Glendale — Robert Christophel, 28, of Milwaukee, and Nicholas Retzlaff, 25, of Bayside, were charged Friday with first-degree intentional homicide in the murder of 65-year-old Glendale resident Peter Holzberger.
The two also are charged with burglary, and Retzlaff is charged with attempting to flee from an officer, leading a high-speed chase through the streets of Milwaukee.
The charges were filed in Milwaukee County Circuit Court.
The men face life sentences if they are convicted on the homicide charge.
Holzberger was a former member of the Glendale Environmental Council and a transparency advocate who threw his hat in the ring three times for Glendale's 3rd Aldermanic District in the 1990s and early 2000s. In each of his three attempts, Holzberger lost out to longtime incumbent William Huegel.
Holzberger was a graduate of Riverside High School in Milwaukee and Milwaukee Area Technical College, according to archived local election coverage from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
City Inspection Director Collin Johnson, who interacted with Holzberger a number of times throughout the years as a result of the items Holzberger accumulated in his yard, described him as a bright and solitary man, if a bit eccentric.
"He was a very smart, intellectual type," Johnson said. "A real history buff."
According to the criminal complaint filed Friday by the Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office:
After his arrest Retzlaff told police that he and Christophel decided on Nov. 5 to steal things from Holzberger's house and yard, and figured they may have to tie up Holzberger to do so.
Retzlaff explained that when the pair arrived at Holzberger's house they split up, and shortly thereafter Christophel called to Retzlaff that he had Holzberger.
Retzlaff rejoined Christophel and saw that he had Holzberger "choked out." Holzberger was still alive at this point. The pair took Holzberger inside and put bungee cords around his neck, killing him. They then tied up and hid the corpse in the basement.
That night and over the next few days, Retzlaff and Christophel looted the house. Retzlaff admitted to officers that he used Holzberger's debit card a number of times.
Also from the criminal complaint:
Glendale police first had contact with Christophel about 9 p.m. Nov. 5 — the night of the break-in and murder — when a patrol officer saw him on Holzberger's property. Christophel said his friend "Nick" knew Holzberger and said he had been inside the house.
On Nov. 9, a friend of Holzberger reported that she had not seen or heard from Holzberger in several days and she was worried about him. Glendale police searched Holzberger's house Nov. 10 but did not find him. The home was stacked with papers and other items, making it difficult to move and search.
Later that day, the friend told police she had found Holzberger's glasses on the ground outside his house. The glasses were matched to a photo on record with the state Department of Transportation.
Subpoenaed bank records showed that between Nov. 6 and Nov. 10 there had been 23 charges made to Holzberger's debit card and five attempted PayPal transfers from Holzberger's account to accounts under the names "RetzlaffN" and "Retzla." Surveillance video from a nearby gas station showed a blue van that a Glendale police officer saw at Holzberger's home Nov. 9.
After Glendale police posted the van as wanted, a Milwaukee police officer spotted it at 46th Street and North Avenue on Nov. 12. The officer put on her lights and siren and chased the van for a half-hour through the streets of Milwaukee at speeds up to 75 miles per hour. The officer eventually stopped and arrested Retzlaff on Milwaukee's south side.
Police returned to Holzberger's home Nov. 13 and found his body in the basement where Retzlaff said it would be, hidden beneath a pile of boxes, clothes and other items.
Christophel, who was arrested Nov. 13, claimed that Holzberger was still alive when they left him hidden in the basement Nov. 5.
An autopsy by the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's office found Holzberger died from strangulation and blunt force trauma to the neck.
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