Battling a terminal case of cirrhosis and desperate for money topay bills, James Pelnar, Jr. made a fateful decision.
Now, as an accused bank robber, the 38-year-old has more hangingover his head than a doctor’s prediction he has less than a year tolive: Pelnar Jr. faces up to 15 years in prison.
On Oct. 14, he walked into Harris Bank in Baraboo and allegedlydemanded $2,000. He then ran home, where he was arrested. PelnarJr. was charged with one count of robbery with threat of force. Ifconvicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison and a $50,000fine.
“I know the cirrhosis didn’t give me a reason to do what I did,” hesaid last week during a 20-minute visitation period at the SaukCounty Law Enforcement Center.
Pelnar Jr. wanted to use the $2,000 for medical bills and to givehis dad, Warren James Pelnar Sr., some money for rent.
“He’s been living with me for 11 years,” Pelnar Sr. said. “He’shelped me out a lot. He’s done a lot of the cooking and going tothe store for me. Just a great kid.”
The elder Pelnar said he can’t explain why his son robbed a bank.”He’s a very nice kid,” Pelnar Sr. said. “I don’t know why he didthat. There’s nothing bad about him at all.”
That is, until his son received a diagnosis no one would want tohear.
“Then he changed,” Pelnar Sr. “Then he didn’t want to listen toanyone. He was good all his life until now. I still can’t believethis.”
University of Wisconsin Hospital Dr. Parul Agarwal said cirrhosisis chronic liver disease characterized by the replacement of livertissue by scar tissue. She said cirrhosis is most commonly causedby alcoholism, hepatitis B and C, and fatty liver disease.
“Cirrhosis is generally irreversible, and treatment usuallyfocuses on preventing progression and complications,” Agarwal said.”In its advanced stages the only option is a livertransplant.”
Pelnar Jr. admitted he was a heavy drinker of beer and sometimeshard liquor, but put it all aside for a year and a half while hewas attending a Baraboo church.
“I didn’t drink or smoke cigarettes,” he said. “I went to church ona regular basis. I was always reading the Bible.”
But then he relapsed.
“I wasn’t taking my medication right and had been drinking a bit,”he said from the jail. “I made an