MILWAUKEE (AP) — A man accused of killing three people in a Wisconsin farmhouse last month told investigators he broke into their house for warmth and then used a fireplace poker to kill the victims as they returned home, according to a criminal complaint filed Tuesday.
Jaren Michael Kuester, 31, was charged with three counts of first-degree intentional homicide, as well as single counts of burglary and driving a vehicle without the owner's consent.
He's accused of killing 70-year-old Gary Thoreson; his 66-year-old wife, Chloe Thoreson; and his 76-year-old brother, Dean Thoreson, on April 27 in a home in the Town of Wiota, a community of about 1,000 people about 60 miles southwest of Madison.
Kuester's public defender, Guy Taylor, did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment Tuesday. Kuester is due in court for an initial appearance Friday.
The criminal complaint doesn't say specifically how or when authorities linked Kuester to the killings. However, it notes that the day after the killings, police tracked him down at a Waukesha residence where the Thoresons' pickup truck was parked outside. The complaint says an officer saw what appeared to be dried blood on Kuester's feet and left hand.
His April 28 arrest in the slayings came just three days after he was taken into custody for allegedly threatening staff members at a Waukesha County animal shelter and later bailed out of jail. A shelter employee said Kuester demanded that the dead dog he'd dropped off a few weeks earlier be returned to him alive, and when shelter officials couldn't comply he told staffers they would pay for the dog with their lives.
The brief jail stint and other challenges in his life made him feel things were "crashing and burning around him," the criminal complaint said. So he got in his vehicle and started driving, eventually abandoning the car three counties away and stripping his clothes off because he thought he was being followed, the complaint said.
Kuester's unoccupied SUV was found in Green County a day after the shelter incident arrest. His jail ID tag and a pair of shoes were discovered about 200 yards from the vehicle, and other items including shirts, jeans, socks, underwear and a watch were discarded along a half-mile track.
Kuester ran through the woods and arrived at the Thoreson home about sunset. He broke in through a window because he was cold and didn't think anyone was home, court documents said.
He found clothes and food and then searched the house for valuables, prosecutors said. Then he fell asleep on a bedroom floor.
Kuester told investigators he heard a man enter the house and walk up the stairs. Fearing the man would see him and go for help, Kuester hit him with a fireplace poker and killed him, the criminal complaint said.
Prosecutors said a man and woman entered the house later and Kuester didn't want them to leave and get help so he killed them with the fireplace poker. The woman was also stabbed.
Kuester grabbed money, blankets and clothes and threw them in the Thoresons' pickup, court documents said. He then drove to his father's house.
Kuester's father, James Kuester, told investigators his son was being treated for mental health issues and taking various medications. He said his son visited his apartment the day after the Thoresons' bodies were found in an apparently confused state and told him he had hurt three people.
Dinesh Ramde can be reached at dramde(at)ap.org.