A jury found Daniel Lieske guilty Wednesday of first-degree intentional homicide in the death of a 21-year-old Sun Prairie man, one year to the day after the shooting at Lieske’s town of Medina home that took Jesse Faber’s life.
“Sweet justice,” said April Faber, Jesse Faber’s mother, her voice shaking and tears rimming her eyes as she spoke outside the courtroom following the verdict. “Sweet justice.”
A jury of seven women and five men deliberated for nearly six hours Tuesday and five more hours on Wednesday before finding Lieske, 60, guilty of shooting Faber to death on Jan. 16, 2018, in an unoccupied apartment that adjoined the one where Lieske lived with his longtime girlfriend, Meichelle Goss.
Lieske then hid Faber’s body as Faber’s friends and family, along with authorities, searched for him, until authorities found Faber’s body rolled into a rug that was covered in plastic in a self-storage locker in Rio that had been rented by Lieske.
The verdict followed a trial that began on Jan. 7 and ended with closing arguments on Tuesday.
In his closing argument, Lieske’s lawyer, Dennis Burke, said Lieske shot Faber to death after Faber attacked Lieske, based on statements Lieske made to Goss shortly before and after the shooting and recounted in testimony by Goss. Lieske did not testify.
“My son is not a murderer,” April Faber said. “He was a sweet, sweet boy who didn’t deserve this.”
She said the trial was “life-altering” for her entire family, which packed the meager seating in the courtroom each day of the trial. The family reacted to the verdict with a blend of elation and tears, and a lot of long hugs.
“Without them, I don’t think I would have made it,” April Faber said.
Daniel Faber, Jesse Faber’s father, said the fact that the verdict came on the anniversary of his son’s murder was, and wasn’t, fitting.
“It is and it isn’t appropriate,” Daniel Faber said. “He should be here.”
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While the verdict brings some closure, “going through this trial opened up old wounds,” April Faber said. “But in the end, it’s worth it.”
Dane County Circuit Judge Jill Karofsky ordered a pre-sentence investigation by the state Department of Corrections, ahead of a sentencing hearing that will happen in about two months. Lieske faces a mandatory life prison sentence for the homicide conviction and will also be sentenced for hiding a corpse to conceal a crime, a charge he pleaded guilty to just before his trial began.
Goss has also pleaded guilty to hiding a corpse to conceal a crime.
At the sentencing hearing, Karofsky will set a time when Lieske will be eligible for release from prison on extended supervision, which under state law cannot be before 20 years.
Had the jury not found Lieske guilty of first-degree intentional homicide, Karofsky gave it the options of finding him guilty of two lesser included crimes — second-degree intentional homicide and first-degree reckless homicide.
Lieske reacted little to the verdict after it was read by Karofsky. He and Burke watched the faces of jurors as Karofsky polled jurors one by one, to assure that the verdict was the one they agreed to.
In closing arguments Tuesday, Burke said Lieske killed Faber in self-defense, calling Faber a “live wire” who before that night was unknown to Lieske but, by the early morning hours, had attacked him, forcing Lieske to shoot Faber. Both men had been drinking heavily.
“He shot him and intended to kill him,” Burke said. “That’s what he thought he had to do to protect himself and (Goss) and everything they had from this live wire.”
Burke said he didn’t know exactly what caused Faber to attack Lieske. Goss testified about statements Lieske made before and after the shooting, telling jurors that Lieske was “scared, traumatized and distraught,” after the shooting. Burke said Lieske told Goss that Faber tried to grab Lieske’s gun, which Lieske was wearing in a holster.
But prosecutors said the evidence didn’t back up Lieske’s story, and the measures that Lieske took to cover up the crime — from dumping paint on carpet to hide blood stains to hiding Faber’s body — showed consciousness of guilt on Lieske’s part.
District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, in his closing argument, said despite claiming to have been attacked by Faber, Lieske didn’t call police, which most people do when forced to defend themselves from an attack. It was only after authorities appeared to be figuring out what really happened to Faber that Lieske called Goss’ mother and confessed to killing Faber, after days of lying to investigators who at first thought they were looking for a missing person.
Lieske first said that Faber had stepped out of Lieske’s home for a cigarette and never returned. As the search for Faber came to Lieske’s door, he unlocked buildings on the property for searchers looking for Faber, knowing all the while that he had stashed away Faber’s body, Ozanne said.