Man accused of staging girlfriend’s suicide appears in court

Man accused of staging girlfriend’s suicide appears in court

A man charged with staging his girlfriend’s death to look like a suicide was in Columbia County court Monday on homicide charges.

Patrick Kraemer, 46, was in court for a preliminary hearing for allegedly killing Traci Rataczak in Wyocena in April 2013.

Kraemer said she died by suicide, but police said they later learned the hanging appeared to be a staged crime, and that she was placed there after her death.

Investigators later learned the victim had been wearing a heart monitor for an upcoming surgery, which revealed her heart had stopped at about 3 a.m. on April 6, 2013.

Kraemer never reported Rataczak missing, and he remained in their shared house until a friend discovered her body on April 8, according to a criminal complaint.

Rataczak’s family members testified in court Monday about coming to grips with the change in her cause of death.

“You know, you deal with hearing suicide and going through that and trying to cope with that, and then it starts all over again,” said Jamie Griepentrog, Rataczak’s daughter.

Kraemer’s attorneys asked last year to have the charges thrown out because they said there was no evidence that a homicide had been committed, but the judge denied that motion.

Prosecutors said Kraemer’s motive was that Rataczak told friends she was planning to move out of Kraemer’s home and end the relationship.

According to a criminal complaint, Rataczak had told friends that Kraemer had been abusive to her and they had been arguing and physically fighting.

A second autopsy changed the cause of death from suicide to undetermined. Kraemer faces a charge of first-degree intentional homicide as domestic abuse. If convicted, he faces life in prison.