Original article no longer available
By John Lee • Post-Crescent staff writer
May 6, 2008
NEENAH A woman accused of suffocating her 2-year-old son early Monday told police she heard voices telling her to sacrifice him while she was reading the Bible.
After smothering the boy with her hands, Brenda Thiel lay with him for 15 minutes, then went outside and smoked two cigarettes before going back in and telling her mother what she had done, according to search warrant records filed Tuesday in Winnebago County Circuit Court.
“They told me to do it,” Thiel, 27, told police who responded to her mother’s 911 call at 941 Adams St. “I was told to give my only son. I suffocated him.”
Neenah police, along with Winnebago County Coroner Barry Busby and Dist. Atty. Christian Gossett, identified the victim as Caleb Thiel, who would have turned 3 in July.
They said the death has been ruled a homicide, but did not release a cause.
Police said Thiel is in custody but not in the Winnebago County Jail. They have not released her location.
“She is not in jail, but she is in a secure place,” Neenah police Lt. Jeff Malcore said Tuesday.
Police said Thiel’s 8-year-old daughter was not injured and has been placed with family by the county Department of Human Services.
The search warrant records said the third officer to arrive on the scene found Thiel in the downstairs bathroom “kneeling on the floor with her hands in her face.”
Thiel showed officers a scar she said was from a recent suicide attempt, and told them she was on prescription medicine.
Other officers found the boy on his back on a full-sized bed in an upstairs room and began cardio pulmonary resuscitation.
They said the boy was still warm to the touch, but he was pronounced dead soon after at Neenah’s Theda Clark Medical Center.
Police also reported the boy had “red abrasions around his neck and a scratch along his nose,” with another spot in his right eye.
At the police department, Thiel told police she had a dream about tornadoes Friday, and her son was saying “mama” in the dream.
According to the records: “Thiel stated that when she was sleeping she heard a voice say ‘little boy do the job’ or something like that.
“Thiel stated that she felt it meant for her to hurt (the boy). Thiel stated that she fought the urge to hurt (the boy) and thought to herself, ‘No, you’re not.’
“Thiel stated that she then went back to sleep and when she got up later everything was okay.”
She told police her children were sleeping and she was reading the Bible about 9 p.m. Sunday, when she had a hot flash and “in the back of her mind she thought (about) the tornado dream.”
She said she didn’t hear any more voices, and went to bed about 9 p.m., and Caleb was in her bed.
He was sleeping when she woke up about 5:15 a.m. Monday.
“Thiel stated she then put her hands over his face and said to herself ‘This is the best,’” the records state.
She told police her son woke up and started kicking as she was smothering him. “Thiel stated at that point she pressed down harder.”
After the boy stopped breathing, Thiel put his head on a pillow, she told police.
Details revealed in the records Tuesday were met with disbelief from residents in the Adams Street neighborhood.
“I just can’t believe she would do something like that, because she loved those kids,” neighbor Kathy Mulvey said.
Mulvey said she recalled Thiel telling her she had joined Christ the Rock Community Church in Town of Harrison in Calumet County. “She said it was the best thing that ever happened to her.”
Neenah police executed a search warrant at Thiel’s home Monday.
Police seized the computer and bedding, as well as a Bible and a handwritten scripture found under the bedding. Thiel’s daughter told police her mother had been on the computer Sunday afternoon.
Police also seized containers with an antidepressant medication and a medication used to treat anxiety disorders and panic attacks.
There was no police presence Tuesday in the 900 block of Adams Street, and the small yellow home was quiet. Two cars were parked in the driveway.
Gossett has named the Milwaukee County district attorney’s office as special prosecutor because Thiel is an employee of Winnebago County.
Officials would not give specifics about her job with the county, but said her employment would cause a conflict for Winnebago prosecutors.
Neenah police said they were recommending a homicide charge be filed.
Jon Reddin, Milwaukee County chief deputy district attorney, said the office is waiting for reports from Neenah police and did not know when charges might be filed.
John Lee: 920-993-1000, ext. 362, or firstname.lastname@example.org Post-Crescent staff writer Duke Behnke contributed to this report.