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Judge orders 40 years in mental health facility for Interstate shooter

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Zachary Hays during Monday's sentencing hearing Zachary Hays during Monday's sentencing hearing

SAUK COUNTY (WKOW) -- The man authorities say shot and killed a woman along the Interstate in Sauk County will spend 40 years in a mental health facility.

The sentencing came down Monday for Zachary Hays. Hays is charged with four felonies, including one for first degree reckless homicide and three counts of first degree recklessly endangering safety. Hays pleaded not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect to all four counts. On Monday, a judge determined Hays was guilty, but not guilty due to mental disease or defect on all counts.

Police say Hays went on a shooting spree on Interstate 90/94 on May 1, 2016. Tracy Czaczkowski was shot and killed during the spree.  Czaczkowski was riding home with her family after a trip to Wisconsin Dells.

"You murdered an innocent mother,"  Czaczkowski's widower, Greg Czaczkowski said, as he addressed Hays directly from the witness stand.

Czaczkowski is a federal Drug Enforcement Agent (DEA) based in Chicago. He said when he saw Hays roll down his SUV's window on the interstate and point a gun at the family car, he tried to pull out his hand gun, but Hays fired too quickly.

Judge Michael Screnock says the violent events experienced by the Czaczkowski family on the interstate "...are truly unimaginable."

"I relive that moment ten times a day, every day,"  Greg Czaczkowski says.

""Missing her is a heartache that will never go away," said Susan Ebersohl, the victim's stepmother, as she held back tears. "Grief is like living two lives. One is where you pretend everything is alright and the other is when our heart suddenly screams pain."

"My sister was the best of humanity," said Robert Bell, the victim's brother. "You're the worst," he added as he looked at Hays.

Four psychiatric experts who examined Hays believe he was delusional and suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.  They say Hays believed he was being followed on the interstate, including by vehicles with tinted windows, after discovering a secret FBI base.

Hays is also charged with reckless homicide in Milwaukee County.  Authorities say shortly before his violent interstate spree, he shot and killed a neighbor in his West Allis apartment complex.

A packed court gallery attended Hays' Monday hearing, including several of Gregory Czaczkowski's fellow DEA agents.

Laws governing Hays' commitment allow him to propose removal from an in-patient mental health setting.

"It is unconscionable that he will be able to petition for release six months from today,"  Czaczkowski's co-worker Karen Flowers says.  Any proposed, conditional release would involve assessments of Hays' condition, and his potential danger to the community.

During the court hearing, Flowers read a statement from Tracy Czackzowski's sister.  "This was a...selfish, evil act."

Screnock says Hays' family apparently made an unsuccessful attempt to have law enforcement or others intervene with Hays the day before the violence.

Gregory Czaczkowski says the help of complete strangers with his children at the scene of his wife's fatal shooting, and support from family, friends and co-workers confirm for him there is more good than bad in the world.  But glaring at Hays, Czaczkowski spoke of the 21-year old's future.

"Don't ever forget my face," Czaczkowski said. "I hope I haunt you forever."

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