BROOKFIELD, Wis. — A Wisconsin couple faces criminal charges after prosecutors said they knowingly violated a quarantine for possible measles exposure last year. Now, the couple’s attorney wants to set the record straight.
Jeffery Murawski, 57, and Christine Bennett, 58, were both charged on March 1, 2019, with one misdemeanor count of communicable disease – protection of the public.
On May 1, 2018, a Waukesha County sheriff’s deputy pulled over Bennett as she drove along Bluemound Road with her husband in the passenger seat, according to a criminal complaint.
Documents showed officials with the Waukesha County Health Department believed Murawski may have been exposed to measles, and ordered him to stay at his home 24 hours a day until he was deemed non-contagious. Prosecutors said deputies stood guard outside the couple’s home during Murawski’s quarantine.
However, prosecutors said Murawski admitted “to going inside Gold’s Gym to work out,” but was only there a few minutes because “he felt very guilty,” according to the criminal complaint. Murawski allegedly hid in his wife’s vehicle so law enforcement could not see him leave the house. Bennett said she was in on the plan “against her better judgment,” prosecutors say.
Murawski apologized “profusely,” saying that “he needed to get out of the house because he was going crazy,” the complaint indicates.
A statement from Murawski attorney Paul Bucher says:
“While (Murawski) acknowledges traveling to a local gymnasium and entering the entryway, Mr. Murawski did not enter the gymnasium area and, instead, departed and returned to his wife’s vehicle. As a means to set the record straight, we must stress that Mr. Murawski, on knowledge and belief, has not, nor has ever, contracted a communicable disease.”
Bucher also stated that “at no time was Mr. Murawski informed that he tested positive for Measles, nor did he exhibit any symptoms at any time.”
Murawski and Bennett have initial court appearances set for March 25.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, measles is a serious respiratory disease that spreads when patients cough or sneeze. One in four people diagnosed with measles will have to be hospitalized — and one or two in 1,000 will die.
“We do know that measles is one of the most contagious diseases around. For an individual that has measles, nine out of every 10 persons in that area will come down with measles if they don’t already have protection,” said Stephanie Schauer of the Wisconsin Immunization Program.
The Centers for Disease Control’s website notes that is why the measles vaccine is so important. While there have not been any confirmed cases in Wisconsin since 2014, 206 have already been reported across the U.S. so far in 2019.
Editor’s note: A previous version of the story indicated that Murawski had measles during the quarantine. The story has been updated to show he was only being held as a precautionary measure for potential exposure to the disease.