WI v. PICKETT: Possessed By Evil Murder Trial

Posted at 6:51 AM, July 1, 2022 and last updated 5:31 PM, July 7, 2023

IOWA COUNTY, Wis. (Court TV) — A Wisconsin jury has found a man guilty on all charges related to the deaths of his mother and the family dog.

The counts against Sean Pickett are as follows: guilty of intentional homicide and guilty of mistreatment of animals.

Pickett told investigators he was “possessed” when he killed Susan Pickett and a pit bull named Chico in May 2021, according to court documents.


Authorities with the Village of Avoca Police Department responded to the scene after Pickett called 911 to report his mother and dog were dead.

When officers arrived, they “observed dried blood on the front of (his) pants, the top of his tennis shoes, and front of his shirt.” The bodies of Susan Pickett and Chico were found in a bedroom, covered in blood.

According to a complaint, Pickett told officers “the evil in his mind was telling him to kill them.” He claimed he wasn’t going to do it, “but that he blacked out at one point.” Pickett said he beat them with a metal bar and then stabbed them with a knife, killing his mother first.

Pickett was charged with one count of first-degree intentional homicide and one count of mistreatment of animals.


DAY 3 – 7/7/22

DAY 2 – 7/6/22

  • Defendant Sean Pickett took the stand Wednesday in an attempt to convince a jury that he beat and stabbed his mother to death in self-defense
    • On the afternoon of on May 10, 2021, Pickett said he had just returned to the trailer in rural Wisconsin that he shared with his mother and prepared a bowl of mac and cheese — captured in crime scene photos — when he heard commotion in his mother’s bedroom
    • When he opened the door, he said he saw Susan Pickett stabbing their pit bull, Chico, and yelled at her. She lunged at him with a knife and the two wrestled to the ground as tried to grab the knife from her, he said
    • At some point, he said he stabbed her, lost the knife in the struggle, and made his way to the door. She grabbed the knife and lunged at him again, prompting him to “instinctively” grab a metal pole from atop a dresser and bash in her head
    • The blunt force injuries fractured her skull and bruised her brain, a forensic pathologist testified. She was also stabbed in the throat, liver and lower back, but the blows caused her death, Dr. Robert Corliss testified
  • The account was the defendant’s latest explanation for his mother’s death
  • Earlier Wednesday, Wisconsin state agent Michael Mansavage said Pickett initially told investigators that his mother’s boyfriend, Ernie Wheeler, tied him up and killed his mother. Why? Because Pickett had discovered that Wheeler was once a registered sex offender, Mansavage testified, quoting Pickett. Pickett also said that he felt upset and abandoned by his mother’s decision to move out of the house with Wheeler, Mansavage testified
  • When Mansavage pressed him, Pickett changed his story. The jury then heard the recorded interview in which Pickett accused his mother and her boyfriend of driving him “insane” with “mind games” to the point that he heard voices in his head that told him to kill her and the dog
  • Then, during cross examination of Pickett, prosecutor Matthew Allen played the Pickett’s 911 call. He cried and wailed as he claimed to have unwittingly discovered the bodies. He immediately accused Wheeler
  •  Wheeler took the stand Wednesday morning as a state witness
    • He said Susan Pickett knew he was a sex offender and still made plans to move with him to Iowa
    • He said the last time he saw her was a few weeks before her death, when he dropped her off at the Avoca trailer so she could pack up her stuff
    • He was expecting a call from her when she was ready to leave. Instead, he got a call from law enforcement breaking the news of her death
    • “I’m lost without her,” a tearful Wheeler told Court TV after finishing his testimony
  • Sean Pickett had another explanation for Wheeler’s departure. He said Wheeler left because his mother had kicked him out after learning from her son that Wheeler was a sex offender
    • Nevertheless, tensions simmered between mother and son as they lived in isolation
    • He said he spent periods of time in the woods to get away from her
    • One time, he left after his mother raped their dog, he said. But he didn’t take Chico into the woods with him because he was hard to care for in the wild, he said
  •  Wheeler told Court TV that none of that is true
    • He said the reason Susan Pickett left the home was because of her son
    • On the witness stand, Wheeler described instances of abuse that she endured at her son’s hands
    • Sean Pickett himself also described a fight he had with Wheeler — a “prior act” that the judge ruled was inadmissible, but Pickett brought it up, anyway
  •  Pickett neighbor Victoria Nondorf testified for the state that she saw Wheeler come and go from the house about a month before Susan Pickett’s death
    • She said Sean Pickett told her that Wheeler left after he confronted him about being a sex offender
    • She also said she saw Eric Gilbertson visit the Pickett home on the day in question around noon and knock on the front door, leave, then go back to the door, but never enter the house
    • Gilbertson said he was struck by the lack of sound from a dog barking when he visited. He said asked Pickett to come outside for a smoke or to go for a ride, but Pickett just stared at him
    • Pickett’s explanation: Gilbertson asked if he could come inside the home, not if Pickett could go outside. With everything going on between him and his mother, Pickett said he didn’t want to invite Gilbertson into the home
  • WATCH: Possessed By Evil Murder Trial: Day 2

DAY 1 – 7/5/22

  • STATE OPENING: Iowa County District Attorney Matthew Allen
    • This isn’t a complicated case because there’s no dispute that Sean Pickett killed his mother Susan and dog Chico
    • First responders saw blood on his clothes
    • He initially blamed his mother’s boyfriend, Ernest “Ernie” Wheeler
    • When investigators told him his story didn’t add up with the evidence, he came clean
    • He never said that Susan or the dog attacked him
    • Susan’s friend will describe how Sean threatened to kill when she didn’t do things for him
    • He was upset that his mother had moved out to Iowa with her Wheeler and had put the house up for sale.
    • Susan and Wheeler came back to pick up belongings, Sean accused Wheeler of being a sex offender. A fight ensued and Wheeler left the two alone
  • DEFENSE OPENING: Wisconsin Public Defender Jeffrey Erickson
    • This incident didn’t happen in isolation, there’s a larger story
    • The defendant and his mother were impoverished, living alone in rural Avoca, and turned to substance abuse after Wheeler left them alone
    • He acted in self-defense upon discovering her mother stabbing the dog. Then she turned on him and he became the object of aggression. He acted in self defense from this confrontation
    • He offers this fervent feverish false confession, much of it nonsensical, referring to how they’d been playing mind games with him for years
    • Ultimately, Sean will testify that Susan is dead and he acted in self-defense
  • STATE WITNESS 1 – Chief Daniel Carey, Avoca Police Department
    • Responded to Sean Pickett’s 911 call. First officer on the scene
    • Saw blood on Pickett’s pants and tops of his shoes
    • Defendant didn’t say anything about mother attacking him
  • STATE WITNESS 2 – John Ertl, Wisconsin State Crime Lab
    • Documented Pickett home on May 11, 2019
    • Witness walks jury through photos of house, which includes photos of the bodies of Susan Pickett and Chico
    • Shows jury the weapons believed to have been used: a machete and a metal bar
  • WATCH: Possessed By Evil Murder Trial: Day 1


Court TV field producer Emanuella Grinberg contributed to this report.