NEWTON, Wis. — A Wisconsin couple and their 15-year-old son have all been charged in the death of the man’s 7-year-old nephew, who investigators say was beaten and buried in snow last year because he did not know his Bible verses.
Ethan Hauschultz died April 20 of hypothermia and blunt force trauma to the head, chest and abdomen, according to the Manitowoc County Sheriff's Office.
Editor’s note: The following details may be too graphic and unsettling for some readers.
The boy's cousin, Damian L. Hauschultz, of Newton, was arrested Friday on charges of first-degree reckless homicide, three counts of physical abuse of a child by intentionally causing bodily harm and three counts of substantial battery, a news release from the Sheriff's Office stated. According to The Herald Times Reporter in Manatowoc, a cash bond for the teen was set Monday at $150,000.
The teen, who was 14 at the time of the homicide, is being held in the Sheboygan County Juvenile Detention Center, the newspaper said.
Court records show that Damian Hauschultz's father, Timothy S. Hauschultz, 48, is charged with felony murder as a party to a crime, two counts of intentionally contributing to the delinquency of a child, resulting in death, as a party to a crime, two counts of physical abuse of a child by intentionally causing bodily harm as a party to a crime and misdemeanor battery as a party to a crime. Timothy Hauschultz is being held in the Manitowoc County Jail in lieu of a $100,000 cash bond, jail records show.
Tina Marie McKeever-Hauschultz, 35, the mother and wife of the other two suspects, in also charged in Ethan’s death. McKeever-Hauschultz is charged with two counts of intentionally contributing to the delinquency of a child, resulting in death, as a party to a crime and two counts of child abuse/failure to prevent bodily harm as a party to a crime.
She is being held alongside her husband in lieu of a $75,000 cash bond. The couple were Ethan's court-appointed guardians at the time of his slaying.
"The allegations in these criminal complaints (are) troubling, to say the least," Judge Jerilyn Dietz said during the trio's Monday court appearance, according to Action 2 News in Green Bay.
Sheriff's Office officials said the nearly yearlong investigation into Ethan's death showed that he was being punished the day he was killed. Timothy Hauschultz ordered the punishment, which was being meted out by Damian Hauschultz.
Ethan was forced to carry a 45-pound log, about two-thirds of his body weight, around the yard. According to criminal complaints obtained by Action 2 News, Ethan, his twin brother and their 8-year-old sister, who had been in the Hauschultzes' care since 2017, were often punished by being forced to carry heavy logs, which Timothy Hauschultz would pick out, in laps around the yard.
They were allowed to put down the log and take five-second breaks in between laps, the other children told investigators.
The week of Ethan's death, the children were forced to carry logs for two hours every day for not knowing their Bible verses, the complaints said.
Damian Hauschultz told investigators he got frustrated the day of Ethan’s death because the children kept dropping their logs.
"Over the course of (an hour to 90 minutes), the 15-year-old hit, kicked, struck and poked Ethan numerous times," the Sheriff's Office news release said. "He repeatedly shoved Ethan to the ground and rolled the heavy log across Ethan's chest. He stood on his body and head while Ethan was face-down in a puddle.
“He ultimately buried Ethan completely in snow.”
Damian Hauschultz told detectives he thought Ethan was resisting the punishment when he became unresponsive, Action 2 News reported. He buried him in an estimated 80 pounds of snow -- 20 pounds more than the boy's weight at the time of his death.
When investigators asked the teen how much snow was covering the boy, he replied that Ethan "was in his own little coffin of snow," the criminal complaints said.
Then he laughed.
Sheriff's Office officials said Timothy Hauschultz and his wife, who were not home during the punishment, took Ethan to Holy Family Memorial Medical Center in Manitowoc after finding him unresponsive in the yard.
Ethan's biological mother, Andrea Everett, told WFRV-TV in Green Bay that her son's heart was still beating when he arrived at the hospital, but his core body temperature was down to 23 degrees Fahrenheit. She said his small body was covered with bruises.
The situation was grave, a doctor told her.
"She had informed me that Ethan had not had a heartbeat for quite some time," Everett said. "When you're that cold, your heart doesn't work by itself so what they were trying to do was warm up his body temperature to get his heart to start again," Andrea said. "They were giving him round-the-clock CPR."
The life-saving measures were to no avail and Ethan was pronounced dead shortly after 9 p.m., Everett told the news station.
Action 2 News reported that the criminal complaints indicated Damian Hauschultz became emotional as he described his home life to investigators as "boring" and "prison-like" since Ethan and his brother came to live with the Hauschultzes. He told detectives he was always angry because the younger boys took the fun out of his own life.
Timothy Hauschultz's attorney, Donna Kuchler, told the news station her client had no idea the punishment would turn deadly.
"Never in Mr. Hauschultz's wild imagination would what happened ever happen," Kuchler said. "His son was 14 years old, certainly old enough to leave with younger children. There was nothing happening in the home that morning. Everything was normal. No idea that it would rise to the level that it did."
Neighbors of the Hauschultz family told WFRV they often saw young children playing outside during the day, including the day Ethan died. At least one woman said she sometimes saw a young boy crying in the yard.
"We've seen a couple of times where the boy, there was a boy about 7 years old crying," Yvonne Kope told the news station. "I didn't make nothing of it. It wasn't crucial screams."
Kope said the children were laughing and playing when she and her husband left around 1:30 p.m. the day of the slaying. When they returned a few hours later, sheriff’s deputies were in the yard and a drone was flying overhead.
"Totally took me by shock," Dennis Kope said. "That poor child. The first thing I did was pray to God."
Everett told the news station she wants those responsible held accountable for her son’s death.
"A lot of people lost their lives that day. I lost my life, my son lost his life and the people responsible are ultimately going to lose their life, too, because this was a situation that could have been handled completely different," Everett told WFRV. "Once you have your children, you don't imagine that you (will) have to bury him.
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