Related topics

Trial Ordered for Youth in Deaths of Five Family Members

May 20, 1992 GMT

BALSAM LAKE, Wis. (AP) _ A 16-year-old was ordered Tuesday to stand trial on five murder counts in the fatal shootings of five members of his family.

The judge ordered the trial for Bruce Brenizer after the youth’s stepbrother testified that he and Brenizer allegedly disposed of the bodies.

Jesse Anderson, Brenizer’s 17-year-old stepbrother, testified he gave Brenizer bullets for a rifle and told him he should kill his relatives outside so he wouldn’t make a mess inside their trailer home.

Brenizer said, ‴Hi, Dad,‴ before shooting his father, Anderson testified at a preliminary hearing.

Anderson said he helped Brenizer use a wheelbarrow to load the bodies into the car. He said they drove into the woods, doused the car with gasoline and ignited it.

The next day the boys talked at school about what happened, Anderson said.

″I told him I couldn’t sleep last night. He said he slept like a baby because the house was quiet,″ Anderson said, testifying with immunity from prosecution.

In ordering the trial, Polk County Circuit Judge Robert Rasmussen ruled sufficient evidence was presented during the two-day hearing.

Brenizer was arrested May 18, 1991, in the deaths of his father, Rick, 35; the father’s live-in girlfriend, Ruth Berentson, 31; their daughter Crystal, 5; and Ms. Berentson’s daughters, Heidi, 10, and Mindy, 7. He is charged as an adult with five counts of first-degree intentional homicide. Each charge carries a mandatory life prison term.

Brenizer is to be arraigned June 1.

″At this point, we deny every aspect of the state’s case,″ public defender Alex Andrea said after the judge’s ruling.

In previous court documents, Andrea contended that Brenizer had been the victim of emotional and physical child abuse. He said Brenizer was raised in a home with no electricity, no plumbing, no running water and had been threatened and manipulated by his father and Ms. Berentson.

Authorities said the victims were slain April 22, 1991, and the bodies were placed in the family station wagon, driven to a remote area a few miles away and burned beyond recognition. The remains were found May 11, 1991, by a fisherman.

Anderson said Brenizer confessed to him within hours of the killings.

″He said that he did it. He shot them all,″ Anderson told a hushed courtroom.

Anderson said Brenizer told him he shot the girls at point-blank range. Anderson testified the head of one of the girls had virtually been blown off with a rifle.

Brenizer’s mother, Alice, is now married to Anderson’s father, Ron.

Anderson said he and Brenizer had talked the night before the slayings about Brenizer’s plot to kill his family.

″Bruce stated that he didn’t like living with his father,″ he said.