Wisconsin man broke into co-worker’s home, killed him as part of love triangle, cops say

A Wisconsin man accused of breaking into the home of a colleague and gunning the man down did so because his girlfriend was romantically interested in the man, according to authorities.

Troy Jeffery Hoffmann, 40, of New Berlin, is charged with first-degree intentional homicide with a dangerous weapon, attempted first-degree intentional homicide with a dangerous weapon and felony mistreatment of an animal causing death, Racine County court records show.

Hoffmann is accused of going to the Wind Lake home of Chad Bickler, 42, the day after Christmas and, after forcing his way into the house, opening fire. Bickler and his family’s dog, Tucker, were killed in the gunfire.

Hoffmann's girlfriend and some of Bickler's relatives were at the scene but were able to get away uninjured, according to police. According to Fox6 in Milwaukee, a family member found Bickler lying on the kitchen floor, mortally wounded.

Tucker was lying dead near the stairs, the news station reported.

Bickler's family told Fox6 the woman told them she'd broken up with Hoffmann just before the shooting.

Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling on Saturday described Hoffmann "aggressively" approaching the Bickler home, "smashing into a vehicle that was parked in the driveway, firing multiple rounds into the home and then ultimately gaining forced entry into that home and firing, again, more rounds at individuals in that residence and ultimately striking one of them multiple times."

Deputies who arrived to find Bickler shot multiple times in the abdomen and legs provided first aid, including the use of multiple tourniquets, in an effort to save the man's life, Schmaling said. Paramedics took Bickler to Ascension Hospital in Franklin, where he died.

Hoffmann fled the Bickler home in a white 2009 Toyota Sienna minivan, sparking a manhunt. He surrendered to police Friday in the Village of Hustisford, located nearly 60 miles away in Dodge County.

Racine County Jail records show Hoffmann's bail has been set at $750,000.

"The state believes that a very significant cash bond is appropriate based on several factors," Racine County Deputy District Attorney Dirk Jensen said in court Monday, according to the Racine Journal Times. "Obviously, the premeditation behind this act, the violence involved, the attempt on another individual who was not injured and the fact that this defendant then fled the jurisdiction."

Hoffmann's attorney argued against a high bond, citing his lack of a prior criminal record, his level of education and his employment status at the time of his arrest, the Journal Times reported.

Hoffmann and Bickler worked together at Engineered Security Solutions Inc. in New Berlin. The company, which has since terminated Hoffmann’s employment, released a statement following the shooting.

"We are devastated by this senseless tragedy and are praying for our colleague and his family," read the statement, which was obtained by Fox6. "He was a friend, an outstanding performer, a trusted teammate and an all-around wonderful person. He will be greatly missed.

“We will do everything in our power to assist law enforcement with their investigation. In the meantime, we are working to support our colleagues as we all come to terms with this unimaginable loss.”

Watch Schmaling speak to reporters about the shooting below, courtesy of Fox6 in Milwaukee.

A criminal complaint filed Monday and obtained by the Journal Timesthe Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and multiple other media agencies outlines what witnesses and detectives say happened the evening Bickler died.

The complaint states that Hoffmann, who had found out his girlfriend was seeing Bickler, angrily texted her around 6:30 p.m. Dec. 26 and said if she was on her way to see Bickler -- which she was -- he would follow and kill the other man.

The woman told investigators she and Hoffmann arrived at Bickler’s home at the same time. She said she saw headlights in the dark behind her just before her car was struck from behind.

The woman told told detectives she got out of her car after it was struck and began arguing with Hoffmann, who she saw was armed with a gun. She ran down the street to safety and called police, at which point she heard several gunshots, the criminal complaint states.

After shooting Bickler, Hoffmann went back outside, where he found his girlfriend and fired several shots at her but missed, authorities said. That’s when he fled.

A neighbor recounted for a reporter from WISN in Milwaukee what he said he witnessed as Bickler was killed.

"I heard a smash, then I heard multiple gunshots, so I hit the floor," said the man, who lives next door to the Bickler home. "I crawled up to the door and locked the front door.

“I looked through the blinds on the front door. I see a woman running up the driveway, I see a guy shoot at her. She gets up by the road (and) he shoots at her again.”

Bickler's cousin, Brian Johnson, told WTMJ the family is devastated by their loss.

“We’re all broken. This is unthinkable,” Johnson told the news station.

Bickler's brother, Clayton Bickler, had run out to grab a pizza just prior to Hoffmann's arrival at the family's home, WTMJ reported. When he returned, he found his dying brother, described in Chad Bickler's obituary as his best friend.

"He got to hold his brother one last time and tell him that he loves him and give him a kiss," Johnson said. "Then he faded away right in his arms."

Chad Bickler, whose funeral is set for Saturday, is described in his obituary as a loving son and beloved brother.

"Chad's favorite things in life included entertaining family and friends, watching sports, along with fantasy football leagues, going to baseball games, golfing and cheering his beloved Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team," the obituary said. "He loved going on family vacations, camping (and) fishing, including ice fishing on Wind Lake."

A candlelight vigil was held Monday evening for Bickler, who was described by loved ones as having a big personality and a smile that could light up a room, WTMJ reported.

"Chad was the best brother, son and friend anyone could ask for and will be missed by everyone who knew him," his brother, Clayton Bickler, wrote on a GoFundMe page set up for the family. "His laugh lit up the room and Chad loved making people smile."

The GoFundMe page was established to help the family with funeral expenses -- as well as the costs associated with cleaning up their home, which the shooting turned into a grim crime scene.

"We just got a call from the hazmat cleaning services," Clayton Bickler wrote Friday. "The cost estimate for the cleaning, due to the sheer volume of blood and glass, needing to remove all floorboards and gut the lower level, is estimated at $5,000 to $10,000."

The fundraising page, which had a set goal of raising $20,000, had brought in $27,220 as of Thursday afternoon.

Racine County court records show Hoffmann's preliminary hearing in the case is set for next week.

If convicted of the murder charge, he faces a mandatory life sentence in prison.

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