A Lodi woman was sentenced to seven years in prison in the October 2018 beating death of her boyfriend.
McKayla R. Tracy, 21, plead no contest last November to felony murder-party to a crime in the death of 24-year-old Dalton Ziegler.
Six of Ziegler’s family members, including his mother and sisters, spoke during the Jan. 31 sentencing hearing in Dane County Circuit Court, asking the judge to give Tracy the maximum prison sentence.
Karen Ziegler, Dalton’s mother described her son as a “big, lovable Teddy bear” who was adored by his family and friends.
She said that Dalton was Tracy’s boyfriend for six months and he tried to help her out by giving her a place to stay and driving her around after she crashed her car.
Tracy, who was described by Judge Susan Crawford as having significant drug and alcohol issues, mental illness, and childhood trauma, was in court in handcuffs and wiped tears from her eyes with a tissue as Ziegler’s family spoke.
Karen Ziegler asked the judge to sentence Tracy to 15 years in prison for her son’s death.
“You alone are the cause of my son’s death, even though you won’t take any of the blame, because it was you, and only you, that Dalton Ziegler is dead at the age of 24,” Karen Ziegler said. “He had his whole life ahead of him.”
According to the criminal complaint, Tracy had called two friends, Jacob A. Johnson, of Sun Prairie, and Drew A. Luber, of DeForest, over to the Hwy. 113 town of Dane house where she lived with Ziegler on Oct. 30, 2018. Tracy asked the men to confront Ziegler because she thought he was cheating on her with a girl who was attending a party at the house—something that investigators later found was not true.
After breaking down a bedroom door, Johnson struck Ziegler repeatedly in the face, until blood poured from his nose, while Luber restrained Ziegler so he couldn’t defend himself. Tracy, Johnson and Luber then stole money and a credit card from Ziegler, reportedly to buy drugs, and left the severely injured Ziegler to die. An autopsy by the Dane County Medical Examiner reported that Ziegler’s body had multiple blunt force head injuries, including facial fractures.
At Friday’s sentencing hearing, Dalton’s sisters, Samantha and Raechel, said that their brother was hardworking and tried to help family and friends whenever he could and he didn’t deserve to die that way. They said that Tracy took advantage of Dalton’s good nature and she was solely responsible for his death, calling Johnson and Luber, who didn’t know Ziegler, over to the house and encouraging a confrontation.
Tracy’s attorney Catherine Dorl asked the judge to sentence Tracy to probation because she Tracy would not be rehabilitated in prison. Dorl characterized Tracy as a “redeemable young woman” who has been on a path of self-improvement, attending substance abuse support groups and Bible studies, while she has been in Dane County Jail for the last 14 months.
Dorl characterized Tracy as “a troubled young person who was not thinking through what she was doing that day and the severe, unintended consequences of death.”
Tracy, reading from a yellow lined pad at Friday’s sentencing hearing, told the Ziegler family that she never intended to hurt Ziegler. Tracy said Dalton had been in her dreams every night since his death. She said that he had an impact on her life.
“I will always think about the pain that this has caused until the day I die and I want you to know that I loved him very much,” Tracy said. “I absolutely adored him. I was in awe of his personality. How many people he knew and helped and how hardworking he was. He sparked the change in me I wanted so desperately—to be better and more suitable for him—but I was so very stuck. I am glad to have the opportunity to be forced into a wake-up call of change, sobriety and realization.”
Judge Susan Crawford in sentencing said that Tracy minimized her role in Dalton’s death and saw herself as a victim in the incident. Crawford also said that Tracy didn’t attempt to help Dalton after the beating or call 911.
Tracy was sentenced to seven years in prison, followed by five years of supervised probation. She was also ordered not to have contact with the Ziegler family.
Jacob A. Johnson, 25, of Sun Prairie and Drew A. Luber, 22, of DeForest, each plead guilty early this year to felony murder-party to a crime in connection to the crime. Johnson was sentenced to seven years in prison and Luber was given a six-year prison sentence.