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A Madison man was in custody almost immediately after a shooting Friday behind a Southwest Side auto repair shop left one man dead and another critically wounded, police said.

Madison police said the man killed was in his 70s, but they declined to identify him pending an official statement from the Dane County Medical Examiner’s Office. However, the owner of a neighboring business identified him as Tom Dreger, of Monona, who owned the building at 2001 Freeport Road, just west of Verona Road, that houses at least two auto repair businesses.

Police identified the suspect as Sophea Mouth, 52. He is tentatively charged with first-degree intentional homicide and attempted first-degree intentional homicide, police spokesman Joel Despain said.

The other victim, identified as a man in his 50s, was taken to a hospital with at least one gunshot wound. He was stable late Friday, police said.

It was the 10th homicide in Dane County this year, which ties 2007 and 2008 for the most homicides in one year since records started being kept in 2004.

The shooting took place at 12:16 p.m., and it was witnessed by a customer of Bennett’s Meadowood Country Club as she was driving into the parking lot for lunch, said Gene Bennett, the owner of the bar next to the auto repair shop.

“She walked in and called 911. She was white as a ghost,” Bennett said.

Within minutes, Madison police and fire crews descended on the area, arrested Mouth and recovered a handgun believed to have been used in the shooting, said Police Chief Mike Koval said.

“There was no opportunity for flight,” Koval said.

Bennett said police told him that Dreger was killed in the shooting.

He said that the body was visible from his bar and that about 20 people were having lunch there when the shooting occurred outside an auto repair business located behind Freeport Auto.

Police and Bennett said they did not know the name of the auto repair business where the shooting took place.

Bennett said he knew Dreger but didn’t know anybody from the auto repair shop where the shooting occurred.

He said Dreger spent time at his bar over the years, while the workers at the auto repair shop visited just to pick up take-out lunch.

The shop is located in a commercial area about one block east of a residential area bordered by Reetz Road and about one block north of where Raymond Road connects with Verona Road. It is one of the busiest intersections on the Southwest Side.

While police didn’t offer any potential motives, shortly after the shooting Koval said early reports indicated the incident “was predicated on some sort of commercial transaction gone awry. But that’s very preliminary and we can’t really comment until we know more.”

Bennett said the shooting likely involved a conflict over the tenant’s attempts to buy the building from Dreger on a land contract. Dreger had been trying to evict the business for over a year, Bennett added.

Steve Melahn, the owner of Light Haus, a neighboring art glass studio, also said he was aware that Dreger was having contractual problems with his tenants.

Mouth did not have a criminal background in Wisconsin, according to online court documents.

He was listed as a debtor and ordered to pay First Data Merchant Corp. $10,410 in a civil action in Dane County in 2007.

He was one of two defendants and his business Auto Repair LLC was ordered to pay a Madison man $3,087 in a 2008 judgment in Dane County small claims court.


Homicides in Dane County since 2004

Click on a marker to see details of the case and photos of the victims, when available.

Rob Schultz has won multiple writing awards at the state and national levels and covers an array of topics for the Wisconsin State Journal in south-central and southwestern Wisconsin.