FOND DU LAC CO. -- It's been a cold case for years. Then, the man investigators and prosecutors thought killed a young woman was not convicted.
Now, after nearly three decades of investigations and legal procedures, the Berit Beck case has a killer who will face punishment. 64-year-old Dennis Brantner will be sentenced under the law and punishment that existed at the time of the murder. That said, he could be out of prison in a few years.
The 1990 murder of Beck has been keeping investigators pursuing leads for decades. During that time, the chance of finding more evidence faded and the statutes of limitations for crimes expired. Still, nine fingerprints found in Beck's van linked the crime to Brantner -- as did a statement from another inmate.
"He asked the defendant, Mr. Brantner, if he did it. And Mr. Brantner said something to the effect of, 'Yeah, I did it. But they can't retry me and they'll never be able to prove it because a fingerprint isn't enough,'" said Fond du Lac County District Attorney Eric Toney.
In 2016, the case against Brantner went to trial. Jurors could not reach a verdict -- and that resulted in a hung jury. The option was to try him again or make a deal.
Both sides agreed -- Brantner would not say he is guilty, but would accept a sentence for second degree reckless homicide. The deal, called the Alford plea, means Brantner agreed there is enough evidence for a conviction, but he maintains his innocence.
Beck's parents, Dave and Diane, issued the following statement in light of the Brantner plea on Friday:
"We want to thank everyone from the Fond du Lac DA's Office, Sheriffs Office, and the family and friends that have supported us for so many years. We support this outcome and look forward to addressing the court at the upcoming sentencing hearing. We appreciate our privacy being respected during this difficult time as we have no further comments until the sentencing hearing."
District Attorney Toney issued this statement:
"No family should be forced to endure what Berit Beck's family has gone through over the past 27 1/2 years. There is no amount of prison time or punishment that can bring Berit back or take away the anguish this family experiences. My heart goes out to the family and friends of Berit Beck."
Brantner will be sentenced on Mar. 1.
Officials say with time already spent in custody, Brantner would be released from prison when he is 75 years old if the maximum sentence is imposed and he is not granted early release from the parole commission.