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Welch spends jail time practicing Judaism

June 9, 2010

Justin Welch, who has a history of violating civil commandments, is making sure his dietary regimen is in keeping with Jewish law while he is incarcerated in the Waukesha County Jail.

Welch, who is accused of murder in the stabbing death of 39-year-old Kimberly Smith in her Oconomowoc home last October, made the dietary request in May.

According to Waukesha Sheriff's Department spokesman Det. Steve Pederson, Welch began receiving kosher meals on June 8.

"We certainly accommodate those with dietary requests based on religious beliefs, at least I know Waukesha Jail makes every effort to do so, but when they come into the system as one faith, and convert to another, it's not as simple," Pederson explained.

In a series of phone conversations from the jail, Welch said he has been practicing Judaism "for the last few years, on and off."

"They said when I first came in (to Waukesha County Jail) I told them that I was Christian," a fact, he said, he does not recall.

"When I first came in, it was a circus," he added.

Welch said he was introduced to the Jewish faith during a previous incarceration.

"I've been practicing Judaism for a few years. It's my belief. I started in California in jail. I seen some other guys practicing it and was interested," he said.

"I've practiced multiple religions. I was brought up Catholic and married into the Mormon faith and tried multiple religions, Pentecostal and First Baptist and found Judaism is much more better," Welch said.

"When you pray you ask for forgiveness for everything. It's a good religion. I believe in Yahweh and I just know for sure that Christianity wasn't right for me," he added.

The 27-year-old said he has written to an area synagogue asking for a Rabbi to come visit with him, but he has not yet received a response.

Welch said he has received a copy of the Torah at the jail.

"I read it every day," Welch said.

"Practicing the Torah, you're always learning and there's stuff I don't understand. It's a very complicated book. There's a lot I need to learn."

"I'm not a hardcore Jewish person, I haven't been practicing 100 percent like I should be. I need more guidance," Welch added.

The inmate claims that he has asked the jail if they would help him find a Rabbi who could visit him and was denied.

He also said he was told that if he did receive a chaplaincy visit, it would be via video monitor.

"To the jail's knowledge, he has not made any request to see the jail chaplain," Pederson said. He was not certain if the procedure for requesting a chaplaincy visit was the same as asking for a Rabbi.

Welch is accused of killing Smith in a murder-for-hire scheme that was allegedly planned by the father of her 4-year-old son, Darren Wold, in an attempt to gain custody of the child. Authorities believe Welch's friend Jack E. Johnson - who is a longtime friend of Wold's - aided in the plot and was the link to Welch.

Wold and Johnson are charged with party to first degree intentional homicide.

Smith was found by her live-in boyfriend on the floor of her home with her hands bound and stabbed to death. Her then 4-year-old son was home at the time of the attack, but police do not believe he witnessed the killing.

Police recovered a pair of latex gloves and the murder weapon in a sewer drain near the residence which led to a DNA match on Welch, according to authorities.

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