- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 25, 2004

WEYAUWEGA, Wis. (AP) — Gary Hirte, a high school scholar, star athlete and Eagle Scout whose name seemed to be in the local paper all the time, is accused of committing murder — not for money, or revenge, but simply to see whether he could get away with it.

The Weyauwega-Fremont High School senior was charged last month in an arrest that was met with shock and disbelief in this small town of 1,800, where Mr. Hirte has long been the golden boy. He was accused of killing 37-year-old Glenn Kopitske.

“It was like a challenge for him,” sheriff’s Capt. Steve Verwiel said. “I would attribute it to arrogance.”

Mr. Hirte, 18, told friends about the crime, but none of them took him seriously, authorities said. Finally, five months after the slaying, a girl he once dated went to police because she feared that he would commit suicide out of remorse.

Mr. Hirte apparently had sought out and stalked Mr. Kopitske, a substitute teacher who ran unsuccessfully for the state Assembly in 2000, authorities said. Capt. Verwiel would not say whether the two knew each other.

Mr. Kopitske’s mother found him dead Aug. 2 in his rural house about seven miles outside Weyauwega. He had been shot in the head, and stabbed twice in the back and once in the heart.

The arrest has shaken this community about 90 miles north of Madison, tucked between farm fields and home to a cheese-production company, a plastic-bag producer and a sawmill.

Mr. Hirte was the city’s first Eagle Scout in 20 years. He is an honor student and a 6-foot-4-inch, 270-pound member of the track, wrestling and football teams, and has a steady 14-year-old girlfriend. Readers of the town’s weekly paper knew all about his achievements.

The teen’s attorneys asked to have the case dismissed Tuesday. Defense attorney Gerald Boyle said his client contends he was not involved in the murder. Mr. Boyle said Mr. Hirte will plead not guilty at his arraignment today.

For five months, investigators had been stumped by the slaying. Police didn’t look at Mr. Hirte as a suspect until a friend, Olivia Thoma, came forward Jan. 1, worried that Mr. Hirte might harm himself, Capt. Verwiel said.

According to a police report, Mr. Hirte told Miss Thoma about the crime at a county fair a few weeks after the slaying when they agreed to disclose their biggest secrets. She did not take him seriously.

Police recorded a Jan. 28 call between Miss Thoma and Mr. Hirte when he described crime details that had not been made public, Capt. Verwiel said.

Police took Mr. Hirte in custody at school Jan. 29 and searched his house. His parents “were in disbelief, and we had to explain to them exactly why we were there,” Capt. Verwiel said. They also found the dead man’s keys in Mr. Hirte’s room and two shotguns in the basement.

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