FOND DU LAC — The district attorney in Fond du Lac County says he’ll consult with the family of a 1990 homicide victim, sheriff’s investigators and other prosecutors before deciding how to proceed after a mistrial was declared in the case.
Eric Toney would only say that he’s keeping the options open when asked about retrying Dennis Brantner in the death of 18-year-old Berit Beck.
Judge Gary Sharpe discharged the jury Wednesday, June 29th after it was unable to reach a verdict.
The jury said it was deadlocked Tuesday, but resumed deliberations Wednesday before indicating again it was at an impasse.
The family of Berit Beck was emotional. Their pastor read a statement, thanking the jurors and everyone who worked on this case.
“Those who continue to pray for and support us through this difficult time. We ask for privacy for the family as they gather their thoughts and seek the Lord as they move forward with the next step,” Dan Miller said.
Brantner was charged with first-degree murder in the death of Berit Beck. It took more than two decades to arrest and charge a suspect in this case.
Jurors reconvened Tuesday morning after deliberating Monday afternoon.
After at least eight-and-a-half hours of deliberation, the jury indicated Tuesday afternoon it may not be able to reach a verdict — asking the judge for instructions regarding this impasse.
The prosecutor argued that the jury didn’t indicate it was impossible to reach a decision — and that the jury should continue deliberating until a deadlock persists.
“I am reluctant to do nothing at this point and not give them a last opportunity or another opportunity to reach some resolution,” Judge Gary Sharpe said.
Around 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, FOX6 News learned the jury would be headed home for the day, and there would be no verdict Tuesday.
The judge on Tuesday re-read his instructions to the jury, and the jurors agreed to resume deliberations Wednesday.
On Wednesday, the jury asked the judge if they could consider reckless homicide — before deadlocking.
Back on July 17, 1990, Berit Beck made a stop at a store on her way from Sturtevant to Appleton for work. She was never seen alive again.
Beck’s van was found in a Fond du Lac parking lot two days later. Approximately five-and-a-half weeks later, her body was found in rural Fond du Lac County. Autopsy reports concluded that strangulation was likely the cause of death.
Two years ago, testing found Dennis Brantner’s fingerprint DNA on Beck’s vehicle.
According to a criminal complaint, Branter’s fingerprints were on a number of items officials found in Beck’s van — including a Burger King cup and a bleach kit. Officials say Beck bought the kit at Walgreens the day she disappeared. A total of nine of the Racine truck driver’s fingerprints were found either in the van or on items in the van.
In 2014, Brantner was questioned and eventually broke down into tears.
The defense says there is other DNA evidence in the van not linked to Brantner.
“I don’t know. I don’t know what to say. My problem is I don’t remember if I did it. If I did it, I did it. If I did it, I don’t know,” Brantner said.
“These are just items in the van. They don’t say anything to you about whether Mr. Brantner intentionally killed Ms. Beck. Nothing,” the defense said.
“Follow the evidence. Follow that evidence and what I’m asking you to do is to find Dennis Brantner guilty of first degree intentional homicide,” the prosecution said.
The prosecution argued Brantner was familiar with the area where Beck was killed, and where her body was dumped — that he lived not far away.
Despite no verdict in this case — Brantner remains in custody on $1 million bond. He will be sentenced in two weeks on drug charges after he was accused of smuggling drugs into jail last year — allegedly because he wanted to commit suicide.