APPLETON - Tyler Schuth, the stepfather of William and Danielle Beyer, was the first witness to take the stand Monday morning on the second day of the trial of Matthew Beyer, the children's biological father, who is charged with their 2020 murders.
Schuth testified about his relationship with 5-year-old William, who went by Will, and 3-year-old Danielle, who went by Dani, the events of the day before and the day of their deaths, his experiences with Beyer and the toll the children's deaths have taken on his mental health.
"It is difficult as a parent, feeling like you could have done something better or like you should have done something different," Schuth told the jury.
On the morning of Feb. 17, 2020, Tyler Schuth and his wife, Melissa Schuth, called 911 after finding Will and Dani dead in their bedroom, with wounds to their necks. Police were dispatched to their apartment, the upper level of a duplex, at 1201½ Crooks Ave in Kaukauna.
Beyer, 38, was arrested in June 2020 and charged with two counts of first-degree intentional homicide. His arrest came after he admitted to police that he broke into the Schuths' apartment and was inside Will's and Dani's apartment the night of their deaths. He had previously told investigators he had only driven through Kaukauna a few times in recent years but never stopped, according to court documents. Within days of his arrest, Beyer attempted to escape from the Outagamie County jail with another inmate. In October, Beyer was sentenced to five years in prison for the incident.
Tyler Schuth told the jury he has had "massive problems with anxiety" since Will's and Dani's deaths. He said his anxiety is exacerbated when he sees children around their age, and he repeatedly checks the lock on his doors every day out of fear that a similar tragedy may happen.
When prosecutors asked about Beyer's relationship with Will and Dani, Tyler Schuth had a similar answer as Melissa Schuth did during her testimony Friday - that despite previously being more active in co-parenting, Beyer began missing his scheduled times to pick up the kids and questioned if he was their biological father.
"At one point in time, the defendant was a good person, was a good father. I've seen interactions," Tyler Schuth said.
Beyer's attorneys, Amanda Skorr and Amber Gratz, are aiming to prove during the trial that another man could have committed the murders. Both the defense and the prosecution asked Tyler Schuth questions about that man, a family friend who Melissa Schuth described during her testimony Friday as "an uncle" to Will and Dani. Tyler Schuth said that, while he and Melissa had a "small falling-out" with the man after the children's deaths, he doesn't believe the man was responsible for Will's and Dani's murders.
"He loved those kids too much," Tyler Schuth said.
The Post-Crescent is not naming the man because he hasn't been charged with any crimes.
Other witnesses who testified Monday included Dr. Doug Kelley, the deputy chief medical examiner for the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office, who discussed details of the Beyer children's autopsies; Maria Rozek, a trauma counselor and victim advocate who talked about how traumatic events impact people; and law enforcement officers who discussed the process of investigating the crime scene.
Rozek is a private contractor who works with the Milwaukee Police Department and frequently testifies at trials about responses to trauma. She wasn't asked about specifics of this case, but answered general questions about how traumatic events affect people in areas like memory.
Specifically, Rozek said, experiencing trauma often makes it difficult for a person to recall the order things occurred during a particular event. This means people may not remember everything clearly right after a traumatic event - and it's partly why investigators in a major case like this conduct multiple interviews with the same people, she said.
People may also experience shame or guilt when thinking of a traumatic event, even if they didn't do anything wrong, Rozek said. During his testimony, Tyler Schuth told the jury he didn't want to talk about Will's and Dani's deaths until about a month ago because he was "ashamed and embarrassed" that he thought he didn't do enough to protect the children.
Kelley answered many technical questions about the process of conducting autopsies and how he came to certain conclusions. He said his autopsies found that Dani died of stab wounds to her neck, and Will died of stab wounds to his neck and head. Will had some "defensive injuries" on his hands, leading Kelley to conclude that he had tried to protect himself during the attack.
Kelley told the jury the children's injuries were similar, which likely meant the same weapon was used in the attacks.
The prosecution, led by Outagamie County District Attorney Melinda Tempelis and Assistant District Attorney Richard DuFour, will continue to present more witnesses throughout the week. The trial is scheduled to run through Dec. 16.
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This article originally appeared on Appleton Post-Crescent: Matthew Beyer trial brings testimony from stepfather, trauma expert