MANITOWOC COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - Three people charged in the death of a 7-year-old boy who was severely beaten and buried in the snow appeared before a Manitowoc County judge Monday.
The Hauschultzes were arrested after a months-long investigation into the April 20 death of Ethan Hauschultz.
Timothy Hauschultz, Tina McKeever-Hauschultz and 15-year-old Damian Hauschultz appeared in court for bail hearings.
A judge set Timothy Hauschultz's bond at $100,000. The state had asked for $125,000. Damian's bond is set at $150,000.
Tina's bond is set at $75,000. Tina's attorney said she was unaware of what was going on in her home and has been working with social workers since Ethan's death.
"The allegations in these criminal complaints is troubling, to say the least," Judge Jerilyn Dietz said.
On April 20, sheriff's investigators say over the course of an hour or an hour-and-a-half, Ethan was hit, kicked, poked, repeatedly shoved to the ground, and a heavy log was rolled across his chest by Damian Hauschultz, who was 14 at the time. The older boy "stood on (Ethan's) body and head while Ethan was face-down in a puddle. He ultimately buried Ethan completely in snow."
Timothy and Tina, Ethan's court-appointed guardians, took the boy to a hospital where he died after life-saving efforts by medical staff.
According to the sheriff's office, the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office determined Ethan died from hypothermia and blunt force injuries to his head, chest and abdomen.
The sheriff's office says Timothy Hauschultz ordered Ethan to carry the wooden log, which weighed about two-thirds of his own body weight -- making it about 40 pounds -- as a punishment. The teenage boy was supervising Ethan.
According to criminal complaints obtained by Action 2 News, Ethan and his siblings were put in the Hauschultzes' care in 2017. The siblings told investigators Timothy Hauschultz frequently punishes them by making them walk laps around the yard carrying heavy logs, which he picks out. The children are allowed to put down the log and take a 5-second rest after each lap. The siblings said that week they were required to carry wood every day for two hours a day for not knowing their Bible verses.
The 15-year-old boy told investigators he was frustrated because the younger boys were dropping the wood every 5 minutes. When Ethan became unresponsive, he thought the boy was just resisting, so he buried him under what he estimated was 80 pounds of packed snow and ice. Deputies say Ethan weighed 60 pounds.
Investigators asked Damian how much snow was covering Ethan. Damian replied by saying Ethan "was in his own little coffin of snow." He then laughed, according to a criminal complaint.
Investigators described Damian Hauschultz as emotional during an interview when he said his home had become "boring" and "prison-like" after Ethan and his brother came to live with them, and he was always angry after they took all the fun out of his life.
Ethan's parents released this statement to Action 2 News: "We are glad that justice is finally starting for our son, and kids. We are happy that there was a cash bail for each defendant. #Justice4Ethan"
Damian Hauschultz is charged with first-degree reckless homicide, physical abuse of a child intentionally causing bodily harm, and substantial battery.
Timothy Hauschultz is charged with party to the crimes of felony murder, intent to contribute to the delinquency of a child resulting in death, physical abuse of a child intentionally causing bodily harm, and misdemeanor battery.
McKeever-Hauschultz is charged with being party to the crimes of contributing to the delinquency of a child resulting in death and failing to act to prevent bodily harm to a child.
Timothy Hauschultz's attorney said her client had no idea the punishment would turn out so tragic.
"Never in Mr. Hauschult'z wild imagination would what happened ever happen. His son was 14 years old, certainly old enough to leave with younger children. There was nothing happening in the home that morning. Everything was normal. No idea that it would rise to the level that it did," attorney Donna Kuchler said.
The judge said based on the criminal complaint, Timothy Hauschultz shares responsibility.
"I do note that the criminal complaint does make allegations that Mr. Hauschultz was the one who determined the punishment to this 7-year-old child who subsequently died, and he put the co-defendant, Damian, in charge of carrying out the punishment," Dietz said.
All three suspects are scheduled to return to court on Feb. 11.