This article was last modified on February 13, 2020.

The Murder of Alan Dushack (1989)

April 26, 1989: At 2am, Alan G. “Eddie” Dushack (or Dushak) is found severely beaten outside of Wiggie’s Tavern (1901 Aberg Avenue) by a random passerby. Police arrived and took Dushack to the hospital. Questioning of people in the area determined that a fight had broken out between Dushack and David W. Mattison. Police were able to find Mattison and initially held him on a probation violation (he had been convicted in 1985 on a weapons charge where he waved a .22 pistol around in a bar). When Dushak died at the hospital later that day from “massive head injuries,” Mattison’s situation became far more serious. Detective Jeff LaMar told the press, “It sounds like one of those spontaneous arguments between friends or ex-friends. We don’t yet have an established motive.”

April 27, 1989: An autopsy confirmed that the cause of death was multiple blows to the face and head. Dushack also had a very high blood alcohol content: 0.413, more than four times what would have been legal to drive at the time. At this point, the cause of the fight was still unknown, but police discovered the men had been former roommates.

May 1, 1989: Mattison is formally charged with first-degree homicide. The complaint noted that Mattison had allegedly called Karen Stone five times at the Esquire Club (1025 North Sherman) on the night of the murder. The fifth time, Dushack took the phone from Stone and told Mattison to knock off his harassment. Mattison allegedly told Dushack, “You’re dead meat. I’m going to kill you.” Dushack then said to Mattison he would “kick his ass” at the Yesterdays Once More tavern (1718 Commercial). Mattison took him up on it, but could not find him there… so he went to the nearby Wiggie’s, where he found Dushack, Stone and Duane “Hoppie” Lee. A fight broke out on nearby Huxley Street, and a man named Keith R. Benson also jumped in. Mattison beat Dushack in the face repeatedly, even holding him by the hair during the pummeling. Benson had to turn Dushack’s unconscious body over to keep him from choking on his own blood.

May 2, 1989: The newspapers interviewed John Kavanaugh, owner of the Esquire Club. He revealed that Mattison had worked there as a night cook for about a year, which is how he knew Stone. Kavanaugh said, “Mattison didn’t appear to be an aggressive person. He didn’t seem to be despondent or have any personal problems that he talked about. He took life as it came. He lived day to day.” Kavanaugh said Mattison was originally from Superior, and may have had an ex-wife there. (In contrast, Dushack was a Dane County native.)

At this point, it is worth noting that the Esquire Club is a well-known Madison supper club. If you are not familiar with Madison, that name in this context may have you thinking this was a questionable business, but you would be wrong. John Kavanaugh was the second generation owner – his father purchased the place in 1947. His children would later take over and the Esquire became the longest-running supper club in Madison history.

June 1, 1989: Mattison had his preliminary hearing before being bound over for trial. On one hand, Michael Lang testified he was at the Esquire Club and overheard the phone call where Mattison threatened to kill Dushack. On the other, Keith Benson said that what he saw at Wiggie’s was Duane Lee and Dushack taunting Mattison, egging him on to throw a punch. Benson said he was an “Eagle Scout” and took no part in the fight beyond trying to talk the men out of it. He also turned Dushack on his side to keep him from choking, and then drove Mattison home.

March 19, 1990: The murder trial is underway. The facts of the case were largely agreed upon. Mattison had severely beat Dushack, and more sides agreed the death was “senseless and tragic.” But was a first-degree homicide or a very unfortunate accident? While the prosecution pointed to “death threats,” the defense dismissed these as “macho boasts” that both sides took part in. The defense also noted that Dushack’s blood-alcohol was in a “fatal range” and a sober person may not have died from the same punches. Various members of the Dushack family were in attendance and were not only mourning Alan, but Alan’s father John “Jack” Dushack, who had just recently passed from a heart attack.

The prosecution had as its star witness Roger Williams, career criminal with ties to Sam Cerro and who was mixed up in a forgery scam with Gregory Cerro (see separate article). Williams said that he was in jail with Mattison and they confided in each other. At trial, Williams told the court that mattison told him that rather than the “three or four” punches he claimed publicly, Mattison had actually punched Dushack “ten to twelve” times, partially while kneeling on Dushack’s chest. Mattison also allegedly banged Dushack’s head on the pavement. The defense obviously pointed out that Williams was a “snitch” looking for favors, though Williams swore he was getting no breaks.

The defense tried to show that Dushack’s defense was more the result of heavy drinking than any physical abuse. Indeed, a blood-alcohol level of .4 is rather high.

With the facts largely without debate, the trial wrapped up already on March 22, 1990. District attorney William Foust declared, “This wasn’t a fight, this was a slaughter.” The jury apparently agreed, saying Mattison was guilty of first-degree homicide. They had the option of handing down a guilty verdict on a lesser charge, but went with the one that came with the fullest punishment: life in prison (with parole possible after twenty years).

July 1995: Mattison appealed his conviction, but the Wisconsin Court of Appeals was not able to help him. Mattison’s primary claim was that he wanted to testify on his own behalf that his actions were in self-defense, but his attorney would not allow him to speak. This claim was rejected.

Is Mattison free today?

Also try another article under Organized Crime
or another one of the writings of Gavin.

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