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Town of Sun Prairie deaths apparent murder-suicide

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TOWN OF SUN PRAIRIE (WKOW) -- Authorities say two people found dead Dec. 28 in the Town of Sun Prairie was an apparent murder-suicide.

The Dane County Medical Examiner's Office released the name of the homicide victim as Jessica L. Ewers, 44, of Sun Prairie. Authorities say James T. Budworth, 45, also died and they name him as the suspect in Ewers' death.

The medical examiner's office says preliminary results confirm Ewers was shot and Budworth died from a self-inflicted gunshot. Additional testing is underway.

Ewers and Budworth were found dead in the 4600 block of Pierceville Road in the Town of Sun Prairie a week ago. Dane County Sheriff's Office confirms that the couple lived together in the home at the time of the deaths.

Two months before the deaths, Budworth was charged with felony strangulation in connection to an alleged attack on Ewers.

A criminal complaint against Budworth states on October 19, Budworth attacked Ewers and "...punched her....grabbed her by the front of the throat." The complaint also says Budworth bit Ewers. Court records say ay the time of the alleged attack, Budworth's blood alcohol level was nearly four times Wisconsin's legal limit for drinking and driving.

The complaint also says Ewers had reason to fear even more deadly violence. "James tells her he's going to kill her," a deputy states in the complaint.

One of Budworth's bail conditions was to have no contact with Ewers.

But records also show Budworth filed a court action last month to evict Ewers from the Pierceville Road home. County real estate records list Budworth as the home's sole owner.

Neighbor Kim Lohman works with challenged youth and has experience in community mental health programs. Lohman says she feared Budworth had unresolved, mental health issues, but says she was not close enough to the household's members to intervene in any way. "It's really hard to be a person that then said, 'Hey, let me help you,' " Lohman says. "You have to have that relationship. And I'm not his therapist."

Lohman also says resources to address mental health issues are stretched thin. She says if her deceased neighbors had reached out for help but needed ongoing intervention, it could have been difficult to access.

"Unfortunately, they're not going to have the chance to try again and that's really sad," Lohman says.

The deaths are still under investigation by the Dane County Sheriff's Office and the Dane County Medical Examiner's Office.

“This is yet again, a tragic case of domestic violence," said Sheriff Dave Mahoney. We want to remind anyone that may be in an unsafe living environment or knows someone who is, that help is available.”

Sheriff's officials note Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS) operates a help line at 608-251-4445 or 800-747-4045.

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Dani Maxwell

Dani Maxwell is the Assistant News Director for 27 WKOW.

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