‘You’ll be dead before they get here’ – Vernon County sheriff’s deputy was arrested twice for threatening wife

Mark Bellacero, a law enforcement officer in western Wisconsin, was charged with a minor offense for the 2012 arrest. A district attorney chose not to charge him for the 2013 arrest.

By Hina Suzuki and Peter Cameron, THE BADGER PROJECT

Vernon County Deputy Sheriff Mark Bellacero was arrested twice for domestic disorderly conduct in 2012 and 2013 by the Onalaska Police Department after he was accused of harassing and threatening the life of his then-wife.

At the time of both arrests, Bellacero was employed as a police officer for the West Salem Police Department. He worked for that department from 2002 until May 2013 when he “resigned to pursue other opportunities,” according to Teresa DeLong, an administrator of the Village of West Salem.

His official resignation came just after his second arrest in March 2013. Law enforcement agencies can “flag” an officer with the Wisconsin Department of Justice, noting that the officer was fired, or that they resigned pending an investigation or in lieu of firing. But West Salem Police did not flag Bellacero in the system, according to the list of flagged officers The Badger Project obtained from the Wisconsin DOJ.

In April 2013, a few weeks after the second arrest, the Vernon County Sheriff’s Office hired him as a deputy, according to the Wisconsin DOJ.

The Badger Project is writing about this a decade later because it only recently learned of the arrests.

“I fear that he will become more abusive and may even follow through on his threat to try to kill me.”

Bellacero has since been promoted to K9 officer at the sheriff’s office.

He was hired under the regime of ex-Vernon County Sheriff John Spears, who retired last year. In a phone interview with The Badger Project, current Sheriff Roy Torgerson noted that he started the top job in January and said was not involved in hiring before his election.

“Although I was not involved in this hiring process, anyone I would consider hiring will undergo a thorough background investigation,” he wrote in an email to The Badger Project. “I will hold my officers to a high degree of moral and ethical conduct.”

Torgerson did not respond to emailed follow-up questions asking if he knew of Bellacero’s arrests before The Badger Project alerted him, or if he planned to take any action.

Asked to comment for the story about his arrests, Bellacero wrote in a facebook message “It’s from 2012 and it wasn’t charged out so I don’t know what exactly you want.”

But Bellacero was charged in the March 2012 incident by then-Trempealeau County District Attorney Taavi McMahon for unlawful use of telephone, a forfeiture offense which is below a misdemeanor, said current Trempealeau County District Attorney John Sacia, who was not in the position at the time. Though Bellacero was arrested in La Crosse County, the La Crosse County District Attorney’s Office told The Badger Project that it referred the case to the neighboring Trempealeau County District Attorney’s Office as a “special prosecution.” Bellacero was a police officer in La Crosse County at the time, and police regularly work closely with the district attorney’s office.

Told the story would be based on the police reports of his arrests, Bellacero responded on facebook “I didn’t say much in them, and why are you picking on me?”

The Onalaska Police Department’s report on the 2012 arrest indicates Bellacero called his then-wife Renee Bellacero approximately 87 times in the span of less than four hours after she accused him of having an extramarital affair.

On the day of that incident, Bellacero also drove around to find her. She was staying with her friend because she was “scared, afraid, intimidated and manipulated,” according to her statement to police. She had parked her car at another friend’s garage which Bellacero used the panic button to locate, according to the police report.

She told police she did not fear for her safety and was not physically harmed, but revealed that they had been having arguments in which he would call her things like “worthless” and much worse, according to her statement.

Attempts to contact Renee Bellacero were unsuccessful.

Bellacero did not appear in court to challenge the forfeiture citation, Sacia said, which is the same as pleading no contest.

His second arrest in 2013 occurred while they were divorcing, according to the Onalaska Police report. The couple were under a restraining order at the time, prohibiting them from entering each other’s property, yelling at each other and contacting each other except by email or telephone for issues involving their minor children, according to the order.

In January 2013, his wife at the time messaged Bellacero about the dates for programs required for their divorce, according to court records. He replied by stating his desire to pick up his possessions from her house. She permitted him to come on specific dates, but he immediately arrived at her residence. After entering, she asked “Do I need to call the police?” to which he responded “You’ll be dead before they get here” with additional “crude insults.”

He then looked through her phone while she repeatedly told him to leave. She stated in the addendum that he responded to her request by saying, “You get whatever restraining order you want. No piece of paper is going to stop me.”

“I fear that he will become more abusive and may even follow through on his threat to try to kill me,” she told police, according to one report. “What I do know is that I have tried everything I could think of to gain myself some safe space where he does not show up, harass, and threaten me, and it has not worked.”

Contact the editor: pcameron at thebadgerproject dot com.

The Badger Project is a nonpartisan, citizen-supported journalism nonprofit in Wisconsin.

This article first appeared on The Badger Project and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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