MADISON, Wis. - Dane County sheriff's officials said formal charges have been filed against the primary suspect in a February homicide in Mazomanie.
Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney said formal charges have been filed against Phillip Byrd, 39, of Janesville, and he is scheduled for an initial appearance on Thursday.
Byrd will likely be charged with first-degree intentional homicide with additional jail time because he allegedly used a dangerous weapon to fatally shoot Cheryl Gilberg in her Mazomanie home on Feb. 23, Mahoney said.
"This case takes a pretty significant step forward with the issuance of charges by the Dane County District Attorney's Office," Mahoney said.
Byrd is a previous boyfriend of Gilberg, and he became the primary suspect within 24 hours of Gilberg's death, Mahoney said. He said there are no other suspects at this point.
Mahoney said the shooting was a case of domestic abuse.
"Although our detectives entered this investigation with knowledge of previous domestic violence incidents in Cheryl Gilberg's life, our investigators kept an open mind throughout this case in identifying and bringing to justice those who we thought to be responsible," Mahoney said. "What our team discovered was this case, like many in our county, in fact was a domestic abuse case."
In early March, approximately 25 deputies conducted a foot search along Highway 14 between Mazomanie and Middleton. Deputies are looking for a number of items, including the Charter Arms Pink Lady .38-caliber revolver missing from Gilberg's home.
Mahoney said Wednesday investigators are still looking for the revolver and other pieces of evidence.
Byrd was originally held in the Rock County jail on charges of bail-jumping, drug possession and on an outstanding child support warrant.
According to a criminal complaint, a prescription amphetamine pill bottle prescribed to Gilberg was found alongside prescriptions belonging to Byrd during the home search.
Mahoney stressed victims of domestic violence do have resources to turn to in Dane County, including Domestic Abuse Intervention Services.
Gilberg had reported domestic abuse situations to police, but never involving Byrd.
DAIS Executive Director Shannon Barry said the effects of this kind of violence can be long-lasting.
"People who tend to commit domestic violence and are perpetrators of domestic violence are very savvy and are able to key in pretty quickly to someone who may appear vulnerable or who may appear wounded," Barry said.
While the details that led up to Gilberg's death are still unclear, Barry said having previous abusive relationships can make someone more likely to be victimized again.
"I don't ever think it's the victim's fault for getting involved in these relationships," Barry said. "I think often times it's actually that people who use violence in relationships are actively seeking and targeting those who are perceived as vulnerable."
If you are a victim of domestic abuse or you know someone who may be a victim, you can call 608-251-4445 to reach the 24-hour hotline at DAIS.
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