug. 9 and transferred him to Portage County where he remains in jail, awaiting prosecution.

Button intended to avoid contact with authorities, who had followed up on tips, said DNR Chief Warden Todd Schaller. This level of illegal camping or stay on state property is unique and highly unusual.

Button, wanted on charges of incest, child sexual assault and possession of child pornography, had been hiding out for more than three years in a solar-powered makeshift bunker, according to police.

“Over the past several months, the Marathon County Sheriff’s Office and the DNR had received sporadic and vague information on the property,” Schaller said. “The Marathon County Sheriff’s Office and the DNR checked and monitored the area without locating anything or signs of illegal or suspicious activity. The individual was very intentional about not being detected or the bunker being visible or found.”

On Aug. 21, DNR staff removed several loads of trash and disposed of it at the Marathon County Landfill, the same location from where the material was scavenged. Staff also dismantled the bunker to eliminate any ongoing safety concerns.

“Taking care of the environment is what the DNR does,” said Schaller, adding that the costs of removing the materials are part of the department’s budget. “And we appreciate the teamwork of Marathon County and its use of their landfills.”

Dan Plutchak

Social Media and Digital Content Manager, 27 News

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