July 31, 2003: 37-Year-Old Glenn Kopitske Murdered by 17-Year-Old Teen


WHAT HAPPENED?


On July 31, 2003, Glenn Kopitske was murdered by Gary Hirte, a 17-year-old teenager who had admitted to killing Glenn "to see if he could get away with it". However, he would later claim that he had killed him due to temporary insanity after a supposed homosexual encounter with him.


Ultimately, Hirte's insanity plea was denied, and he was sentenced on February 4, 2005 to a life sentence with the chance for parole after 32 years.

THE PLAYERS


The victim, Glenn Kopitske, was adopted as a child by Shirley and Virgil Kopitske, devastated parents who had lost 2 children before him. Not much is reported about his childhood, but he attended college at the University of Texas in Dallas. He tried to get into stand-up comedy while in college, but after he graduated, he moved back near his parents in Winnebago County, Wisconsin.


Glenn had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder as a teenager, and thus, "needed" to be close to his parents, but also required some independence. (Note: I don't believe it is typical for people with BPD to require parental supervision, which is why I quoted the word "needed" - that is how it is characterized in the Wikipedia article, but wanted to clarify that I don't believe that adults with mental health issues need close parental supervision.)


In 1996, around age 30, Glenn was supporting himself with a monthly federal check for his psychological disability, a job at Wal-Mart, and a substitute teaching job. That year, he took $500 and declared himself a candidate for president, even though he wasn't old enough to even qualify as a presidential candidate.


He was involved in the community theater. By the age of 37, he was unmarried and lived alone in Winnebago County, far away from neighbors.


The perpetrator, Gary Hirte, was born in 1986. At age 16, he became the first Eagle Scout from Weyauwega, Wisconsin in 20 years. By 17, his successes were continuing. He was an all-conference high school football player, made straight-A's, and was to be the salutatorian of his graduating class. He was 6'3" and 280lbs, a 2-time all-conference defensive lineman and a wrestler with a 4.0 grade point average.


He had worked at Dairy Queen during his senior year of high school and had received a scholarship ti St. Cloud State University in Minnesota where he planned to further his success as a criminal justice major.


Though he was known as a golden boy, he did have a dark side. According to friends, he liked to hit animals with his car and brag about it. He said he didn't have any guilt for it because he feels like he is doing them a favor, and thus, it is justified in his mind. (2)

THE MURDER


On August 2, Glenn's mother drove to his house after she hadn't been able to reach him for a few days. The back door was locked, which she said was unusual, and she noticed that his car keys were missing.


Then, she found her beloved son's nude body on the ground. He had been dead for almost 2 days. Because the heat of the Wisconsin summer had affected his body so extremely, initially it was believed he had died of natural causes.


However, a pathologist examined his body and noticed liquefied brain matter leaking from the back of his head. He hadn't died naturally - he had been shot in the back of the head, and stabbed in the chest post-mortem.


No further evidence was found at the crime scene. It would be a few months before this mysterious murder was solved. And, it may not have been, had Hirte not been so stupid.


2 weeks after Glenn died, Hirte called his friend, Eric, and asked if he had heard about the local murder. A few weeks earlier, the friends had been "shining for deer", a game where you shine a flashlight at a deer (this sounds aggressively Wisconsin) and they had been near Glenn's home.


During the call, Hirte told his friend that he did it. He didn't initially believe him, so Hirte showed him the hunting knife he had used to stab him, and the keys he had stolen from his home. However, Eric never reported any of this to the police.


In August of 2003, the month following the murder, Hirte Met Olivia Thoma at the county fair. She had just won "Fairest of the fair". Eager to brag about his unsolved murder, he would tell her details about his crime over the course of the relationship. Slowly, she began to believe he was telling her the truth. But it wasn't until January of 2004 when Olivia told the police about her suspicions. They took it very seriously when she was able to provide details that had not been issued to the public.


He told Olivia that he had driven his father's car, which matched the description of the strange headlights from the neighbor, to his home and shot him in the back, and then stabbed him.


Olivia agreed to engage her murderous boyfriend in a phone conversation about the murder while police listened in. On the call, he admitted his guilt and said that he did it "to see if he could get away with it". If that was your goal, perhaps you should NOT have told everyone about it.


Based on evidence and Olivia's recording, police alleged that Hirte parked his car at the end of a dead-end road and grabbed his shotgun out of his car and broke into Glenn's home. They believed he was asleep, but was awoken when Hirte came inside of the house. Glenn pleaded with him not to shoot him, and he was ordered to lie down on the floor.


Based on forensic evidence, then Hirte pressed the shotgun to his dead and fired, and then stabbed him twice, needing 2 hands to pull it out. He slipped Glenn's keys into his pocket on the way out, and drove home.

ARREST AND SHIFTING MOTIVE


The day after the police got the recording of Hirte's admission, the police interviewed his friends, including Eric. Eric admitted that, okay, yes, his friend did tell him that he had murdered a man and showed him the knife he used and showed him the stolen keys.


Hirte was then called into the principal's office and subsequently arrested. He said that he had told friends he had committed the murder, but that he was lying.


The police arrived at his family's home with a search warrant on January 29, 2004. They found the gun he had used to commit the murder in the basement, and Glenn's keys in his bedroom. On August 30, 2004, Hirte was charged with the first-degree murder of Glenn Kopitske.


Initially, when talking to his girlfriend, he said he had committed the murder just to see if he could get away with it. That is also supported by his nonchalant attitude toward the killing... regardless of what he said, the very fact that he was bragging about it speaks to the fact that he was proud of it.


But once he was arrested, his story changed. He hired Gerald Boyle, who had defended Jeffery Dahmer. He claimed that Hirte had homosexual urges that got more intense when he drank. Those urges lead to a sexual encounter between Hirte and Glenn. However, once he sobered up, he was so enraged by the encounter that he returned to Glenn's house to kill him.


Boyle said that Hirte "broke down" when he told the story of the sexual encounter, and explained to the jury that poor little Hirte was tormented by his sexuality.


Hirte said that, hours before he would end the life of an innocent man, he had been sitting on top of his car drinking alcohol and listening to music when Glenn drove up next to his car. He said Glenn, a 37-year-old man, randomly started flirting with him, and the 2 agreed to go to Glenn's house. Once they arrived, Hirte performed oral sex on Glenn in a consensual encounter. According to Hirte, that is.


He said he went back to his car and fell asleep, but when he woke up, he was sober and enraged that he had sex with a man. He said he was grossed out and disappointed. He said that "a homosexual act was not as bad as raping or torturing someone" but was worse than murder". Oof, it appears our levels of terrible things may be a little bit off?


An expert witness claimed that Hirte was in the middle of a psychotic depressive reaction, but he had no history of any mental health problems. Being from a religious family, it was hinted at that Hirte would rather his religious family know he was a cold-blooded murderer than a homosexual. Well, way to go you absolute moron. Now you're both.


Initially, his parents believed his story and believed he would risk life in prison to keep the secret of his homosexuality to himself. However, he obviously didn't keep it to himself, as he used it as a defense in his trial. Later, his parents said there was no way that the sexual encounter happened. They have, however, stood by their son. The District Attorney also doubted that it happened, as there was no forensic evidence to suggest a sexual encounter between the 2 just hours before the murder.


On February 4, 2005, the jury ultimately rejected his hail Mary cry for an insanity plea. He was sentenced to life in prison, and will be eligible for parole after 32 years.


This story is oddly well-timed, as in my story yesterday, I did a bit of a deep-dive into the "LGBTQ+ panic defense" in relation to the epidemic of violence against the LGBTQ+ community, specifically black trans women. And in today's story, someone tried to use it. Thank God it didn't work.


Oftentimes, an insanity plea makes sense. Someone with postpartum psychosis hurting her children, someone with severe mental disabilities committing violence, etc. There certainly are times when violence and even murder can be chalked up to temporary insanity. But my God, not this one.


Both reasonings are so absolutely horrible that I can't believe that he was able to use one of them as his defense. It seems like if the defense attorney said, "well, sure, my client did kill this guy and brag about it to his friends, but it was because he had just had a sexual encounter that he was embarrassed by and his uncontrollable male rage boiled over into the murder of an innocent person", I would be like, okay, if that's your DEFENSE then why don't we just go ahead and lock him up. I mean, seriously? Claiming your parents would be so mad if they found out you hooked up with a dude so you decided to murder the dude is not a defense. That's just an admission of guilt in another way.


Because the bottom line is, and I mean this wholeheartedly, who gives a shit? I feel absolutely terrible for children and teens who live with closed-minded religious parents who they do not feel comfortable coming out to at best, and would feel threatened coming out to at worst. Believe me. But once you murder your sexual partner, you lose all of my sympathy. I mean, did he think this 37-year-old man who just had sex with a high school senior was going to come tell his parents they hooked up? If he thought the sexual encounter would result in him being prematurely outed to parents who would react poorly, it would at least make SOME sense. But this wasn't the case here. If his version of events was true, he didn't kill Glenn because he was afraid he would out himself. He killed Glenn because he was grossed out that he had sex with a man and decided to take that rage out on an innocent person.


But all of this is pointless because, realistically, he just randomly selected Glenn. I mean, what makes more sense? That while sitting under a bridge listening to Nirvana a fully adult man came up and asked him if he'd have sex with him at his house and a rage-filled homophobic teen said yes? Or that he had passed his house recently while doing Wisconsin weekend activities and decided he would try to kill a lonely man because he was a bored, possibly psychopathic, kid? Remember: he told his friends and girlfriend about it, admitting he just did it to see if he could. Would someone in some sort of psychological rage spiral brag about it?


Luckily, the jury saw through the BS and now he will hopefully never see the outside of a jail cell again. Hirte had said he "can't feel guilty" and feels he should not be held accountable for this crime. He said that the killer was "another me", and thus, he isn't responsible for it.


Glenn Kopitske was a good man. He was close with his parents, a teacher, a community theater participant and just a genuinely innocent, good person who kept to himself. He was murdered in his home, left for days before his mother had to find his body, because some awful teen wanted to see what it felt like.


Rot in prison, Gary Hirte. Rest in peace, Glenn Kopitske.

REFERENCES:

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_Glenn_Kopitske

2. https://abcnews.go.com/Primetime/Health/story?id=591736&page=1


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