Murder Suspect Makes Initial Appearance
Joseph Guerrero is accused of killing his wife and then setting the house in which they were staying on fire to cover up her death.
Joseph Guerrero covered his face with his hands Tuesday during his initial appearance on charges that he murdered his wife and attempted to cover her death with a fire.
He is accused of killing Bianca Vite, 21, on Dec. 22 and then trying on Christmas Eve to burn down the house where they were staying in the 5500 block of 16th Street in Mount Pleasant.
Guerrero is already incarcerated at Dodge Correctional Facility and is considered in custody. He attended the five-minute hearing via closed circuit television with his defense attorney, Erin Larson. Racine County District Attorney Rich Chiapete represented the state during the procedure before Court Commissioner Alice A. Rudebusch.
Chiapete read a brief description of the charges and their potential penalties: life in prison for first degree homicide, and a total of 52-1/2 years for arson and mutilation of a corpse. There are tens of thousands of dollars in fines that could go along with any sentence Guerrero may receive if convicted.
Larson advised the court that Guerrero was waiving a formal reading of the charges. Rudebusch set a $500,000 cash bond and ordered Guerrero to have no contact with the Vite family or with the family that owns the house he allegedly tried to burn down. His preliminary hearing is set for March 7.
Members of Vite's family sat in the front and back rows of the gallery in the court room. After the hearing, Michael Vite, Bianca's father, said he had nothing to say but might be willing to talk to the media after the preliminary hearing. He also had a brief meeting with a representative from the victim witness program who explained what would happen next.
"Will he be at the hearing?" Vite wanted to know.
Yes, the victim witness told him.
"It is also possible witnesses and police officers could testify at Guerrero's preliminary hearing, so you should be prepared for that, but we'll get together so you know what to expect," she assured Vite.