Sheriff releases names of suspect, victim in rural Rock County shooting
JANESVILLE--Sheriff’s office investigators don’t yet know what happened Wednesday morning before a reported fatal shooting in rural western Rock County, Sheriff Robert Spoden said Thursday morning in a press conference.
Police think Daniel F. Bellard, 75, fatally shot his neighbor, Christine Gestrich, 59, in a barn on Bellard's property at 6707 W. Stuart Road, Beloit, Spoden said. Gestrich lived next door, Spoden said.
Deputies were dispatched to the property at 8:18 a.m. While deputies were forming a tactical perimeter, they heard a shot, Spoden said. They found Bellard, in a shed next to the house; he was semiconscious, Spoden said. He had a severe, self-inflicted gunshot wound, Spoden said.
Bellard is in custody in stable but critical condition at University Hospital, Madison, Spoden said Thursday morning.
Bellard’s wife reported the incident, Spoden said.
Because of the weather, rural location and nearby snowmobile trail, authorities used two snowmobiles and an ATV to secure the area, Spoden said.
It took a couple hours from the time of the call until deputies were able to take Bellard into custody, he said. Investigators and Rock County Coroner’s Office officials were on scene until Wednesday evening.
Investigators don’t know what happened before shots were fired.
“It is unclear what specifically happened before the shooting,” Spoden said.
Investigators think Gestrich approached the barn on in a skidloader, Spoden said.
“We think she was perhaps trying to remove snow, “ Spoden said.
The skidloader was parked on the barn approach, and Gestrich had gotten off the machine, he said.
Gestrich and Bellard have been neighbors for some time, Spoden said. Investigators have learned the families have had property disputes in the past, but no incidents have previously been reported, he said.
The investigation continues, and the sheriff’s office will release more details when they are available, Spoden said.
Gestrich’s family raises purebred beef cattle on their farm at 6729 Stuart Road. The family’s cattle have often been shown by 4-H’ers, including Gestrich’s grandchildren, at the Rock County 4-H Fair in Janesville and at regional cattle shows.
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