Wisconsin News

Prayer service scheduled for triple homicide victims

Family releases statement through pastor

DARLINGTON, Wis. - The church attended by three slain family members in Lafayette County is planning a prayer vigil in the wake of their deaths.

Wiota Lutheran Church Pastor Luke Smetters says a service will be held Wednesday at 7 p.m. Smetters said Tuesday that it's important for the community of faith to come together in "times like this."

Smetters says Gary, Chloe and Dean Thoreson were active members of the church. Their bodies were found Sunday in a home on Philippine Road in rural South Wayne. A Waukesha man has been detained and remains jailed in Lafayette County in connection with the homicides.

Smetters says the family of the victims is "shocked, devastated and raw as they are filled with utter sadness."

In a statement, Smetter said: "It is hard for the family to find words to express everything that is going through their minds ... they are shocked, devastated and raw as they are filled with utter sadness."

The family also thanked the community for their support during this time of tragedy.

"These victims are such stellar, highly respected people, great business people, been very successful in the community in their farming, and they're just very nice," Sheriff Scott Pedley said of the Thoresons.

Dale Schleim, a neighbor to the couple, described them as excellent businesspeople known for selling hogs.

"There is nobody in the world who is better than these people," Schleim said. "This kind of got to me. They're a close-knit family, like ours is."

Gene Christensen, another neighbor to the victims, expressed his shock at losing his friends.

"You just can't fathom what has happened, and we can't find words to explain how sad we are for their loss," he said. "What can you say to the family? It's just a sad situation."

Christensen added the incident has instilled fear.

"It's just scary, that something like that can happen in your area. I shouldn't even say it, but we don't lock our door, and now you're ready to lock your door," he said.

Neighbor Lisa Aeberhard echoed Christensen's thoughts.

"You live out here, and most people wouldn't think you'd have to lock your doors way out here, so it's pretty scary," she said.

Smetters said Gary Thoreson served on the school board and was an avid woodworker, and Dean Thoreson served his community on the Lafayette County Board.

"This community knows how to band together," Smetters said. "They've done that in the past. They're a community of faith. The community at large in Wiota and in all of Lafayette County will band together once again."

Waukesha police detained Jaren Kuester, 31, of Waukesha, in Waukesha in connection with the investigation. He was taken to Lafayette County.

Pedley said the victims and the person of interest didn't know each other. He declined to speculate on theories of motive for the crime.

"These communities are filled with very good and decent people, and when these tragedies strike, it becomes our job to move beyond the emotion and do it by the numbers and hold those people accountable for those criminal behaviors that we found in this particular case," Pedley said.

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