New Prague woman sentenced to 27 months in prison for her role in the murder of her husband
A New Prague woman has been sentenced to 27 months in prison for her role in the murder of her husband, according to court records.
Connie Lou Herbst, 63, was sentenced to two years and three months at Minnesota Correctional Facility – Shakopee on Thursday for aiding an offender in the 2013 murder of her husband, Gary Albert Herbst. She was credited with serving 462 days . His son, Austin James Herbst, 27, was convicted in June of aiding and abetting his father’s second-degree murder and is serving a 12½-year sentence at Minnesota Correctional Facility – St. Cloud.
Connie Herbst was also originally charged with second degree murder in 2020, but that charge was dismissed after she pleaded guilty to aiding an offender as an afterthought accomplice in October.
On Dec. 3, 2017, the Barron County Sheriff’s Office responded to a call from a man who found a human skull in the driveway of his home in rural Wisconsin, according to a criminal complaint. There was a bullet hole in the top of the skull. The caller said their dog found the skull, took it home and chewed it.
While searching the area, deputies found skeletal human remains near a field near the edge of some woods – they included human ribs, leg bones, backbones, clothing and a set of dentures in a depression in the floor, the complaint states. The following day, deputies found additional remains.
Later that month, the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office ruled that the skull had a close contact gunshot wound, which caused the victim’s death. The remains were then sent to the University of Texas Center for Human Identification, Forensic Anthropology Unit on January 11, 2018 for further inspection.
In March 2019, the Barron County Sheriff’s Office sent bone samples to DNA Solutions Inc. in Oklahoma for forensic genealogy. In February 2020, the bones were determined to have ancestral ties to Wisconsin and were a possible match to Gary Herbst.
Gary Herbst had been reported as a missing person from Elko New Market in July 2013, but a police report was not filed with Elko New Market police until July of the following year, according to the complaint.
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In February 2020, Connie Herbst told police her husband left home and never returned; he reportedly left the house with $5,000 in cash, a .45 caliber pistol, clothes, and Connie Herbst’s wedding ring. Her son Austin Herbst told his mother that Gary Herbst drove off in a gray car with a stranger. The three lived together in Elko New Market. Austin Herbst also told police that his father was often verbally and physically abusive to his mother, as well as sometimes to him, the complaint states.
In March 2020, investigators were able to confirm Gary Herbst’s identity using his son’s DNA.
In June 2020, investigators spoke to some of Herbst’s former neighbors who said the mother and son held a garage sale in August 2013 and appeared to be selling Gary Herbst’s possessions. They also saw a van drive up to the back door of the family home at night, which was unusual, and the mother and son load something into the bed, which may have been rolled up carpet, the complaint states. . The couple then hitched a boat to the truck and went fishing for a few days. The neighbors never saw Gary again.
Another neighbor said Gary Herbst often yelled and called the police “for frivolous matters.” They confirmed seeing the mother and son load a rolled up rug into the back of the truck and thought it was unusual because Gary Herbst was very particular about his lawn, the complaint states. The neighbor also reported seeing the mother and son scrubbing the basement floor, carrying “several large black colored bags” and then leaving for a few days. This neighbor, too, never saw Gary again.
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Police also spoke to Gary Herbst’s former employer who said Gary did not report to work after July 8, 2013.
Investigators conducted a search warrant at the Elko New Market home in July 2020 and, using Luminol, found several bloodstains in the basement drywall, wood studs behind the drywall, on the sliding glass door leading to the basement in the garage and rubber mats that had been in the basement, according to the complaint. However, the stain on the sliding glass door did not match Gary Herbst’s DNA and the other stains did not have enough genetic information to make a match.
Officers also executed a search warrant at Austin and Connie Herbst’s current home in New Prague and seized their cellphones, the investigation of which led to warrants being issued against mother and son on November 18, 2020 .
Connie and Austin Herbst are still in custody.