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Eagle Scout uses sex panic defense in murder case

Eagle Scout uses sex panic defense in murder case

An Eagle Scout accused of murdering a man to see if he could get away with it contends he went into an "unbelievable rage" after the two had sex and that he shouldn't be held mentally responsible for the killing. Gary Hirte, 19, of Weyauwega, Wis., already pleaded guilty to murder. The trial that began Monday in Winnebago County circuit court is to determine if Hirte was insane at the time he killed Glenn Kopitske, 37, in the victim's rural house just outside Weyauwega in summer of 2003. The trial is expected to last all week. After jury selection Monday, attorneys delivered opening statements and testimony began. Parents of both Hirte and Kopitske were among those who filled the courtroom. District Attorney William Lennon told jurors Hirte planned the murder and did it to see how it would feel and if he could get away with it. But defense lawyer Gerald Boyle described Hirte as someone tormented about his sexual orientation and confused about what was going on inside of him. "He was very lonely. He was very much into himself. He was not a happy young man despite the fact that people [who] accomplish what he did we would expect them to be," Boyle said. Boyle said Hirte had homosexual urges that intensified after he drank alcohol, as he did the night of the murder. He said Hirte had been drinking at home and went to a boat landing and sat on the hood of his car. Boyle said Kopitske approached and the two talked about football, among other things, before Kopitske invited Hirte to his house. The two drove in separate cars to Kopitske's house, laid on his bed, kissed and hugged, and had sexual contact before Hirte left. Boyle said Hirte performed oral sex at Kopitske's request, but Kopitske refused to reciprocate. Hirte left the house and fell asleep in his car, Boyle said, and when he awoke, he looked in his rearview mirror and saw a stain on his face from the sexual act. Hirte went to get a shotgun and knife, returned to the house, and killed Kopitske, Boyle said, describing Hirte as being in an "unbelievable rage" as he shot the victim and stabbed him. Boyle said Hirte later stopped "questioning his masculinity" when he began a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girlfriend during the five months between the murder and his arrest at Weyauwega-Fremont High School. Hirte, who would have graduated with salutatorian honors, also was a track, football, and wrestling star and had a scholarship for academics and football to St. Cloud University. Lennon told the jury that Hirte was an all-American boy who even managed to work at a Dairy Queen in his spare time. But he said Hirte began to wonder how he would feel if he murdered someone, if he could do it and get away with it. "Over time Gary Hirte's musings turned to action," Lennon said. He said Hirte and his best friend once drove by Kopitske's house, and Hirte remarked that it would be a good place to rob and kill somebody. On the night of the murder, Hirte went in the house, looked through Kopitske's wallet, and when a nude Kopitske woke up, Hirte ordered him to lay facedown on a filthy shag carpet, Lennon said. "As Glenn laid there, Gary Hirte thought of the consequences of what he was about to do, shrugged his shoulders, and pulled the trigger," Lennon said. Hirte didn't think he was dead, so he stabbed him, Lennon added. He said Hirte later showed off Kopitske's keys as a trophy. Jurors must decide whether they think Hirte suffered from a mental disease when he committed the murder and whether he knew what he was doing was wrong. If he is found innocent by reason of mental disease or defect, he will be sent to a mental institution, where he could petition every six months for release. If he's found sane, he faces life in prison for first-degree intentional homicide. Kopitske was a substitute teacher and actor who unsuccessfully ran for the Wisconsin state assembly in 2000. His older brother, Gregory, of Bloomington, Ill., was at the trial Monday with his parents. He said outside the courtroom that his brother was not gay and liked women. "I don't believe a word of it," he said of Boyle's presentation. "They seem to be blowing smoke, trying to grasp at any straws they can." (AP)

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