A 26-year-old New Prague man has pleaded guilty to fatally shooting his dad in 2013 and then dumping his body, with the help of his mom, in a Wisconsin woods.
Austin Herbst pleaded guilty in Scott County District Court to aiding and abetting second-degree intentional murder in the death of his father, 63-year-old Gary Herbst, court documents show.
Austin Herbst admitted last year to killing his father, saying his father was abusive and that pushed him to do it, the Star Tribune reports. His mother, Connie Herbst, learned of Gary Herbst's death after it happened.
Gary Herbst went missing in 2013 and his remains were discovered in rural Barron County, Wisconsin, in December 2017, after a dog brought home and was found chewing on a human skull.
His remains were identified in June 2020 with the help of the Wisconsin Department of Justice and the DNA Doe Project. At the time, the Barron County Sheriff's Office said the skull had a bullet hole in it, and they were investigating it as a homicide.
Austin and Connie Herbst were eventually charged in November 2020 with one count each of aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
The Scott County Attorney's Office said in January the Herbsts didn't report Gary Herbst missing for several months, adding "evidence of human decomposition and bloodstains on the wall and floor in the basement" of their Elko New Market home, where they lived.
The criminal complaint said Connie Herbst, now 62 and living in New Prague, told police in July 2014 her husband came home, packed a bag, took $5,000 in cash and left without his cellphone on July 6, 2013. She made the missing persons report at the suggestion of Gary Herbst's brother who was trying to contact him.
She and Austin Herbst said they hadn't seen him since, both telling police Gary Herbst was verbally and physically abusive, charges state.
This past June, police confronted Connie Herbst about a title for Gary's 2003 Chevy Impala, which had been sold in Wisconsin in 2017 – four years after he went missing – with Gary's signature on the new title. She claimed Gary routinely pre-signed his vehicle titles, also pre-dating them, the complaint says.
During the investigation, officers interviewed their neighbors in Elko New Market, who described Gary Herbst as a difficult neighbor. One person recalled the date of Aug. 30, 2013, when the Herbsts held a garage sale and were selling tools and men's clothing. The interviewee then recalled that sometime before the garage sale they saw a black truck backed up to the sliding glass door on the grass at the Herbst home, something they had never seen before.
The witness then told investigators that Connie and Austin were "loading something in the back of the pickup, possibly rolled up carpeting," the charging document says. They then left with a boat hooked the back of the truck and were gone 1-3 days. After that, the interviewee never saw Gary again.
Another neighbor told a similar story, adding that they saw Austin and Connie scrubbing the basement floor.
A few months later, the Herbst sold their Elko New Market home. And the new owners in June 2020 allowed investigators to search their home, noting in 2019 when they remodeled the basement they "discovered a stain on the concrete floor that seemed unusual." It was found to be from human blood, and a cadaver dog indicated the presence of human decomposition in the basement.
Meanwhile, Gary's coworker told police he stopped showing up for work after July 8, 2013.
Austin Herbst's sentencing hearing is scheduled for June 4. Connie Herbst is due back in court on April 27. They're both still in custody at the Scott County Jail.