A Broken Down Car
Shortly before Christmas 2005, Matt's father, Bill Kruziki, received a letter saying Matt needed a ride to pick up his car, an older model Saturn, which had broken down earlier in the month and had been impounded. Matt, who was from Hartland, Wisconsin, had been working in several communities in Iowa for several weeks, recruiting temporary workers to do fundraising canvassing for his job at the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). Bill Kruziki wasn't able to drive him, so he asked Matt's older brother Chris to do it. According to their father, “They argued about politics. Chris blew him off. Chris was a Republican and Matt had jokingly thrown his brother’s book on President Bush into the fireplace." When Chris wouldn't take him, he convinced his neighbor, 19-year old Curtis Lesniewski, who he didn't know very well to drive him. Curtis has a minor criminal record in Waukesha County for marijuana possession and petty offenses.
On December 23, 2005, Matthew and Curtis embarked on the 160-mile road trip to DesMoines, Iowa. According to Lesniewski's police statement, Matt said he knew people in Dubuque, so they decided to stay the night before heading on to Des Moines. The hotel they picked, the Julien Inn (once an Al Capone hideout), was at 200 Main Street. They headed to the Julien Inn’s bar after 9 p.m. Lesniewski had no money. Matt had $600 and started buying drinks for patrons, including the bouncer from the River Queen across the river. “You can hitch a cab ride with me to this place, because you guys don’t know where anything is,” Curtis recalled the bouncer saying. And so they made the trip across the Mississippi to downtown East Dubuque, Illinois, a working-class town of 2,000 people, formerly known as "sin city."
The River Queen
According to Milwaukee Magazine, "The River Queen is an uninviting building of smudged white brick with peeling black paint – basically a dive with a stripper’s pole." Lesniewski says Matt put $100 on the dance floor to get the strippers’ attention. Matt was getting $25 private lap dances, largely from a stripper named Diamond. She was 5 foot 9, almost 200 pounds, had a petty criminal record from Milwaukee, and, according to club employees, could pack a mean punch. "
Bar room scuffle
An argument arose at the bar. “All of a sudden, there’s like a scuffle going on, and it’s Matt in the middle of it and like the two doormen pushing him out,” Lesniewski says. The doormen said they were calling the cops because Matt owed money for $300 worth of lap dances. Diamond would tell police Matt owed her for three dances. The bouncer gave Lesniewski Matt’s empty wallet and flannel coat. “He [the bouncer] kind of just pushed me out of the way, told me to stay out of it, and they drug him [Matt] outside.” At around 1:10 a.m., Matt tried to re-enter the River Queen because he had left his jacket and wallet behind. Matt ran back inside the bar, but because of the earlier argument over the bill, the doorman kicked him back out.
Matt reportedly lingered in front of the bar until bouncers from a bar across the street, also owned by Meyer, called police saying that Matt was staring at their bouncers. An officer showed up and ID’d Kruziki, but didn’t think Matt seemed drunk. “We called the police to get him [Kruziki] to move on,” says Meyer. The officer told the coatless, walletless Matt to get a cab, and he is said to have walked away without a problem. The cop was the last person to see Matt alive.
Lesniewski heads home
Lesniewski says he and Matt got separated after Matt was kicked out of the bar. Lesniewski caught a ride back to the Julien Inn from a regular. Lesniewski told police he didn’t know where Matt was, so he waited until morning. Matt didn’t turn up, so needing to get home for Christmas, Lesniewski headed back to Wisconsin. His cell phone was dead, he had no money, and the car had only a half a tank of gas. Lesniewski ran out of gas heading toward Hartland and, ironically, called Chris Kruziki to come get him.
On Saturday, March 18, 2006, a water plane pilot flying low over the Mississippi River in Illinois noticed Matt's body floating in the water. Investigators are still trying to determine how Matt got into the water. An autopsy conducted by a Rockford, IL medical examiner found alcohol and marijuana in his system, however police chief Steve O'Connell said, "The alcohol level [.09] is in the area of what we thought it might be because of the fact that officers did have contact with him that night. He didn't appear to be inebriated beyond where he wouldn't have been able to make conscious decisions."
Contradictions and Unanswered Questions
The bar bill
Mike Meyer, owner of the River Queen, told Milwaukee Magazine that Matt was only in the bar for 30 minutes. Matt was thrown out of the bar for not paying a $300 tab for lap dances, but at $25 a piece, this would have amounted to 12 lap dances in only 30 minutes. The stripper, named Diamond, however, told police she was owed for only 3 dances ($75).
We know Matt Kruziki was ejected for not paying his tab, and his empty wallet indicates that perhaps he had spent all of his money. But if he was only in the River Queen for 30 minutes and had never paid the disputed $300, that would mean he must have spent most of his money at the Julien Inn before going over to the River Queen to plunk down his last $100 to impress a stripper. It seems unlikely.
Blood Alcohol Level
According to the coronor, Matt only had a blood alcohol level of .09 and the cop who ID'd him at roughly 1:30 a.m said he did not seem very drunk. Both Diamond and Lesniewski both described Matt as very drunk the night he disappeared, which is not in agreement with the coronor's findings of a .09 blood alcohol level.
A walk in the wrong direction
Smiley Face Killer Connection?
Matt Kruziki was last seen on Siniswa Avenue. The word "Sinsiniwa" was found scrawled at the scene of a similiar disappearance in East Lansing, Michigan. Investigators have not specified which case it was.
The Kruziki Family
Source: Milwaukee Magazine
Matt's father, Bill Kruziki was raised on Milwaukee’s near North Side in a blue-collar family that was “lower middle class,” but “always paid the bills,” as he recalls. One day, a motorcycle officer spoke at Custer High School. Kruziki decided to be a police aide. At 18, he started calling police departments. “I called every one of them.” The Waukesha County Sheriff’s Department responded. “I didn’t know where Waukesha was. I had never been across 124th Street.” In Waukesha, he graduated to correctional officer and later to captain of the drug unit. Chris was born in 1979 and Matt in 1981 to Bill and Debbie, a nurse. In 1994, Kruziki upset the incumbent Waukesha County sheriff in a bitter Republican primary. He served as sheriff for eight years. President George W. Bush nominated him as federal marshal and he served in that position from 2002 to 2007, when he retired. He still conducts federal background investigations. The Kruziki boys attended Hartland Arrowhead High School. Matt’s time there revolved around athletics – soccer, wrestling and football. “He enjoyed socializing,” his father says. Sometimes too much. His teachers would say, “He’s a great kid, but man he talks too much,” his dad adds.
After graduation, Matt settled into an apartment on Milwaukee’s East Side and a somewhat nomadic life. “A bit of a hippie,” his father would later tell police. Matt played guitar at open mic sessions and worked at a sandwich shop. In high school, he had covered his school binder with Jimi Hendrix lyrics. “He thought he could play guitar, but, well, he really couldn’t,” his father says. He wrote songs and got a dog – Gracie, named after Grace Slick – but gave her to his mother because he couldn’t keep her in his apartment.
Matt was convicted of possessing drug paraphernalia in Waukesha County in 2002 and marijuana possession in 2003, both misdemeanors. But he began to focus his life after some environmental activists handed him literature at the Bastille Days festival. “He was looking for a new direction,” says David Dorn, who worked with Matt on the New Voters Project, a voter registration drive in Milwaukee. “He was interested in progressive politics, helping the disadvantaged. He planned to start a nonprofit.”
“Both Matt and Chris lived in a fishbowl their whole lives,” Debbie Kruziki says, noting their father’s political profile, and Matt may have gotten his interest in public service from watching his father. Dorn recalls their work registering voters at a rainy Fourth of July fireworks celebration. “He was the only one who stayed out. He stayed out sopping wet,” Dorn says. “He was like the mayor of Milwaukee,” Dorn says he used to joke. “He knew every single person.”
“He loved it,” Kruziki says. “He could really carry off a conversation.” Like his father, he ended up liking politics, with one difference. “He was a liberal Democrat,” says his Republican father with a smile.
“He really admired his dad,” says Dorn. “He was visibly excited when he had an opportunity to go to lunch with his dad. They were politically different, but two sides of the same coin.”
Matt worked for Citizen Action of Wisconsin and with ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now). The trip to Dubuque seemed anything but dangerous compared to Matt’s work for ACORN. “He went into inner cities at night pounding on people’s doors,” his father says. “I never, ever thought something would happen to him in Dubuque.”
In a strange coincidence, Matt was the second Arrowhead graduate to go missing near the Mississippi River. For a time, Matt and drowning victim, Jared Dion, were varsity wrestling teammates.
In light of what later happened to Matt, Chris was distraught that he didn’t drive his brother to Dubuque. “He blamed himself,” says his dad. “I blamed myself.” Last year, Chris Kruziki committed suicide at the age of 28. He had never gotten over Matt’s death.
“I spent Father’s Day in the cemetery,” Kruziki volunteers at Panera, his tone cop-like and matter-of-fact. “He keeps everything inside, I think,” says Kruziki’s first wife, Debbie, the mother of Chris and Matt. “It’s hard to see other parents at cookouts with their children,” Bill admits, but he’s still dry-eyed. “Sometimes it still seems like a dream, like they [Matt and Chris] are going to call me.”
Facts of Interest in This Case
Name/age: Matthew Kruziki, 24, Dubuque, IA (from Hartland, WI)
Physical description: 6'2," 200#, brown hair, blue eyes
Last seen: 12/24/05, 1 a.m., The River Queen (31 Sinsinawa Ave, East Dubuque, IL)
Recovered: 03/18/06, Mississippi River near Deadman's Slough
Cause of death: drowning
Manner of death: undetermined
Injuries: no signs of foul play
Blood Alcohol Content: .09 blood alcohol content, marijuana in system
(Lesniewski said Matt was smoking it on the drive down to Iowa).
Matt's father, Bill Kruziki, is a former Wisconsin sheriff and the current US Marshal for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, has called for a federal investigation.
The Julien Inn, Matt's Hotel