On Nov. 4, 2004, Amos Mortier and Reed Rogala realized they had a problem: How to recover $80,000 for marijuana they believed Jacob Stadfeld, a longtime friend of Mortier's, had stolen.
Rogala, Mortier's New York-based supplier, told a grand jury in December 2007 that he and Mortier tossed around several ideas. One was to level a fictitious threat - telling Stadfeld that unless he paid up, he'd have to answer to "the New York guys" when they came to town.
"We didn't really know what to do about Jake owing Amos all this money," Rogala told the grand jury.
Less than a week later, Mortier, 27, vanished from his Fitchburg home. Authorities believe he was murdered over the debt. Friends say he could have fled with thousands he earned selling pot. His mother, Margie Milutinovich, wrestles daily with each possibility.
"It's frustrating," she says. "It's always there in my mind, wondering where he is."
More than 3,250 sealed court documents obtained exclusively by this reporter shed new light on the case, including testimony that someone admitted to killing Mortier and feeding his body to hogs, à la Deadwood.
Acquired by a source close to the case, the documents summarize more than three years of secret hearings by state and federal investigators. They provide, in often grim detail, the first major public revelations about the case since the court-ordered release of 18 search warrants in August 2007.
As previously reported in Isthmus ("Getting Away with Murder?", 9/27/07), the search warrants identified Jacob Stadfeld, 32, as a prime suspect. The warrants stated that Stadfeld made incriminating statements and was near Mortier's Lacy Road residence around the time he went missing.
Stadfeld was indicted last summer on federal drug charges and is awaiting trial. In December, U.S. Attorney Dan Graber asked Stadfeld to provide an alibi for the day Mortier went missing, but then withdrew the request.
The court documents obtained by Isthmus also reveal that a 41-year-old Madison man, whom we'll call Brad Green, was implicated in grand jury testimony in late 2006 as having confessed to the murder. Like Stadfeld, "Green" also allegedly owed Mortier a substantial sum of money.
Indeed, a review of these documents - including grand jury transcripts, police reports, DEA statement summaries and Homeland Security analyses - raises questions as to why detectives targeted one man while limiting their inquiry into the other.
Investigators from the Fitchburg Police Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Attorney's Office did not respond to numerous requests for comment.
Mortier's disappearance sparked a massive federal drug investigation lasting more than three years. Court records show that between 2006 and 2007, nearly 100 people from at least six states were called to testify, helping prosecutors reconstruct one of the largest marijuana operations in city history. In all, 25 people from Madison, several northeastern states and Canada were brought up on federal charges.
Fitchburg detectives hoped that targeted individuals would buckle beneath the threat of federal charges. But while the feds have drummed up volumes of intelligence on Madison's marijuana trade, they haven't smoked out a killer.
Turning up the heat
The federal grand jury was convened in late 2005 or early 2006, officially to look into drug dealing. But prosecutor Graber used the opportunity to further probe the circumstances surrounding Mortier's disappearance.
Unlike state court, federal prosecutors often present evidence in the form of witness testimony to grand juries. Consisting of 16 to 23 western Wisconsin residents, grand juries meet monthly, typically for 18 months, to decide whether criminal charges should be filed. (In this case, U.S. vs. Stadfeld, et al., the grand jury was extended for at least two months.)
According to DEA reports and witness testimony, Mortier received monthly 150-pound shipments of Canadian-grown marijuana from former UW-Madison student Reed Rogala between 2000 and 2004. Rogala, who returned East after graduating, hired drivers to courier the weed to Madison via New York. Mortier divided it up among people who sold for him.
Three people have already been sentenced for their roles in the ring. Former UW-Madison student Brian Hutchinson, 34, was sentenced last year to 27 months in prison, though he stopped selling pot more than a year before Mortier disappeared. In early January, Rogala, 33, drew a sentence of 12 1/2 years. And on Jan. 27, Destin Layne, 31, Rogala's ex-girlfriend, was sentenced to eight months.
Two other area men, Stadfeld and Brent Delzer, 35, were indicted last year and are awaiting trial. Delzer, a former party promoter and humorist, organized a benefit to raise reward money for Mortier's family.
An earlier "John Doe" probe launched weeks after Mortier's disappearance concluded he was likely murdered over a marijuana debt. Stadfeld and "Green" are among a half-dozen people eyed as suspects over the years.
Green, whom Isthmus is not naming because he has not been charged with any crime, denies any involvement in Mortier's disappearance: "I've got nothing to do with this."
Mortier went missing on Nov. 8, 2004. Friends who entered his home on Lacy Road after a week of unanswered phone calls found a half-rolled joint near his DJ turntables. The records were still spinning. Later, friends removed Mortier's safe and other items before calling police.
Because Mortier's dog, Gnosis, was also missing, Milutinovich and others speculated that he was injured while walking the animal. For five rainy days, friends and family combed the surrounding fields and swamp. Gnosis was found; Mortier was not.
Green was among those who took part in the search. In an interview with this reporter in 2007, he suggested that police suspected Mortier was dead, and had their eye on the searchers.
"The search was grueling, it was pointless," he said. "It was to keep us there so the police could watch, observe and figure out who of us might be...the killer." Green, speaking before Isthmus obtained testimony linking him to the crime, also said: "I knew we weren't going to find him."
It wasn't long before suspicion focused in on Stadfeld, a local mortgage broker who moonlights as a musician. But it wasn't just his debt to Mortier or his reputation as a bully that unsettled detectives. Cell phone analysis put him near Mortier's house within the hour he went missing. And in the days leading up to the disappearance, Stadfeld twice phoned a gun shop.
Stadfeld, who didn't help search for Mortier, also made incriminating statements, which prompted searches of his property, as well as his mother's house.
"I know exactly what happened to him," Stadfeld told police in an early interview, according to a report obtained by Isthmus. "But I want my family protected."
Dude, where's my weed?
Over the last four years, Fitchburg detectives have eyed at least six people as potential suspects, but none has been leaned on harder than Jacob Stadfeld.
In 2006 and 2007, his wife, friends and bandmates were subpoenaed to give grand jury testimony, but Stadfeld himself was never called to testify. He now faces 10 years to life in federal prison for selling marijuana, but no evidence that he committed murder has ever surfaced.
According to police reports, Stadfeld initially tried to distance himself from Mortier, describing him as a "secretive little guy." But as the pressure mounted, Stadfeld told police that on Nov. 4, 2004, Mortier called him "freaking out." Mortier warned that "bad things were going to happen" if he didn't have at least $20,000 for "the New York guys" when they arrived on Nov. 8.
Though the story was merely a ruse, Stadfeld - who had never met Rogala - was spooked enough to make two calls to a gun shop that weekend.
Stadfeld denied owing Mortier money, telling police he "loaned" Mortier $10,000 the day before he disappeared. Stadfeld said Mortier told him to be available in case the New York guys wanted to speak with him. When Mortier didn't call, Stadfeld purportedly drove past his house, but everything seemed normal.
When Mortier still hadn't called by the next morning, Nov. 9, Stadfeld assumed "things did not go well the day before." After his wife left for work, he fled with his daughter to his mother's house in Mauston. "I didn't want to be home with my daughter if some guys showed up," Stadfeld stated. "I was not in a mood to fight over weed or get killed with Amos."
The man we're calling Green was interviewed by police, along with others who helped search for Mortier. And then, in October 2005, a Dane County Jail inmate told police he had information about Green's role in Mortier's marijuana operation. The inmate, a Dane County resident, told detectives that in early 2005, Green confessed to killing Mortier.
But Green's accuser, who has multiple criminal convictions for drug use and scams to deprive people of cash, failed a polygraph. He later said he was nervous about contraband secreted away in his underpants when jail deputies summoned him for the surprise test.
This accuser (hereafter "the witness") told his story to the grand jury in September 2006, even though Green was not a target of the investigation. "What did [Green] do? What did he say he did?" asked prosecutor Graber, according to the transcript.
Chillingly, the witness replied, "He said he stabbed Amos and fed him to pigs."
'He needed to tell somebody'
Court records show that investigators, in the early days, were routinely stonewalled by silence and prevarication from Mortier's one-time associates. Even if they wanted to help, most of those questioned couldn't speak freely without implicating themselves or others in some level of wrongdoing, namely smoking or selling pot. But eventually, nearly 30 people were given immunity in exchange for their grand jury testimony.
Green, according to police reports, told detectives that he and Mortier weren't close, and that it wouldn't be unusual for months to pass without their being in contact. But phone records show that the two spoke regularly.
Like Stadfeld, Green met with Mortier the day before he went missing, but couldn't recall any details about the visit. He said the two of them made plans to have dinner on Nov. 9, two days hence. He claimed he had no idea Mortier had money woes. He did admit to having twice visited Mortier's rural home after he went missing, but before police had been alerted, without knocking on the door.
The witness told the grand jury that Mortier fronted marijuana to Green, who in turn fronted it to his next-door neighbor. The neighbor was then robbed of drugs and $80,000 in cash. This was money that the neighbor owed Green, who owed Mortier. The witness said Mortier told Green he "has to come up with money quick," because Mortier was being threatened - the same ruse Mortier used on Stadfeld.
In early 2005, the witness said he was invited to Green's house, where they drank, popped pills and smoked crack. Green, pacing the living room and chain-smoking cigarettes, confided that he'd picked up Mortier on Nov. 8, but instead of going to dinner as planned, he drove Mortier to see some land Green wanted to purchase.
"He said he knew Amos would go, because he also owned land," the witness testified.
The witness said Green told him that he and Mortier got into an argument, and that he stabbed Mortier and dumped his body on a hog farm near Poynette, explaining that pigs will eat bones and teeth. Afterward, Green allegedly returned to Mortier's house, set Gnosis loose and looted the safe.
"I could see relief in his [eyes], like he felt he needed to tell somebody," the witness testified. "I felt it to be [from] the heart. After he was done, he was upset that he even told me."
But then, the witness said, Green bragged about getting away with it. He allegedly said that few people knew of his relationship with Mortier, so no one would suspect him. And because one of Mortier's friends removed the safe and other items from his house before police were alerted, Green felt his connection to the crime had been severed.
"[He] was happy because he got the money, but these people took the safe," the witness said. "He had everything pretty much figured out: 'I can get rid of this guy, get rid of the debt, get money, and his friends don't know who I am.'"
'An outrageous lie'
Despite the specificity of the witness' account, nothing in nearly 100 pages relating to Green suggests detectives took seriously that he is the killer.
Green tells Isthmus he was interviewed by police three or four times (two of which he secretly recorded); they told him a witness said he killed Mortier and disposed of his body on a hog farm. He says he knows who his accuser is, and suggests it was payback for some ill-defined conflict having to do with a robbery of Green's next-door neighbor.
"It's an outrageous lie, and he's an outrageous liar," says Green. But he also lets slip, when told that the person claimed to have heard him confess, "That's how I know who it is."
Green doesn't have a criminal record in Wisconsin (a search of online records reveals nothing but a speeding ticket), but was convicted of selling pot in Germany in 1984. He denies having sold pot for Mortier. But the records show Green told detectives in November 2005 that Mortier had sold marijuana for him, and still owed him $1,000. He even volunteered to show detectives the grow room he'd dismantled weeks after Mortier's disappearance.
"I was stupid," Green told this reporter in 2007. "I should have told [the detective] to go fuck himself, but I said I wanted to help. I had that mentality going that I wanted to help if something could find Amos."
Detectives noted in their reports that Green became agitated when they brought up Mortier's fate. "I may not be on the same page as you guys, but I believe he is dead," he stated. "Amos is buried in someone's backyard."
Green's statements over the years have been at best inconsistent. He told police he was unaware that Mortier was having financial issues, but told this reporter in 2007 that Mortier brought up needing "to make money" several times prior to his disappearance. "I was like...'C'mon, you know how to make some money,'" Green said. "One of the last times that we had an interaction, I gave him 400 bucks. He owes me to this day."
According to Green, detectives never asked him for an alibi or executed any search warrants on his home or vehicles. He was served with two grand jury subpoenas, but both were excused when Green demanded full immunity and refused to take a polygraph. He says police have not contacted him since 2006.
"Apparently, they didn't fucking believe [the witness] either," Green says. "They know people will say anything to get themselves out of trouble."
Running out of hope
Not all tragedies are tempered by time. For Margie Milutinovich, the cycle of secrecy and revelation around her son's disappearance has been heart-wrenching. It's not unusual for strangers, after reading about the case at findamos.com, to call and share their dreadful theories. As a mother looking for answers, she welcomes the calls.
"I'm tough when I need to be there for Amos," she says. "No one is around at night when I cry."
She remembers her son much the same way he's described in court documents, as a sweet guy with infectious laughter, who enjoyed collecting gemstones, making music, farming organically and dining at upscale eateries like Restaurant Magnus, where a former waiter recalls, "He was treated like vegan royalty."
It's more difficult for Milutinovich to grasp that her son oversaw one of Madison's largest-ever marijuana operations. She attended Rogala's Jan. 6 sentencing, consoling his elderly parents, who'd come from New Jersey. Judge Crabb joked about Rogala's second career making bongs ("It's not glass blowing as Chihuly would do it") and took away more than 12 years of his life - more than Graber requested - for making a plant available to willing buyers.
Stadfeld's trial has been delayed, indefinitely. Milutinovich is saddened by this, feeling that Stadfeld may offer new information on the case to reduce his own sentence. This is among her final hopes for answers.
Heartbreak struck Milutinovich again last June, when she arrived home to discover that Gnosis had fallen seriously ill. She rushed him to a vet, but he died hours later when a tumor on his heart wouldn't stop bleeding.
"Do you know how many times I would stare at him and think, 'What happened that day? What do you know?'" she says. "Gnosis had the answer. He was a direct link to Amos. Now he's gone, too."
Amos Mortier: Oversaw one of Madison's largest marijuana operations. Disappeared on Nov. 8, 2004, at age 27. Authorities believe he was murdered over an $80,000 drug debt.
Reed Rogala, 33: Supplied Mortier with thousands of pounds of Canadian-grown marijuana he shipped via New York between 2000 and 2004. Was sentenced in January to more than 12 years in federal prison.
Jacob Stadfeld, 32: Local mortgage broker, musician, pot dealer and family man believed to have stolen 30 pounds of marijuana from Mortier. Prime suspect in his disappearance. Faces trial on drug conspiracy charges.
Brad Green: Pseudonym for a 41-year-old Madison man. A former soldier who went AWOL following a pot bust in 1984 in Germany, and an admitted former pot grower. Allegedly admitted to killing Mortier.
November 2003: Amos Mortier receives last shipment of marijuana from Reed Rogala. Jacob Stadfeld allegedly steals 30 pounds.
August 2004: An alleged drug rip occurs at an east-side Madison residence, indebting "Brad Green" to Mortier.
Nov. 8, 2004: Mortier goes missing. A week passes before police are alerted.
Nov. 19, 2004: Police call off the search for Mortier after five days.
April 14, 2005: Fitchburg police say they believe Mortier is dead.
Summer 2005: The federal Drug Enforcement Administration begins investigating Mortier's marijuana operation.
Circa 2006: A federal grand jury convenes to probe a drug conspiracy.
September 2006: A witness tells the grand jury that he heard "Green" admit to killing Mortier.
August 2007: A court orders the release of 18 search warrants - all more than two years old - providing the first public insight into Mortier's disappearance.
September 2008: Jacob Stadfeld and Brent Delzer are indicted on federal drug conspiracy charges. Prosecutors say they sold marijuana for Mortier. Both await trial.
November 2008: Former UW-Madison student Brian Hutchinson is sentenced to 27 months in prison after admitting he sold marijuana in Madison for Reed Rogala.
January 2009: Reed Rogala is sentenced to more than 12 years in federal prison; his former girlfriend, Destin Layne, gets eight months.