28-year-old Merrill woman shot and killed in Merrill home

Suspect arrested and in custody in Lincoln County Jail on $25,000 cash bond


Kayla M. Frank, age 28, of Merrill, was identified as the victim of the Tuesday shooting. She is shown here in a photo with her three beautiful children, as her family and friends will always remember her. Photo courtesy of Kayla Frank’s Family.

Twenty-eight-year-old Kayla M. Frank of Merrill was shot and killed late the morning of Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022, at a home on E. Fifth Street in the City of Merrill.

The Merrill Police Department issued a press release Wednesday morning, Jan. 19, confirming that emergency services were dispatched to the residence at approximately 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 18. The call came in as an accidental discharge of a firearm, the release said.

“Upon arrival, a female victim was found to be unresponsive, and lifesaving measures were initiated,” Police Chief Corey Bennett said in the release. “She was transported to Aspirus Merrill Hospital, where she was ultimately pronounced deceased.”

Kayla leaves behind three children between the ages of four and eight. The children are being cared for by family members, her mother confirmed.

“She was extremely loved by a lot of people,” Lynn Frank, Kayla’s mother, said in a brief interview Thursday afternoon.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to assist the family with funeral expenses. Donors can contribute at: https://www.gofundme.com/f/helping-kayla-frank-rest-in-peace. “We are asking the community to come together to let the family say goodbye without worries,” the GoFundMe page reads, in part. “I hope everyone can open their hearts.”

Generations Funeral Home in Tomahawk is assisting the family with arrangements.

Tanner Harold Graap, age 27, of Merrill has been charged in the shooting death of Kayla Frank. Photo courtesy of the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department.

The shooting suspect, Tanner Harold Graap, age 27, of Merrill was taken into custody on scene and is currently incarcerated at the Lincoln County Jail on a $25,000 cash bond. Preliminary charges of Homicide by Negligent Handling of a Dangerous Weapon and Felon in Possession of a Firearm were filed in Lincoln County. Graap made his initial appearance in Lincoln County Court on Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022, at 1:30 p.m. by video means and was represented by Attorney Nicholas Grant Smith. He was charged with Count one: Homicide by Negligent Handling of Dangerous Weapon, Felony G, with two repeater modifiers and Count two: Possessing Firearm as a Convicted Felon, also Felony G, and with two repeater modifiers. In addition to the cash bond, Graap is prohibited from contact with the victim’s immediate family and specific individuals, may not go within 500 feet of the crime scene, and may not possess any dangerous weapons and has a condition of absolute sobriety/cannot be on tavern/bar premises and no medications except prescription medications at prescribed dosages and may not have a passport.

Count one carries with it a penalty of up to $25,000 and up to 10 years in prison, or both. Because Graap is already a convicted felon, the repeat offender modifiers could increase the penalty by up to four more years in prison. Also, because he is a repeater with at least one felony conviction during the five years immediately preceding the commission of this offense, the court shall impose a bifurcated [two-part] sentence with a term of confinement of at least four years [other penalties and penalty enhancements still apply] that may further extend the sentence, and may not place the person on parole, according to Wis. Statute Sec. 939.6195(2) cited in the Complaint.

Likewise, count two carries with it the same penalties, repeat offender modifiers, and statutory bifurcation provision, which can result in an additional period of extended supervision.

In the Complaint filed with the court detailing the current charges, the shooting was confirmed to have occurred in the home where Graap was living on E. Fifth St. in Merrill.

The Complaint also indicated a law enforcement officer said the victim had injuries “consistent with the entry wound of a bullet” in her upper back, along with injury to the interior of her throat.

According to that complaint, during a law enforcement interview with Graap, Graap admitted to using heroin the morning before the shooting and to grabbing a .380 caliber Smith and Wesson handgun and running toward the kitchen of the home while attempting to put the gun into his left inside chest coat pocket. Graap said he “ran into the door frame between an empty room and the kitchen and the handgun came forward with his finger on the trigger and went off.”
Graap said he was between five and seven feet from the victim, who was sitting on a chair just inside the kitchen, when the gun went off and the victim fell out of her chair, and Graap said he saw blood coming from the victim.

Graap has 18 prior convictions dating back to May 2012, for offenses, including but not limited to: possession of THC, operating while intoxicated, resisting/obstructing an officer, theft, bail jumping (both as a misdemeanor and a felony), disorderly conduct, possession of methamphetamine, and use of a dangerous weapon. Several of these convictions were repeat offenses, and 13 of the 18 were felony convictions.

A Status Conference on the charges brought on Jan. 19 has been set for 2:30 p.m. on March 16, 2022, in Lincoln County Court.

As of Monday, Jan. 24, this matter is still considered an active investigation, according to the Merrill Police Department. The Wisconsin Department of Justice Crime Scene Response unit assisted with the investigation. Additional charges have not yet been ruled out.

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