Woman charged for leaving loaded gun at Elmbrook Church in Brookfield

Photo By Staff photo by Rory Linnane

May 5, 2014

Susan Hitchler, a 66-year-old Oconomowoc woman, was charged in Waukesha County Circuit Court on April 25 with negligent handling of a weapon.

She is accused of leaving a loaded semiautomatic handgun in a bathroom at Elmbrook Church, where it was later found by an employee.

If convicted of negligent handling of a weapon, Hitchler faces up to nine months in jail and $10,000 in fines.

According to the criminal complaint, a church employee found Hitchler's gun on top of a feminine disposal can in a bathroom stall March 19 and brought it to the church's front desk. When facilities manager Charles Weathers saw the gun, he told officers, he took control of it to remove the magazine.

Weathers told police the gun was loaded with a full magazine, containing six rounds, with a live round in the chamber, the complaint states.

"There was no safety on the gun, therefore if someone would have gone in the bathroom and pulled the trigger, the gun would have fired," according to the complaint.

At the time the gun was in the bathroom, Weathers told officers, there was an adult women's Bible study going on, where parents were able to bring their homeschooled children. According to the complaint, the bathroom with the gun was accessible to those students.

Elmbrook Church Director of Operations Mark Heckman previously told NOW that although the children did have access to the bathroom, they were "not anywhere near the area."

Weathers said Hitchler later called the church to ask if someone could check the bathroom for her firearm. According to the complaint, Hitchler told police she removed the firearm from her waistband, placed it on the disposal can and realized about a half-hour later she had forgotten it there.

Hitchler is pleading not guilty. Her attorney, Thomas Grieve, tried and failed to have the case dismissed Monday, May 5, arguing that the criminal complaint did not indicate whose safety was endangered by Hitchler's behavior.

"It is deficient to state that someone's safety may have hypothetically at some future time become endangered," Grieve wrote.

The judge denied Grieve's motion, determining that the complaint did establish probable cause. Hitchler's hearing is scheduled for Friday, June 13.

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