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By LeAnn R. Ralph
MENOMONIE — Gary Styer, who is accused in the death of his father, Edward Styer of Colfax, is scheduled for a plea hearing and sentencing hearing in Dunn County Circuit Court September 4.
Styer, age 51, appeared with his attorneys, Liesel E. Nelson and Jeremiah Harrelson, for a status hearing July 24 before Judge Rod W. Smeltzer.
Styer and Nelson were in court in person, and Harrelson appeared via the Zoom online platform.
Styer is charged with one felony count of first degree intentional homicide, with the modifiers of use of a dangerous weapon and domestic abuse inflicting physical pain or injury, in the death of his 78-year-old father on January 15 at the Styer home south of Colfax.
Dunn County District Attorney Andrea Nodolf said she had filed a motion with the court to receive a copy of Styer’s medical records but that she was withdrawing the motion because the defense counsel had provided the records.
Communications with the court from Styer’s attorneys and the district attorney indicated they were close to asking the court to consider a plea and a plea of not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect, Judge Smeltzer said.
Section 971.15 of the Wisconsin Statutes defines not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect, which is also referred to as “NGI.” A defendant can be considered NGI if the defendant lacks the capacity to understand his or her conduct was wrong and is so ill, he or she cannot understand what has been done is illegal. A defendant also can be considered NGI if the person is so ill, he or she cannot control his or her actions.
In the case of a trial where a defendant has pleaded NGI, the prosecution must prove the person is guilty of the crime, and it is then up to the defendant to convince the jury that he or she is not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect.
The court has reviewed the Styer file and could potentially have been ready to accept a plea, except the court hearing on July 24 was a status hearing scheduled for 15 minutes, Judge Smeltzer said.
Accepting a plea takes time to go through the procedure, and the victims may want to address the court with victim impact statements or may want to file statements with the court, Judge Smeltzer said.
The victims did not have prior notice of a plea hearing on July 24, so the hearing should be continued to a day when there is ample time for a plea and sentencing hearing, he said.
At a May 22 arraignment hearing when Styer pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect, Styer’s attorneys asked the court to appoint someone to conduct a mental health evaluation for Styer.
Judge Smeltzer said he has reviewed the evaluations that have been filed with the court and will review any additional evaluations when they are filed with the court.
The plea and sentencing hearing on September 4 is scheduled at 2 p.m., and Judge Smeltzer said the hearing will “go until finished” and will not be continued to another day.
Judge Smeltzer also said he wanted to put it on the record that he does know the Styer family personally and that “we grew up on the prairie [Rusk Prairie] together.”
“We had lots of contact as young folks,” he said.
According to the criminal complaint, a caller had contacted the 911 Communications Center on January 15 and said he or she had received information from a client that Edward Styer may or may not be alive and requested a welfare check.
Dunn County deputies were dispatched to the Styer residence on state Highway 40 in the Town of Colfax at around 6 p.m. January 15.
The deputies discovered the main door of the residence was locked and secured and then received additional information from another investigator that Edward Styer was in a bedroom on the first floor of the residence and deceased, according to the criminal complaint.
The investigator had gone to Eau Claire and was speaking with Gary Styer at the Eau Claire public library.
A provisional autopsy report indicated Edward Styer had sustained multiple blunt force injuries, including facial fractures, skull fractures, cerebral contusions, vertebra fractures and soft tissue hemorrhage, according to the criminal complaint.
“The cause of death was determined to be due to multiple blunt force head injuries and the manner of death was indicated as homicide,” the complaint states.
At the time of the hearing on July 24, Styer remained in custody on a $250,000 cash bail set on January 20.