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Mother accused of helping son dump her husband's body in Wisconsin pleads guilty

The investigation began years later, when the man's remains were discovered.
Connie and Austin Herbst.

Connie and Austin Herbst.

A Minnesota mother accused of helping hide the body of her husband after he'd been killed by her son has pleaded guilty to one of the charges against her.

Connie L. Herbst, 63, was charged in November of 2020 with aiding and abetting second-degree murder, with a second charge (aiding an offender, accomplice after the fact) added in July via an amended criminal complaint. 

Prosecutors also charged her adult son, Austin Herbst, alleging he fatally shot his father in June of 2013 then, with the help of his mother, took the man's body to Wisconsin and dumped it in the woods.

The criminal investigation didn't begin until four years later, when a dog in Barron County, Wisconsin, was found chewing on a human skull that had a bullet hole in it. That led authorities to identify the remains of Gary Herbst, whom his wife and son had reported missing in 2013. 

Austin Herbst pleaded guilty in March of 2021. Now, his mother has followed suit.

Connie Herbst agreed to plead guilty to count two, aiding an offender, according to Scott County court documents filed Oct. 4. The other charge against her, aiding and abetting, would then be dismissed. 

Sentencing is set for Jan. 24, 2022.

Here are some of the details from the criminal complaints filed against Connie and Austin Herbst:

Connie Herbst 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.

In June of 2020, 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 Herbsts 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.

In June and July of 2021, Connie Herbst texted her son multiple times about media coverage of the case, writing to him on July 18: "“Might have a problem, they are searching 347. Don’t mean to f*** up your vacation just wanted u to know. It’s in the paper.”

Austin Herbst, after being arrested on Nov. 19, 2020, admitted to police he'd shot his father in the head while he slept, after hearing he and his mother arguing. He then called his mom, told her to come home, and the two of them attempted to clean the place up before driving Gary Herbst's body to a "field entrance" in Wisconsin the following morning, and burying him in a shallow grave.

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