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Teen Gets Life Sentence for Slaying Five Family Members

June 9, 1993 GMT

BALSAM LAKE, Wis. (AP) _ A 17-year-old boy who killed five family members and burned their remains in a station wagon was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison.

Bruce Brenizer was charged as an adult with killing his father, his father’s live-in girlfriend, her two children and his half-sister in April 1991 at their ramshackle trailer in woods 50 miles northeast of Minneapolis.

He will be sent to a mental institution before prison because he was ruled insane in the children’s deaths. He pleaded guilty to two counts of first- degree intentional homicide.


Brenizer made no comment during the hearing, and his eyes were cast downward except when the judge pronounced sentence.

Circuit Judge James Erickson ruled that the life terms should be served consecutively, meaning Brenizer would not be eligible for parole for nearly 27 years.

Brenizer used a deer rifle to kill Rick Brenizer, 35; Ruth Berentson, 31; her children, Heidi, 10, and Mindy, 7; and her child with Rick Brenizer, Crystal, 5. Their charred bodies were found in the family station wagon, which was set afire in a wooded area.

Psychiatrists testified Brenizer thought he was helping the girls by killing them after their mother was dead. They said Brenizer suffers post- traumatic stress disorder because of an abusive and manipulative father who taunted him about being fat and looking like a girl.