Charges: Winthrop murder suspect stood to benefit financially from victim’s death

The victim of a murder near Winthrop was fatally shot, and the man accused of killing him was poised to benefit from the victim’s death, according to charges filed Monday

Travis Joel Bauer, 46, faces 2nd-degree murder charges in the death of Dennis Weitzenkamp, who was discovered deceased at a farm site north of Winthrop on Sept. 20

A criminal complaint says it was Bauer who called 911 on the afternoon of the murder to report he’d found Weitzenkamp unresponsive at the farm site.

Investigators say Weitzenkamp was found slumped over in a chair where it appeared he had been shucking corn when he was shot dead.  A large pool of blood had gathered near his body.

An autopsy later found Weitzenkamp had been shot in the back of the head with a small caliber bullet.

Bauer had helped Weitzenkamp farm his land for many years and was considered part of the family, according to the complaint.  Bauer told responding officers he and Weitzenkamp had both left the farm to have lunch, and he returned at 1:30 p.m. to work on a tractor.

Bauer reported he had met Weitzenkamp on Co Rd 57 at about 2 p.m. or 2:15 p.m. as he was driving to Napa to purchase antifreeze.  Bauer said he and Weitzenkamp talked briefly, before he went to Napa, then returned to the farm, where he found Weitzenkamp’s body and called 911.

But investigators say cell phone data disputed Bauer’s version of events.  A criminal complaint says records showed Bauer was at the farm site at 1:21 p.m., where he remained until past 2:16 p.m.  Police say Weitzenkamp remained at his home in Winthrop until 2:05 p.m., and both men were at the farm site at around 2:16 p.m.

Bauer had initially told investigators that he and Weitzenkamp had never seen each other at the farm site after lunch.  Police say cell phone records also showed Bauer had traveled Highway 19, not Co Rd 57 to Napa.  The complaint says he arrived back at the farm site at 2:35 p.m. Furthermore, the Winthrop police chief squad car camera caught Weitzenkamp traveling on 8th St at 2:07 p.m.

Investigators say there was no sign of burglary or theft at the murder scene or any indication that anyone besides Bauer and Weitzenkamp had been at the farm.

The complaint says Bauer’s clothing was collected and tested positive for gunshot residue.

Investigators also discovered that Bauer had significant debt and was behind on bills.  According to the complaint, Bauer received several calls shortly after Weitzenkamps death informing him he was late on payments and could potentially lose his home

Investigators say trust documents revealed that Bauer would see a “significant financial benefit” from Weitzenkamp’s death.