Salem man sentenced in WI for beating; victim later killed in traffic incident

CRAWFORD COUNTY, Wisc. — A 23-year-old Salem man was sentenced Wednesday to more than 1-year in a Wisconsin county jail, after he pleaded no contest in April to the October 2015 beating of a Prairie du Chien area restaurant owner who was left bloody, unconscious and in critical condition with brain injuries, facial fractures and a collapsed lung.

Court records show Thomas Joseph “TJ” Wilkins was sentenced to 154 days in jail for misdemeanor theft under $2,500, to be served consecutively to a 154 day sentence for misdemeanor criminal damage to property, and a 1 year sentence for felony aggravated battery intending bodily harm. He was given credit on the misdemeanor cases for days already served in jail since his October arrest.

According to the Courier Press, on April 25, the same day Wilkins pleaded no contest, the victim Young Su Kim was struck and killed by a vehicle when he stepped out into traffic in Clarksville, Tenn.

Wilkins was arrested along with co-workers 25-year-old Jacob Erwin, also of Salem, and 26-year-old Kellen Jeffords, of Wamac, who were in Wisconsin for their jobs with the railroad.

Court documents say authorities responded to Wasabi Japanese Restaurant in Bridgeport Township on Oct. 21. The restaurant’s owner, Young Su Kim, was found badly beaten and unresponsive inside.

Authorities initially claimed Wilkins, Erwin and Jeffords were with Kim at a bar before going to Wasabi, where the three assaulted Kim, damaged the business and stole items.

Erwin was convicted in February of 2016 of reduced charges of criminal damage to property, criminal trespass to a dwelling, and entry into/onto a building, construction site or room, all misdemeanors.

He was sentenced to 168 days in jail, given credit for time served and released. Erwin also paid restitution of $4,234.98 to Kim, and $5,980 in restitution to Brian Park, the owner of the building.

The charges against Jeffords were ultimately dismissed on April 20 after new evidence showed that while he was almost certainly present, he likely didn’t participate in the beating, damage, or theft.

The City of Prairie du Chen, Wisconsin said Kim never fully recovered from the beating, and never reopened his restaurant. He instead relocated to Clarksville, where family could care for him and where he was ultimately killed.