By IVY BROWN and EMANUELLA GRINBERG
GREEN BAY (Court TV) — A Wisconsin woman convicted of killing and dismembering her sexual partner while high on drugs was sentenced to life in prison without parole after a jury rejected the defense’s claim that she was suffering from mental illness at the time.
Taylor Schabusiness was found guilty on all counts during the first phase of her trial. During the second phase or “responsibility phase,” the jury returned a unanimous verdict finding she did not have a mental disease or defect at the time of the murder.
The 25-year-old was charged with first-degree intentional homicide, mutilating a corpse and third-degree sexual assault in the February 2022 death of Shad Thyrion. She pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
Authorities said Schabusiness strangled Thyrion with a chain during sex while they were high on methamphetamine. In police interviews admitted as trial evidence, she then admitted to sexually assaulting and dismembering his corpse.
Attorneys for Schabusiness sought to have her statements at the time of her arrest thrown out, arguing she was under the influence of drugs. In June, a judge denied a defense motion to drop the sexual assault charge based on the idea that the victim was dead, and his penis had been dismembered.
Prior to trial, a judge approved a second competency hearing for Schabusiness after her defense argued the initial evaluation completed in November 2022 is no longer current. Her defense claimed she “may have been suffering from a mental breakdown or other mental defect before and after the alleged incident on Feb. 23, 2022.”
On July 13, a judge heard testimony from forensic psychologist Dr. Diane Lytton. Dr. Lytton testified Schabusiness “showed signs of an active psychotic disorder” and was not competent for trial.
Before jury selection was scheduled to begin on July 21, court-ordered psychologist Dr. Matthew Seipel testified that Schabusiness was competent to stand trial. The judge ultimately found that the defendant is competent and proceeded with jury selection.
At sentencing on Sept. 26, the judge sentenced Schabusiness to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
DAILY TRIAL UPDATES
DAY 4 – 7/27/23
- Taylor Schabusiness’ father testified on her behalf, entering the courtroom in leg and wrist shackles and an orange jail jumpsuit.
- He testified that he sought help for his daughter on several occasions because she suffered from hallucinations and wasn’t in her right mind. He said that he was “always” worried about her mental health.
- WATCH: Taylor Schabusiness’ Father Testifies in Penalty Phase
- A defense psychologist opined that Schabusiness was not criminally responsible for her actions because she suffered from severe bipolar disorder that rendered her unable to appreciate the wrongfulness of her actions and deprived her of “volitional control.”
- Two court-appointed psychologists who testified for the state said Schabusiness’ actions were fueled by drugs, which made her ineligible for the NGI/insanity plea under Wisconsin’s definition of a mental disease or defect. They pointed to her decision to dismember Thyrion’s body and clean the basement crime scene as evidence Schabusiness knew that her actions were wrong.
- Schabusiness’ attorney argued that drugs may have compounded her psychosis, but there was enough evidence that she suffered from a longstanding disorder affecting her actions going back to adolescence.
- WATCH: House of Horrors Murder Trial: Prosecution Phase 2 Closing Argument
- WATCH: House of Horrors Murder Trial: Defense Phase 2 Rebuttal
- The 12-person jury deliberated for an hour before unanimously agreeing that Schabusiness was not suffering from a mental disease or defect that impacted her ability to know right from wrong or to act within the bounds of the law.
DAY 3 – 7/26/23
- Green Bay Detective Kevin Kempf described interviewing Taylor Schabusiness after her arrest.
- Schabusiness spoke as she exercised her right not to testify, and her attorney asked the judge to confirm she was not being pressured.
- Both sides presented closing arguments after the state and defense rested.
- The 12-person jury deliberated for less than one hour before finding the defendant guilty on all charges.
- WATCH: Motions Reveal Taylor Schabusiness’ Home, Family Life
DAY 2 – 7/25/23
- WATCH: Taylor Schabusiness Seen Gesturing at Judge During Trial
DAY 1 – 7/24/23
- Judge Thomas J. Walsh explained to the jury that the defendant has entered two pleas: not guilty and not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect.
- Furthermore, Walsh explained that in this initial phase of the trial, the jurors are to only consider the defendant’s guilt, and not if she was suffering from a mental disease or defect during the incident.
- Assistant District Attorney Caleb Saunders says the defendant made a series of choices that led to death of her friend from high school, Shad Thyrion.
- WATCH: House of Horrors Murder Trial: Prosecution Opening Statement
- It started with her use of meth with Thyrion, Saunders said, followed by her decision to intentionally strangle him to death with a dog collar in his mother’s basement, “degrade” his body with sex acts on his corpse, dismember his body, scrub the crime scene clean, and hide his remains in her car and throughout his mother’s basement, telling law enforcement they would “have fun” trying to find him.
- Defense lawyer Christopher Froelich urged the jury to keep an open mind and not jump to conclusions about the defendant’s guilt until they heard all the evidence.
- The jury heard the police call in which the victim’s mother, Tara Pakanich, and her boyfriend, Steve Hendricks, reported the discovery of Shad Thyrion’s head in a bucket. The operator asks if the mother is “hallucinating.”
- The jury saw graphic photos and video of items found in the victim’s mother’s basement and the defendant’s car, including the victim’s head in a bucket, bags and containers filled with body parts, sex toys, dog collar chains, and bloody knives.
- WATCH: House of Horrors Murder Trial: Day 1