PHILLIPS: JOHN BRYLSKI, INVESTIGATING SHELLY HANSEN COLD CASE AND RUNNING FOR SHERIFF


   

John Brylski has investigating in his blood.  Whether it be exploring and climbing trees as a young boy with his childhood best friend, Amy Buske; exploring along the river with his brother, David, as a teenager; investigating during his 28 years in law enforcement with Outagamie County; finding cougar tracks in Phillips in 2019; or working to solve the Shelly Hansen missing person mystery, John puts a whole-hearted effort into it all.

John was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the son of Ronald (Ron) and Geraldine (Gerry) Brylski.  He explained he was a shy child but his life experiences turned him into a confident adult who always likes a challenge.

As a boy, he moved a few times, calling West Allis, Brookfield, and New London home, along with his two younger siblings, David and Lisa, who he treasures.  While a student at New London Senior High School, he was active in sports, such as track and football.  A memory that stands out in John's mind is when the football team played against Bay Port during Homecoming.  "At that point, our school had won seven Homecomings in a row.  My Dad promised me a shotgun if I scored two touchdowns in the game as his dad had done when he played football in the same position in high school.  I did score two touchdowns and remember the feeling I had when I crossed the goal line.  I hopped over the line!  I was so happy our team also won the game."

During and after high school, John, along with his brother and his dad, enjoyed competitive cross country skiing.  They would travel all over Wisconsin and into Minnesota to compete at distances of 10K to 15K.  "In my first year at Northland College, I went with the intent of being a half time student and training and racing as part of Telemark Academy, an academy that helped create Olympic skiers; but, it was not meant to be."  John explained that the 1980 Winter Olympics Cross Country Ski Team hadn't performed well and the Academy was dissolved.

At that time, John started considering a new goal, which was to become a police officer.  His interest was greatly sparked when a New London police officer asked him if he wanted to go on a call with him.  The police officer remembered John as a fast runner in high school, and he needed help catching a "Peeping Tom."  Handing John a flashlight, he gave him instructions.  "He told me he would drop me off in the area he was last seen.  I was to try and find him, run him down, and yell for help because the officer would be driving in circles around the streets.  I never found him, but I never forgot the screeches of the police officer's tires as he went around me and the feeling of walking in people’s back yards looking for the peeper.  With the nervousness and adrenaline rush I felt, I then knew I wanted to make my career a police officer."

With schooling underway, John met Cindy, who he married in 1985.  During the early part of their marriage, they moved to Texas.  John went to Marine Corps boot camp and then to military police school at Lackland Airforce Base.  "The most memorable moment there was a forced 10 mile march which I believe at 50 pounds back pack this march was to be the last with all men so they wanted to do it faster than normal, so we double timed or ran at times in the end of the hot, grueling march.  One other Marine MP recruit candidate and I finished out of 50 Marines."

Next, John got stationed in Cherry Point, North Carolina.  "There I was a CPL Non-commissioned Officer and was a Patrol Supervisor going to regular calls like cops do - fights, domestics, thefts, and traffic.  I was also at the main gate security waving in vehicles with base decals."  It was also at this base that John and Cindy welcomed their first child, Ken, who he named after his late great uncle, Kenny Hartenberger.  "He used to be a Marine Vietnam Vet and was a great guy," John reflected.

Getting stationed at Bogue Field NC Marine Corps Auxiliary Landing Base, he was the Non-commissioned Field MP Officer in charge of training, scheduling, post security, and writing standard operating procedure.  He received a Meritorious Mast for his duties at Bogue.

The final part of his military career took place in Iwakuni, Japan.  "Cindy and I lived off base in a normal Japanese home with a kerosene heater to heat the home."  John left the Marine Corps shortly thereafter with an Honorable Discharge and Good Conduct Medal.

   
Settling back in Wisconsin, John was hired by the Outagamie County Sheriff's Department.  He started in the jail as a guard and then was transferred to patrol and then as the first full-time Police School Liaison Officer.  "I gave class presentations and investigated all crimes from harassment, theft, battery, child abuse, and sexual assault.  I did security at school events."  Improving camaraderie with the students, John was the head coach of the boys and girls track teams and coached middle school football.  "At one practice, I was in charge of 7th grade 2nd team offense.  I challenged the 1st team to a scrimmage because I felt I should be coaching 1st team.  Using the right motivation and not standard plays, the 2nd team beat the 1st team.  I said to the 1st team coach, 'Now who is the 1st team?'"

Along with coaching, John was also excelling in his career and personal life.  His son and daughter, Zach and Abby, were born over the next few years.  He was also promoted to Sergeant (Law Enforcement Specialist).  He was the back-up for other officers and responded to bad traffic injuries and fatalities.  He also went to crime scenes to document and collect evidence, take measurements, take photos, and get fingerprints and DNA.

"I later was transferred to Investigations, which I enjoyed for the challenge and strategy involved in finding and arresting a suspect.  My most high profile case was Catholic Priest John Patrick Feeney in 2001.  I worked only on this case for six months.  The case received national attention.  I was interviewed by news media.  Feeney was found guilty and given, I believe, 12 years.  He later died in prison." 

John was nominated four times as Officer of the Year by his peers.  He added that there are so many incidents a police officer responds to, from crimes and high-speed chases to horrible accidents, suicides, and close calls.  "Life as a law enforcement Officer was not easy; it left its scars and also triumphs," he shared.

He also had some scars and triumphs in his personal life.  He and Cindy divorced.  While that was a low point in time, there had been high points in his marriage.  His children also brought him many more high points, and he is one proud dad.  He reminisced about a series of small vacations in 1996 with his sons on the lakes in Waupaca County.  "I enjoyed watching them catch fish, though I did not get in much fishing myself as I was untangling lines from their lack of fishing knowledge.  On the way home, we got ice cream at Dairy Queen and listened to the music CD, 'Journeys Greatest Hits.'  To this day, listening to one of their songs on that CD brings me back to that time."

Along with that memorable vacation, John is proud of his kids' accomplishments.  "I remember enjoying my kids growing up and watching their sports events like football, track, cross country running, basketball, and dance.  Later, I was so proud of my kids, Ken and Zach, graduating from college.  Ken started his own business on the Internet, Zach became a physician's assistant, and Abby went to college and began as an RN nurse."

   
Another high point was when John met Amy, his current wife and soulmate, at a club in Appleton just when he was preparing to leave.  "I turned around and saw a woman sitting by herself.  Immediately, time slowed down for me.  Considering the location, [a club], it was like seeing a masterpiece at a rummage sale.  I wasn't sure I should go up and talk to her, because I knew my life would change drastically.  I walked up to her, tapped her on the shoulder, and she turned....with the most beautiful smile."  John and Amy married in 2006, and John welcomed two step-children, Ryan and Megan, into his life.  He added that Ryan is an auto mechanic who works on top-class cars, and Megan is a data processor for hospitals.

John stated all the good people he has met throughout his life are his guiding lights, along with his guardian angel, who he believes has kept busy but has been there for him.  He also has been guided by Mother Nature.  "Being out and part of nature, whether it is, as I call it, without its makeup on a rainy and windy day and you feel its power to when it is at its best with temperatures in the high 70s on a beautiful fall day."  John loves to enjoy the moment.

   
Throughout John's life, he has had some amazing moments being outdoors and with sports, for which he has a true passion.  It was when John was stationed in Japan, where he ran his first marathon, the Kintai Marathon.  He ran a couple Ultra Marathons.  The first one was Fans 24 Hour Run around Lake Nokomis.  "Near the end I, with the assistance of Cindy's support, walking hand to hand, completed in 19 hours before I could go no further....Cindy walked the last couple laps with me, each 2.6 miles."  The next Ultra he did was at the Ice Age 50 in La Grange, Wisconsin going up and down hills and flat areas.  "I made it to the 45 mile mark and came to a hill.  My legs were cramping very badly and were useless, so I tried walking on my hands up the hill because I knew if I made it the rest was flat and I would finish.  My attempts to walk on my hands did not work.  I kept falling over and also hitting my head and shoulder into the ground and on rocks.  I was stopped by a work crew who said I had enough and took me to the finish line to the medical tent.  I came up with the following quote because of that race:  "If I can't finish on my feet, I will walk on my hands.”  Not to be stopped, in 2001, John went back to the Ice Age 50.  "This time I finished in 10 hours and admit I was overcome by tears."  John credits his father for leading by example and instilling in him the great determination that he has.

          
In 2007, John took up snowshoe racing.  After about a month of feeling out his new hobby, he entered the Badger State Games in Wausau in -25 degree weather.  After about 1/2 a mile, he passed the leader.  When he finally looked back he was quite a distance ahead.  "I was shocked!  I was now on a high and went even faster," John remarked.  Finishing in first place, he said the next best part was what greeted him at the finish line.  "I came to the finish line.  Amy and all our kids ran to greet me as I came in as they were sitting in a warm vehicle."  John went on to compete in other races in places like Utah and Cable, Wisconsin, finishing near the top of the pack.

Since John loves the outdoors, he said if he could live in another time period, he'd still want to live in Wisconsin or an environment similar to it, because he loves the state.  "If I could go back before there were roads when there were mostly only trails, living in a wooden cabin on an unspoiled lake, and not have the sometimes stressful, complicated technology we have today, that would be nice."  He felt the 1800s might be a fun time to explore.  With that not being a real-life option, John was happy to find a less complicated life in the northwoods in present times.

In 2018, John and Amy attended the celebration of life for John's sister-in-law, Jane.  The ceremony was held in Medford, and the couple started thinking about moving to the northwoods, a place that he would also recommend to young people.  "Because of all it offers in the form of mostly good, hard-working people and the enjoyment of all the nature we have such as the woods and beautiful lakes, streams, and animals, all of this will make them better people."

Wanting to experience that life during retirement, after 28 years in law enforcement, John decided to retire from the Outagamie Sheriff's Office, and Amy retired from healthcare.  They found their slice of paradise on Soo Lake.  "Here on our lake it’s like paradise, fishing, hunting, and tracking as a volunteer carnivore tracker for the DNR.  Lucky enough while out for a run on Skinner Creek Road in 2019, I came across cougar tracks and a kill.  Documenting it, I contacted the DNR, learning it was the first documented cougar proof in Price County in eleven years.  (See related story, Cougar Believed To Be In The Area.)  I also track wolves and found some wolf kills.  Amy and I also enjoy kayaking out on our lake right from our house.  Plus, Amy enjoys volunteering through Price County delivering meals to homebound individuals."  His favorite hobby is fishing because he enjoys relaxing on a body of water while experiencing the challenge of trying to catch the big fish.
   

Unfortunately, even in the best of times, tragedy strikes.  John's brother, David, informed his family that he was battling esophageal cancer that had spread to his lungs and he was told he had three months to three years to live.  His time came sooner than expected, and David passed on December 20, 2021.  "My brother was an incredible person whom I respected," John shared.

John shared that if he had one power, it would be to go back in time and prevent some of the horrible things that have happened.  Two horrible things in particular include warning his brother about cancer and saving Shelly Hansen, a woman from Price County who went missing in the late 1980s.

John learned about Shelly Hansen shortly after he moved to Phillips.  Being a police officer, he did an Internet search to see what kind of crimes had happened in Price County.  That is when he found the Shelly Hansen mystery.  He started a group on Facebook for her and other crime victims, Justice for Shelly Hansen Missing People Unsolved Crime Victims Northern WI.  While conducting interviews to try to solve Shelly's case, he learned other information that made him want to run for sheriff.  He also learned he cannot get all the records he needs to solve the Shelly Hansen case unless he is in law enforcement here.  "Our Facebook group turned over info concerning the investigation and places we believe Shelly is buried to the Price County Sheriff.  But, after learning more concerning the sheriff, I have no confidence the areas will be searched, so I currently am running as a write-in candidate for sheriff of Price County to improve the Price County Sheriff’s Office," John stated.  He knows running as a write-in candidate will be difficult, but he has never strayed from difficult situations.  "I seem to thrive when things become more difficult.  I'm not saying I always enjoy it, but it’s my determination that surprises me sometimes."  John simply doesn't believe in giving up or settling for second best.

"I want to awaken our community that it can be better and not accept anything below par such as unsolved crimes and poor community leaders."  You can view more information about John's campaign and investigation at his website.  You can also follow the the John Brylski for Price County Sheriff Facebook page, where he gives regular updates.  "I would appreciate if everyone would look at my experience and endorsements.  If you like what you see, I ask that you tell your friends and family about me.  Also, please write my name on a piece of paper so you know how to spell it and bring it with you when you vote on Election Day on Tuesday, November 8, 2022.  You will need to write my name in as the sheriff and fill in the oval.  I respectfully ask for your vote as I want to protect and serve Price County with dignity, respect, transparency, and communication," John shared.

   
JOHN BRYLSKI IS RUNNING AS AN INDEPENDENT, WRITE-IN CANDIDATE FOR PRICE COUNTY SHERIFF IN NOVEMBER 2022:  Visit John Brylski's website to learn about John, his philosophies on law enforcement, his endorsements, and more.  Follow John's Facebook page to receive updates and more information about his candidacy.
(This post was last modified: 10-20-2022, 01:38 AM by My Northern Wisconsin.)