A 22-year-old DeForest man was sentencing to six years in prison for the fatal beating of a 24-year-old Dane man last October—holding down the man so he couldn’t defend himself and then leaving him to die.
Family and friends of Dalton Ziegler spoke during the Aug. 12 sentencing hearing of Drew Luber, telling him that they would never forgive him for taking away their loved one.
Karen Ziegler, wear a black sweatshirt with her son’s name on the back—described him as a loving, caring “teddy bear” who died too soon.
“Dalton had the whole world at his feet, and you took that away from him,” Karen Ziegler told Luber.
Luber plead guilty last May to felony murder in connection with the Oct. 30 death of Ziegler, a Waunakee High School graduate.
Police say that Luber and Jacob A. Johnson went to Ziegler’s home on Hwy. 113 in Dane, after Ziegler’s girlfriend, McKayla R. Tracy called them to come to the house she shared with Ziegler because she thought Ziegler was involved with a woman who was a guest at a party that was going on that night.
According to the criminal complaint, Johnson confronted Ziegler and struck him repeatedly in the face, until he saw blood pouring from Ziegler’s nose. Luber reportedly restrained Ziegler so he couldn’t defend himself.
Johnson, age 25, of Sun Prairie was sentenced last week to seven years in prison for beating Ziegler to death. Tracy, age 20, of Lodi, has been in Dane County Jail since her arrest in October 2018. Her case is pending with a status conference scheduled for January.
During Luber’s sentencing hearing on Monday, Dane County Circuit Court Judge Susan Crawford told Luber that he created a ”powder keg” of a situation when he brought Johnson to Ziegler’s home. Luber told police that Tracy was volatile and had a tendency of violence when she was intoxicated and that Johnson was intent on beating up someone that night.
Judge Crawford told Luber that even though he portrayed himself as a “follower” and didn’t throw a punch himself, he held Ziegler down so he couldn’t protect himself.
“When Dalton came out and, understandably, started to defend himself against a man he could have easily overpowered physically, you intervened and that was your own choice,” Crawford said.
Crawford also said Luber failed to get medical assistance for Ziegler when he saw him collapse after the beating—and instead drove Johnson and Tracy away from the house.
At the sentencing hearing, Ziegler’s family requested that Luber watch a video so he could know what he had taken away from them. Ziegler was described as a caring, loving, good-humored “gentle giant” by his family—a football player who held back from tackling opponents because he didn’t want to hurt them.
Ziegler’s sister Samantha said that her brother helped support the family emotionally after their father died—and “did so much good in his life.”
“He was so much more than my brother, he was everybody’s brother, everybody’s friend,” Samantha said during Monday’s sentencing hearing.
She wanted Luber to remember what he had done for the rest of his life.
“I hope the words you hear from us today will haunt you for what you did to Dalton,” she said.
Luber told Judge Crawford that he made an “incredibly bad decision that night” and apologized to Ziegler’s family and his own family for what he had done.
“I take full responsibility and I feel awful, it haunts me day after day, night after night, that I took part in the what caused your death,” Luber, speaking to Ziegler, who he said could hear him.
Luber said he prayed for the people who were impacted by Ziegler’s death and also prayed that God would forgive him, quoting a Bible scripture Colossians 12-14 before the judge sentenced him.
Defense attorney Shaun W. O’Connell told the judge that during the last nine months that Luber was in the Dane County Jail, he has been taken educational classes and attended Bible studies. O’Connell said he believed that Luber would “honor Ziegler’s memory by bettering himself.”
Judge Crawford acknowledged letters in support of Luber from family and friends who described him as hard-working and caring. But the judge pointed to Luber’s tendency to “be drawn in by people who have bad intentions” citing Luber recently faced charges of misdemeanor battery, disorderly conduct, possession of cocaine and misdemeanor bail jumping in connection with an Aug. 4, 2018 incident the Nitty Gritty in Sun Prairie. Luber plead guilty to the disorderly charge, with the other charges dropped by the Dane County District Attorney’s office.
In addition to the six-year prison sentence on the felony murder charge, Luber was given four years of extended supervision. He was ordered to have no contact with Ziegler’s family, Jacob Johnson, and McKayla Tracy. The judge also honored the Ziegler family’s request that Luber be restricted from visiting Dalton’s gravesite.