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Evaluation ordered for Kuester
Jaren M. Kuester faces three first-degree intentional homicide charges for the deaths of Gary Thoreson, Chloe Thoreson and Dean Thoreson. (Times file photo)
DARLINGTON - A competency evaluation is ordered for Jaren M. Kuester, the 31-year-old Waukesha man charged with murdering three rural South Wayne residents in late April.

Kuester may require an inpatient evaluation, as requested by his defense attorney, Assistant State Public Defender Guy Taylor, at a hearing in Lafayette County Circuit Court on Monday, June 10.

The Dane County judge assigned to the case said he can't make the call on whether Kuester's evaluation will be inpatient or outpatient.

"We are not health professionals," said Judge C. William Foust. He is deferring the decision on how to conduct the competency evaluation to the Department of Health and Human Services.

"I think the department holds the trump cards," he said. Foust held the hearing via video conference from Dane County, with a TV monitor set up in the Lafayette County courtroom.

Taylor is pushing for Kuester to be committed to a mental health institution during the evaluation because he said doctors will need adequate time to observe "in a clinical setting" how Kuester responds to medications.

Kuester faces three first-degree intentional homicide charges for the deaths of Gary Thoreson, 70, his wife Chloe Thoreson, 66, and his brother Dean Thoreson, 76. According to the criminal complain, Kuester bludgeoned them with a fireplace poker as they entered a home in Wiota Township that he'd broken into the night before. The killings were apparently at random.

Kuester's parents told the Wisconsin State Journal last month their son has a history of delusions, paranoia and violence and has received disability payments and been hospitalized for his mental illness.

Kuester surprised the court last week by trying to plead guilty before Taylor intervened and convinced him to stand mute, an effective not-guilty plea. Taylor has said he's exploring an insanity plea for Kuester.

As at past hearings, Kuester sat shackled in orange jail scrubs and a bulletproof vest. His demeanor has changed since his first few appearances in court in May. He's sitting up straighter and not hanging his head, though his heavy furrowed brow remains.

A faint smile even passed across his face during a lighter moment in the courtroom, as the attorneys and court staff chuckled over the scheduling challenges of setting his next hearing.

They finally found a suitable date. The competency hearing is set for 1:30 p.m. Monday, July 1.

A motion for a change of venue, filed by another of Kuester's public defenders, Jason Daane, is being put on hold until after Kuester's competency is determined.

Daane filed last week to move the case out of Lafayette County and the Madison media market, citing "intense, inflammatory and unremitting" media coverage that would taint the jury pool.

He also cited in his reasoning the "pervasive fear" in Lafayette County that "such an incident could happen again."

Since the Thoreson murders, "area residents have been leaving lights on in their homes and locking their doors in situations that they would not have in the past," Daane wrote in his brief.

Rumor and speculation is "rampant" in the community, he added, and some residents "have made it know that because of this incident they would begin to carry firearms on their person."