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Jurors: Jacob Cayer didn’t know right from wrong in two murders

A Brown County judge committed Cayer to life in institutional care
Published: Aug. 13, 2020 at 10:25 AM CDT|Updated: Aug. 13, 2020 at 9:46 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Jurors convicted Jacob Cayer of two murders and an attempted murder, but Thursday they decided he should go to a mental health facility, not prison. A Brown County judge committed him there for life.

In the second phase of the trial to determine Cayer’s mental state, jurors listened to a psychiatrist hired by the prosecution who evaluated Cayer and testified Cayer was “quite psychotic” at the time of the interview.

After three hours of deliberation Thursday evening, the jury found Cayer not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect, Wisconsin’s version of an insanity plea. In the judge’s words, Cayer “was found guilty, but not responsible,” by the jury.

Brown County Judge Tammy Jo Hock said she’s committing Cayer for a life term in institutional care, explaining a “conditional release would pose harm to others.”

Cayer will be placed in the custody of the state Department of Health Services, which will decide on an appropriate facility for him.

Cayer refused to be in court for Thursday’s proceedings.

The judge discussed the verdict with Cayer over the phone from jail.

Wednesday night, it took about an hour for jurors to reach a unanimous verdict and convict Cayer of killing ex-girlfriend Sabrina Teague, 25, and her mother Heesun “Sunny” Teague. Cayer was also convicted of trying to kill Sabrina’s boyfriend, Joel Kennedy. Jurors found Cayer guilty of two counts of 1st Degree Intentional Homicide, Attempted Homicide, Burglary and Bail Jumping.

Board-certified psychiatrist Dr. Kenneth Robbins testified in the second phase of the murder trial to determine if Cayer was responsible for his actions or if he lacked the mental capacity to understand what he was doing was wrong.

The psychiatrist testified that he reviewed evaluations, medical history, police reports and videos from the night of Cayer’s arrest, and conducted an interview with the defendant earlier this year.

Robbins said it was his opinion that there were moments that Cayer understood what he’d done and he often expressed remorse, but Robbins also said Cayer was “all over the place” and it was hard to make sense of him during the interviews.

Robbins pointed out Cayer didn’t bring gloves to the murders or make other efforts to avoid being caught, and he didn’t have an exit plan except fleeing into the nearby woods.

He testified that he believes Cayer is not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. Robbins says he believes Cayer could not tell the difference between right and wrong.

In closing arguments, District Attorney David Lasee told jurors Cayer knew what he was doing: He didn’t choose a random house, he chose to lie in wait for each of his victims and chose to hide from police. “Not everyone with a mental illness doesn’t have the ability to understand right from wrong,” he argued.

Defense attorney Andrew Cotton said the State was being “disingenuous” hiring Robbins to conduct the evaluation but not accepting the psychiatrist’s conclusions.

Robbins testified he believes Cayer suffers from schizophrenia or schizo-effective disorders -- both considered psychotic disorders.

Three days of testimony described a bloody and violent crime scene during the June 7, 2016, attack in Hobart.

The case was delayed numerous times over the years as Cayer was in-and-out of competency. At one point, he pleaded not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. Under Wisconsin law, that requires a two-phase trial in which a jury must consider Cayer’s mental state and his ability to “appreciate the wrongfulness of the conduct.”

Cayer testified Wednesday that he did not kill the Teagues, but he had no memory of what happened that night at their home. The jury disagreed and found him guilty.

During phase two, the burden of proof is on the defense to convince jurors that Cayer is not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect.

Defense Attorney Anthony Cotton told jurors Thursday that Cayer is mentally ill and a “very sick individual.”

District Attorney David Lasee told the jury it is up to them to decide Cayer’s fate.

Cayer elected to not take part in the second phase of the trial and will not appear in court.

Psychiatrist Dr. Ken Robbins took the stand. He was hired by the district attorney’s office to perform an evaluation in the case. Robbins viewed police reports, videos and audio and interviewed Cayer.

Cayer denied he was mentally ill to Robbins. At the time Robbins spoke with Cayer, he was taking an anti-psychotic medication administered by a mental health facility.

A competency exam prior to the Robbins evaluation ruled that Cayer was not competent to stand trial.

Robbins testified that he does not believe Cayer is “faking” his condition.

Robbins says there’s no evidence that Cayer was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the murders. Cayer was given ketamine by hospital staff when he was taken into custody. Robbins says ketamine can cause decreases in memory.

Robbins testified that Cayer has “delusions” about the crime scene and claimed someone took him to the scene, covered him in blood, and framed him for the crime.

Robbins testified that he believes Cayer is on a “schizophrenia spectrum.” The doctor stated that video and audio of Cayer during the post-crime interview shows that it is clear Cayer is “disorganized, very psychotic.”

Witness testimony states Cayer broke into the Teague home through a window and killed Sunny with a tire iron. Survivor Joel Kennedy testified that he and his girlfriend, Sabrina, arrived at the home that to check on Sunny and Cayer was lying in wait for them.

Prosecutors say Cayer then stabbed and killed Sabrina and stabbed Kennedy. Kennedy ran inside the home and called 911. He survived.

Medical Examiner Dr. Vincent Tranchida testified that Sabrina suffered at least seven stab wounds to the head, chest, lung, and heart. He said Heesun Teague’s autopsy showed multiple injuries, including dozens of bruises, scratches, stabbing and strangulation.

“Heesun Teague had injuries consistent to compression of neck, both ligature, hands and using a cord,” said Dr. Tranchida. “This was the ligature or rope that was recovered from Heesun Teague’s neck.”

Tranchida examined a tire iron found at the crime scene, and said “I believe during the assault of Heesun Teague, the yellow rope and the tire iron were used.”

“Homicidal violence, including stab wounds of torso, blunt force trauma and compression of the neck,” said Dr. Tranchida.

On the day of the attack, Cayer testified to having dinner with his family. He said his mother was crying and he doesn’t like to see her cry. He grabbed a backpack and some items and went out. Cayer said he intended to visit a friend at a bar. He said he had been sleep-deprived and had not been eating.

Cayer testified he had “no real memory” of how he got into the Teague home that night. Cayer said he had filled his backpack with items “for protection” because he believed people were after him. He said he had packed a “giant knife” and zip ties so he “could detain people after him.”

The defense asked him what happened at the Teague home that night.

“I know jack crap,” Cayer said. “I have no memory.”

Cayer then admitted that he remembered “struggling with someone in the Teague residence. He sees Sabrina in foliage. (Sabrina was found dead outside.) He also says he has a “vision of a knife going out.”

Cayer recalled being in the hospital and covered with blood. He said he was confused and did not know what happened.

Cayer testified that there would be no reason for him to attack someone who isn’t in his life. This appears to contradict testimony from Brown County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Zachary Holschbach. Holschbach interviewed Cayer for 10 hours. Holschbach said Cayer discussed how he was angry that Sabrina Teague was “blackmailing his family.” He claimed Sabrina had accused him of rape. Cayer said he was angry about that because it upset his mother.

Cayer denied killing Sabrina and Sunny and said it was possible that Joel Kennedy’s injury was “self-inflicted.”

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