APPLETON - The trial of a 38-year-old Manitowoc man charged with killing his two young children in Kaukauna in 2020 begins Thursday.
Matthew Beyer is charged with two counts of first-degree intentional homicide. His trial is scheduled to last 12 days, until Dec. 16, but may end sooner than that. Prosecutors anticipate to finish arguments around Dec. 8 or 9, and then the defense will present its evidence, Outagamie County District Attorney Melinda Tempelis said at a pre-trial conference Monday.
Around 7 a.m. Feb. 17, 2020, police found 5-year-old William Beyer and 3-year-old Danielle Beyer dead in the upper floor of a duplex at 1201½ Crooks Ave. Their mother, Melissa Schuth, had called 911 and reported that the children weren't breathing.
An autopsy by the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office found William had eight "sharp force injuries" to the neck and head and Danielle had five "sharp force injuries" to the neck.
Investigators found no signs of a forced entry. Schuth said she and her husband, who isn't the children's biological father, were the only people home with the children that night.
Beyer wasn't arrested until June 2020, after he told police that he entered the house in the night hours before the children were found murdered. Beyer told police he used a library card to get in the door to the house.
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Beyer had initially told investigators he was at his own house the entire night, and that he had only driven through Kaukauna a few times in recent years, according to the criminal complaint against him. However, he eventually admitted to police that he had been in Kaukauna multiple times the days before and on Feb. 17.
Investigators obtained footage from a security camera at a residence on North 10th Street in Manitowoc that showed a silver minivan leave Beyer's residence around 1 a.m. Feb. 17 and travel west in the direction of Kaukauna. A vehicle with the same description was later seen on video traveling away from Kaukauna at 3:10 a.m. The minivan returned to Beyer's residence and drove into the driveway without its headlights on at 4 a.m., according to the complaint.
"The minivan avoided all major intersections and main roads in Kaukauna and did not take the most direct route out of Kaukauna," the complaint says.
Schuth and Beyer had a "very strained" relationship, according to the criminal complaint. A review hearing for a family court case between Schuth and Beyer was scheduled for Feb. 17, 2020, the day the children were found killed.
On June 7, 2020, two days after Beyer was arrested, Beyer and another inmate attempted to escape from the Outagamie County Jail. Earlier this year, Beyer pleaded no contest to charges of taking hostages and releasing without causing bodily harm and attempting to escape from jail. In October, he was sentenced to five years in prison, followed by five years of extended supervision, for the incident.
In August 2020, Beyer pleaded not guilty to the homicide charges. In September 2021, Beyer's attorney, Amanda Skorr, requested a competency evaluation for Beyer, saying she had "reason to doubt (Beyer's) competency to proceed to trial," due to his mental health, according to court records. The evaluation found that Beyer was competent to stand trial and, the following month, Outagamie County Judge Mark McGinnis ruled that the case could proceed.
In March 2022, Beyer was expected to enter a new plea, but chose not to at the plea hearing. When McGinnis asked what had changed in the week between the scheduling of the hearing and the hearing itself, Skorr said the defense didn't come to an agreement with the state.
Beyer's trial was scheduled for September, but in August was delayed to December. Both the defense and prosecution requested more time before trial, partly due to difficulties securing an expert to help explain the blood analysis tool STRmix, which Skorr said could potentially find proof that someone else's DNA was at the scene of the crime.
At trial, Beyer will argue that another man is responsible for William's and Danielle's deaths. According to a motion Skorr submitted in June, the man's motive may have been that he "recently professed his love for the victims' mother and she did not reciprocate his feelings."
If the jury finds Beyer guilty, he will face a mandatory life sentence.
This article originally appeared on Appleton Post-Crescent: Trial for Matthew Beyer, charged with killing 2 kids, begins Thursday