The man accused of killing the Thoresons of rural South Wayne last spring, plead guilty to three counts of first-degree intentional homicide in Lafayette County Circuit Court on Wednesday, Dec. 4
The pleas came after Jaren Kuester, 31, Milwaukee, was found competent to proceed with the trial by Dane County Circuit Judge William Foust.
Kuester was charged with three counts of first-degree intentional homicide for the deaths of Gary Thoreson, 70, his wife, Chloe Thoreson, 66, and his brother Dean Thoreson, 76, all of rural South Wayne. Kuester was also charged with counts of burglary and automobile theft in connection with the case.
On Wednesday, Kuester responded to all questions posed to him by Judge Foust—as opposed to his last court appearance during which he refused to speak—and confirmed that he understood the proceedings of entering the pleas and waiving the right to a trial.
Foust then accepted Kuester’s pleas, completing the first part of a two-phase agreement between the defense and prosecution that was developed before Kuester’s previous Sept. 27 court date.
For phase 2, as per the agreement, the court set a hearing date for Jan. 31, 2014, during which the presentations of three doctors who examined Kuester and determined that he was insane when he killed the Thoresons will be heard.
Kuester’s defense attorney, Guy Taylor, said he will ask Foust to find Kuester not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect with a sentence of a lifetime commitment in a mental facility, said Taylor.
The Jan. 31 hearing should be the conclusion of the case, according to Taylor. “We don’t expect that there will be any impediments to the court making the finding of NGI [not guilty by reason of insanity] at that time,” he said.
Taylor pressed for a quicker resolution to the case than the January date, but District Attorney Kate Findley argued that the children of the victims, Gary and Chloe Thoreson, wished to be present and are not able to be in the state of Wisconsin before Jan. 31.
After court Taylor explained that he wanted a swifter court date due to the non-static state of mental competency and the fact that Kuester, while sitting in the Lafayette County Jail for almost two more months, could possibly digress into an incompetent mental state, which would again put the process at a standstill.
“Competency is always subject to review,” said Taylor.
However, Taylor said he is hopeful that Kuester’s treatment will continue as it did in Mendota Mental Health Institute, where he was housed while recovering a state of competency for the past three months.
“I do feel that he has been very responsive to the treatment he has received thus far and he’s shown great improvement and hopefully that will continue,” said Taylor.
Kuester’s medication regime was strengthened by the Mendota facility after he was declared incompetent in October.
Since last week’s court date, Kuester has been back in the Lafayette County Jail where he will stay until the court date of Jan. 31.
Taylor explained that since Kuester is no longer in Mendota and is not their patient, his medication and care responsibilities revert back to Lafayette County Human Services for the present.
However, Lafayette County has petitioned the court to shift the financial responsibility of Kuester’s care to Waukesha County, since Kuester was a citizen of that county when he came to Lafayette County and committed the crimes.
A civil hearing on the matter has been scheduled for Monday, Dec. 16 in the Lafayette County Circuit Court.