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Wisconsin Man and His Wife Criminally Charged After He Breaks Measles Quarantine to Go to Gym

Last April, Wisconsin native Jeffery Murawski, 57, was ordered to a measles quarantine by Waukesha County health officials.

With two squad cards of officers standing guard outside, Murawski was supposed to stay in his Brookfield home for 24-hours a day over the course of 21 days (or until health officials deemed him non-contagious).

Instead, he made it just 5 days — allegedly sneaking out on May 1 with the aid of his wife, 58-year-old Christine Bennett, to work out at a nearby gym.

Now, 10 months later, both face criminal misdemeanor charges for “willful violation of recommendations of a local health officer or subjecting others to risk of contracting an infectious disease.” 

Court documents obtained by PEOPLE detail how police discovered Murawski and Bennett. The court complaint states that the pair were found by an off-duty Waukesha County Sheriff’s Department deputy aware of the quarantine order.

The officer spotted Murawski carrying his gym bag to a parked car. Later, the deputy pulled the vehicle over, driven by Bennett, and questioned why Murawski wasn’t as home, to which he admitted that he had gone to the Gold’s Gym because “he was going crazy” having to stay inside at home.

Murawski apologized “profusely” for leaving, the complaint stated, and told police he stayed only a few minutes because “he felt very guilty and sick to his stomach” for deciding to go out.

He also said, according to the complaint, that he had “hid in his wife’s vehicle” so law enforcement outside the home could not see him leave. As for Bennett, she told authorities she was in on the plan “against her better judgment.”

The complaint noted that Murawski was on the least-restrictive quarantine type possible, with his “immediate family members living within the residence allowed to enter and leave the residence at any time as they had been vaccinated against the virus.”

Murawski and Bennett’s legal council, Paul E. Bucher, tells PEOPLE his client was never diagnosed with measles himself. He had been contacted by health authorities worried that he had been exposed to the disease when staying at a hotel in La Crosse, where another guest had the virus.

The officials had conducted three blood tests on Murawski, all of which came back inconclusive. He was also asymptomatic.

“I can tell you when someone is quarantined, it is not because they have the measles, it is because that person was exposed and does not have proof of immunity,” state Department of Health Services spokeswoman Elizabeth Goodsitt told NBC News.

Save for his trip out on May 1, Murawski remained in his home until May 7, when officers told him he was free to go, Bucher said. The lawyer explained Murawski and Bennett were “blindsided” by the charges. Bucher is hopeful he’ll be able to resolve the case.

All are due in court March 25. If convicted, the couple’s misdemeanor charges carry up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.

Measles is caused by a virus that presents as fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes, followed by full body rash of tiny red spots, according to the CDC. It is highly contagious and spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes. In some cases it can be fatal.

State health officials told NBC News no new cases of measles had been recorded in Wisconsin last year.

 

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