Prosecution performs video of police interviews

APPLETON – The prosecution wrapped up its arguments in the trial of Matthew Beyer Friday in Outagamie County Circuit Court, after six full days of testimony from witnesses, with extensive video footage of police interviews with Beyer.

Beyer, 38, is charged with the murders of his children, William and Danielle. Around 7 am on Feb. 17, 2020, 5-year-old William, who went by Will, and 3-year-old Danielle, who went by Dani, were found dead in their shared bedroom at 1201½ Crooks Ave. in Kaukauna. They lived there with their mother, Melissa Schuth, and stepfather, Tyler Schuth.

In court Friday, the 15-person jury watched close to 30 video clips from police interviews with Beyer, in which he withheld information and repeatedly changed his story about his whereabouts the night of and nights leading up to Will’s and Dani’s deaths.

The video evidence presented Friday was accompanied by testimony from Special Agent Jay Yerges from the Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation and Lieutenant Thomas Bartolazzi from the Kaukauna Police Department.

Yerges had the longest testimony in the trial to date, around six hours. He primarily discussed the first interview he conducted with Beyer on Feb. 27, 2020, and Beyer’s final interview before he was arrested, on the night of June 4 into the morning of June 5, 2020. In both interviews, Yerges was joined by Detective Kory Krueger from the Kaukauna Police Department, who tested Thursday.

In the Feb. 27 interview, Beyer told Yerges and Krueger about his co-parenting situation with Melissa Schuth. Beyer said he and Melissa’s relationship was tumultuous. He questioned the paternity of Will and Dani, and expressed frustration about paying child support if he wasn’t the father.

Beyer stopped communicating with Melissa and didn’t see Will and Dani for almost all of 2019. Beyer told investigators that year was “great,” Yerges said. Beyer didn’t speak to Melissa, and he moved into his Manitowoc apartment with his wife, Erika, with whom he welcomed a child that year.

Then, at the end of 2019, Melissa Schuth served Beyer’s paperwork to return to court. She wanted full custody, with Beyer allowed to visit upon request.

Although Beyer’s child support of $132 per week wasn’t going to change if Melissa received full custody, Yerges said the idea of ​​Melissa having full control of the children was “extremely upsetting to him.”

“She’s not getting full placement, full custody. I’ll be dead before that happens,” Beyer said of his feelings about the situation in the Feb. 27 police interview.

At a family court hearing Dec. 9, 2019, a judge ruled that Beyer would take Will and Dani for six hours every other Saturday afternoon. Beyer told Yerges and Krueger that was Beyer’s own idea. But in the more than two months that passed between the Dec. 9 hearing and a follow-up hearing Feb. 17, which would determine if Melissa would be granted full custody, Beyer only met to pick up the children twice; he offered excuses for cancellations on the other Saturdays. The last Saturday Beyer canceled was Feb. 15, two days before the children were killed.

The length of homicide investigations may vary greatly based on many factors, Yerges said. This case was in some ways slowed by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said, as limited staffing made things like testing take longer.

So it wasn’t until the night of June 4, 2020, that investigators brought Beyer into an interview to confront him about evidence that disputed his claims that he never left his Manitowoc apartment Feb. 14, 16 and 17.

Investigators started talking to Beyer around 6 pm He was arrested at 4:14 am June 5. Over long hours of questioning, investigators including Yerges, Krueger and Bartolazzi ultimately learned that Beyer had broken into the Schuth’s apartment and went into the Will’s and Dani’s bedroom night they died. The following are takeaways from that interview:

  • Beyer initially claimed he didn’t leave his home Feb. 15, 16 and 17. Investigators had evidence showing otherwise, including surveillance footage and cell phone tower records that placed Beyer’s vehicle and cell phone traveling from Manitowoc to Kaukauna and back in the early hours of each morning. Yerges and Krueger revealed this information to Beyer, which he initially continued to deny.
  • After continuous prodding and questioning, Beyer told investigators it’s possible he may have been sleepwalking on each of the nights. Then, he suggested that his brother tried to “set him up.” Finally, he admitted that he did drive to Kaukauna on the three nights, and told investigators it was due to a premonition that something bad was going to happen to Will and Dani.
  • Beyer eventually told investigators that he broke into the Schuths’ apartment in the early morning hours of Feb. 17 by forcing the door open with a blue library card. He told investigators he threw the library card away after he returned home in Manitowoc.
  • Beyer at first said when in the house, he only “leaned in” to the children’s bedroom to make sure they were sleeping soundly. But under more questioning, he said he may have taken a few steps into the bedroom, and possibly touched Dani’s blanket.
  • Investigators had Beyer describe and draw a diagram of the Schuths’ apartment, and he knew specific details that only someone who was present that night would know — including that the light above the stove was on and that Melissa and Tyler had fallen asleep to a podcast playing on a phone.
  • Beyer’s phone had its geolocation services turned off between the night of Feb. 13, 2020 and the morning of Feb. 18, 2020. Beyer initially denied knowing anything about that, then said he turned it back on so law enforcement could track him — but didn’t offer an explanation as to it was turned off in the first place.
  • Beyer told investigators he wore a dark-colored sweatshirt all three nights he drove to Kaukauna. On the last night, the early morning hours of Feb. 17, he said he ripped the sweatshirt and, out of frustration, threw the sweatshirt out the window near a bridge. After that interview, investigators searched extensively, but weren’t able to find the sweatshirt or any other evidence.
  • On Feb. 17, Beyer had a scratch on his arm that stopped abruptly where a pair of gloves might have been. Investigators found that a pair of gloves were missing from Beyer’s work locker.
  • Beyer told the police he could never kill the children, but that he could kill Melissa with “no problem.”
  • Upon learning that he was under arrest June 5, Beyer showed no sign of shock and continued eating a breakfast sandwich investigators had provided to him. Yerges said he thought that reaction was “unordinary” and would expect a stronger response from someone who believed they were being wrongfully arrested for a crime they didn’t commit.

During Bartolazzi’s testimony, Outagamie County District Attorney Melinda Tempelis played portions of recorded phone calls Beyer made in September 2020 and mentioned letters in which Beyer talked to Erika Beyer about missing evidence and facts of the investigation.

Beyer’s defense team will present its witnesses Monday, and anticipate taking no longer than one day. Judge Mark McGinnis said closing arguments and jury deliberation will likely happen Tuesday.

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Contact Kelli Arseneau at 920-213-3721 or k[email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @ArseneauKelli.

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