By Joe Knaapen
For The News-Chronicle
STURGEON BAY - Lucille Zelhofer spent a delightful Christmas Eve with most
of her family before returning home to watch her son bleed to death on her
living room floor.
Dec. 24, 2001, started so normally that Zelhofer couldn't remember all
the details of the day, such as who woke up at what time in the West Side
house she shared with her 36-year-old son, John.
She remembered inviting him to the family Christmas party. She
testified that he declined to accompany her because he hadn't been working
and "he didn't feel right about going without any presents" for
the relatives. She gave him a gift - a quilted jacket with a hood.
From about 4 p.m. until nearly 8:30 Christmas Eve, Lucille Zelhofer
enjoyed the company of her other three children and their families. They
shared a meal and opened presents.
When she returned home, she received a brief telephone call from John.
He told her he was with a friend at a neighboring apartment building and
had seen the lights go on when she returned home.
From the witness stand during a preliminary hearing Tuesday, Zelhofer
said she knew the friend was Steve Owens, who was accused of stabbing her
son to death during an argument. She identified Owens by pointing to him
as he sat across the courtroom with his hands cuffed to a belt around his
waist and ankles chained together.
Mrs. Zelhofer said she told her son that she had brought food home from
the family gathering. He responded that he was hungry and would be home
soon. She was preparing some of the food about 9 p.m. when she heard a
rattling at the front door, which she was in the habit of locking.
She opened the door to find her son "hunched over, holding his
side." He told her, "Call 911; Steve just stabbed me,"
Lucille Zelhofer testified.
"There was blood all over the place. He was holding his side -
like this, with both hands - trying to hold the blood in," she said.
In calm words, Zelhofer described how firefighters, police officers and
paramedics responded to her call for help.
The tragic outcome - that John Zelhofer died - was stated in simple
terms when District Attorney Tim Funnell questioned Sturgeon Bay police
officer Wendy Allen, the first official to reach the gruesome scene, and
in detailed testimony by Dr. Mark Witeck, a pathologist who examined the
body to determine the cause and time of death.
After the three-hour hearing, Owens was ordered to stand trial. Door
County Circuit Judge Peter Diltz set a Feb. 15 hearing to schedule a trial