Wisconsin family hoping fresh eyes on investigation into 1995 hit-and-run death of Deidre Week will lead to arrest
Nestled in the small, quaint town of Vesper, Wisconsin, there is a hobby farm that the Week family describes as a kid’s dream – especially to their 11-year-old daughter, Deidre.
Growing up on the farm, Deidre’s passion for animals blossomed as she spent her days playing with, and taking care of, her beloved pets. There were pigs, chickens, dogs and even a pony named Cheyenne.
For 11 and a half years, Deidre lived a life filled with caring for her animals, along with dance classes, piano lessons, and softball games.
“She was always a busy, busy girl,” Deidre’s mother Brenda Week told Dateline. “From the time she got off the bus after school, she wanted to know what we were going to do that day… like fishing or riding bikes or her pony, or going on a hike, she always had to be doing something.”
But on March 24, 1995, the energetic 11-year-old’s life was tragically cut short. And her family’s world came to an unexpected halt.
Brenda remembers it being the first warm day of spring in Wisconsin that year. Deidre had been at an afterschool 4-H meeting where they were having play practice for an upcoming performance.
On the bike ride home, Deidre stopped at Winch’s Mini Mart to buy treats for herself and for her brother, and then began pedaling the short half mile home on County Highway HH, heading just north of Vesper.
She never made it home.
According to Wood County Sheriff’s Office incident reports viewed by Dateline, Deidre was on her bike when she was struck by a vehicle at approximately 6:30 p.m. She was within earshot of her house, just a few minutes away.
Deidre’s dad, David Week, who was at home at the time, heard the crash. Knowing his daughter was expected home any minute, he had an uneasy feeling and rushed to the street.
One of the first people on the scene, David found his daughter’s body in a ditch while her bike lay nearby. There was no sign of the driver or the vehicle that struck her. Deidre was rushed to Ministry Saint Joseph’s Hospital in Marshfield where she was pronounced dead.
According to Wood County incident reports, a witness told authorities that he was driving southbound on County Road HH toward Vesper when he saw a vehicle strike Deidre on her bicycle. He added that the occupants of the vehicle were driving a maroon or burgundy mid-sized car, possibly a Chevrolet Celebrity.
The witness told authorities later that he then turned around and began pursuing the vehicle. When he was not able to catch up, or get close enough to see a license plate number, the witness went home and called 911 before returning to the scene.
Deidre’s family told Dateline that as they mourned the loss of their daughter, they expected an arrest in the case would be made quickly. But days and weeks turned into months and years, and nothing happened.
A case file filled with thousands of pages of witness statements and reports detailing the investigation shows inconsistencies and mistakes, the family said.
Deidre’s parents told Dateline they believe they know who was behind the wheel of the vehicle that hit their daughter, but that there wasn’t enough done years ago to make an arrest.
With the help of their niece, Kelli Cornelius, the family has been working for years to gain support from the community and rally for justice for Deidre. She runs the Facebook page “Justice for Deidre” and a website, both dedicated to her cousin’s case.
“Several people out there know what happened to my cousin,” Kelli told Dateline. “We hope by keeping the pressure on them, they’ll come forward.”
Kelli and Deidre, who are only three months apart in age, were always together growing up.
“We were more like sisters than cousins,” she said. “Her death devastated me. It devastated our whole family.”
After years of dealing with the pain of losing her cousin, Kelli began to focus her time and energy into getting justice.
“Everything we do through social media, rallying for changes in the law and getting national attention on her story, just brings us one step closer to justice,” Kelli said.
Deidre’s case changed hands multiple times before it landed on the desk of newly-elected Sheriff Shawn Becker in 2018.
“We’re hoping fresh eyes on the investigation will lead to a break in the case,” Deidre’s mother told Dateline. “So far, we’re impressed with the dedication this team has put into this and we can’t thank them enough… we’re finally getting somewhere.”
When Sheriff Becker took over the massive case file, he remained confident he would be able to solve the case for her family.
“We’ve had new leads in the case as recently as a few months ago,” Sheriff Becker told Dateline. “At this point, we don’t have new information or significant updates to share, but we haven’t given up.”
Around the same time, Investigator Sergeant Scott Goldberg with the Wood County Sheriff’s Office, was assigned the case. And he has a special connection to it.
“It’s personal for me, and I’m very passionate about this case, because I knew Deidre growing up,” Sgt. Goldberg told Dateline. “And I think that passion is what pushes me harder to find what happened to her.”
Sergeant Goldberg grew up with Deidre and they were both in 4-H. He was a little older than Deidre and graduated high school with her brother Brandon.
“This tragedy forever changed her family’s lives, our lives, the lives of the community,” Sgt. Goldberg said. “I just can’t believe I’m here 26 years later working on a case that I thought would’ve already been solved.”
As investigators and the family continue their search for resolution in the case, they realize they’re up against the lack of technology at the time and then a statute of limitations.
Sheriff Becker explained to Dateline that Deidre’s death was ruled a hit-and-run death, which has a statute of limitations. That means if someone was going to be charged with the crime it had to have been done prior to 2001. He said basically the only way this case could be tried in court is if authorities had enough evidence to charge someone with vehicular homicide.
“My biggest achievement would be solving this case,” Goldberg told Dateline. “More importantly, this achievement would be solving it for Deidre. For her family. It’s what they deserve.”
As this week marks 26 years since Deidre’s death, Brenda told Dateline she’ll take the day off work and spend March 24 in the garden at her hobby farm where she reflects on the 11 and a half years of memories her daughter gave her.
Brenda remembers giving birth to her second son as Deidre turned 10. Claiming the baby as her own for her birthday, Deidre took on the role of her brother’s mother every chance she got.
Brenda softly laughs as she remembers Deidre dressing up their 18-year-old family cat “Mortimer” in a bonnet and dress, struggling to keep him swaddled like a baby.
Two years after Deidre’s death, her mother gave birth to a baby girl, Adrienne Deidre, named for the sister she would never know. For a short time, Brenda said they focused on the new baby in an attempt to move forward. But it wasn’t long before they continued their work on getting justice for Deidre.
Years passed and the children of the Week family moved on to college and careers and their own families.
Their youngest, Adrienne, who not only has her sister’s features, but her tenacious spirit and energetic personality, as well, is currently in the National Guard and studying to be a welder.
Brenda told Dateline their house is filled with laughter again, laughter from the grandchildren who come over to the farm that’s once again referred to as a kid’s dream. There are different animals now, but plenty of dogs and cats and chickens to play with. And still happily grazing on the farm is Deidre’s beloved pony Cheyenne, who is now 29 years old.
“I feel like her pony keeps part of Deidre’s spirit here,” Brenda said. “It’s what keeps me going. I see her when I look at her pony. I see her when I look at our youngest daughter’s face. I see her when I’m in her memorial garden – and it’s a place I go to find peace.”
It’s a beautiful green garden, dotted with bright colors as flowers begin to blossom with the first few warm days of spring. There’s a pond, a gazebo and even a greenhouse.
It’s a place where Deidre’s family says they find peace.
“Deidre filled our lives with sunshine for 11 and a half years,” Brenda said. “That’s something we’re thankful for. I don’t know when we’ll see justice for our girl, but I believe it will happen someday.”