Wisconsin Teen Pleads Not Guilty in Principal’s Murder

Eric Hainstock, the 16-year-old Wisconsin teen who last year (at age 15) armed himself, entered his high school, and shot his high school principal John Klang three times pleaded not guilty to first-degree intentional homicide yesterday in Sauk County Circuit Court. He is charged as an adult and could face life in prison if convicted, according to the Associated Press.

HainstockThe homicide, on September 29 last year, has gained attention because it came after what Hainstock claims were years of abuse at the hands of his family and repeating bullying at school, harassment which school officials continually refused to recognize. Hainstock and supporters claim that the shooting was a plea for attention gone terribly wrong:

“Hainstock said that a group of kids had teased him by calling him ‘fag’ and ‘faggot’ and rubbing up against him, the complaint said, and the teen felt teachers and the principal wouldn’t do anything about it. So Hainstock decided to confront students, teachers and the principal with the guns to make them listen to him, according to the complaint.”

Klang was shot in the back of the head, chest, and leg. While wounded, he reportedly wrestled Hainstock to the ground. He died later that afternoon.

According to the MySpace site SaveEricHainstock, “Eric claims he brought the weapons to school to get someone to listen to him. Since dead people can’t listen, murder didn’t seem to be his intention. In a desperate attempt to stop the bullying he used the threat of a gun. Eric’s plan went chaotically wrong that day. As guns will often do, instead of getting someone to listen, they got someone killed. Not only was Eric severely bullied and preyed on at school every day from a young age, he was abandoned by his mother, abused by his father and step-mother and neglected at home. Family members have said Eric was bullied at school and abused at home. He had no where to turn, he could do nothing right. They said Eric raised himself. His father, Shawn Hainstock doled out unorthodox, humiliating punishments. Hot peppers and hot pepper sauce was forced down Eric’s throat, induced physical exhaustion such as forced running, being forced to stand in prolonged torturous positions. Also, Eric was beaten with belts and other objects; he was bitten, denied after school snacks and seconds at dinner, and was living in filthy conditions at home including animal excrement and clutter at fire hazard proportions.”

Hainstock’s attorney has requested a speedy trial and asked that videotaped statements taken by police be suppressed as evidence. Said public defender Rhoda Ricciardi: “It was not a knowing or voluntary waiver on his part of his constitutional rights.”


  1. Matt says

    Even if he was pleading for someone to listen to him, this is not the way to go about it. Our actions have consequences. He should receive life and if he lived in my state he would more than likely face the death penalty.

  2. Rob (lrdarystar) says

    Long before age 15, I knew better. Perhaps he was temporary insane or outside himself, but even if so, he should find life in a mental rehabilitation program followed by prison time.

  3. RB says

    I am a little over the “poor me” defense! At 15, everyone knows and fully understands murder. You do not take a gun to school and then say I only wanted to get them to listen. HA! I am not buying it! If you cannot do the time do not do the crime. What GLBT person hasn’t experienced bullying at some point in school? How many of us were raised by perfect attentive parents? At any rate, he deserves a murder conviction for his actions!

  4. says

    I love his defense, blame the victims. Poor me, Poor me. Nobody understands being called some names is like, puhleeze! If they were doing him actual physical harm on a daily basis, it might be a dif story.

  5. Greg says

    I do feel sorry for him. In fact I feel very sorry for him. 15 is very young and who can imagine what that type of abuse at home would do to you. This just seems like a sad situation all around.

  6. Nathan says

    The abuse sounds horrible. Will we ever know if it’s true or blown out of proportion by a manipulative defense team? Who knows? Being denied snack food or seconds at dinner…well, not really reasons to kill–sorry. Guns are horrible. When we will we learn as a society that guns and violence are not the answer? This is not what the founding fathers had in mind with “the right to bear arms”. Incidentally, how man people would want to “SaveEricHainstock” if he was a South Korean who killed students instead of a principal?

  7. Zeke says

    I’m curious as to why Andy posted this story when he steadfastly refused to post the original story about this kid when the tragedy actually happened.

    One commenter here begged Andy, over and over to post the story but to no avail.

    Now we get this. Why now?

    Oh, and I do feel sorry for the kid but he should face the consequences of his actions. I feel even more sorry for the family of the principal.

    We MUST support anti-bullying campaigns in this country. Many of these tragedies could be avoided by simply paying more attention to our kids and demanding that teachers, principals and school administrators stop bullying whenever they see it. GLBT kids, kids suspected of being GLBT, and kids with out GLBT parents, are particularly vulnerale to this type of bullying, yet they are the least likely to be protected in the school environment.

    That is not acceptable.

  8. Anonimo says

    Ousslander, if you had read the claims from the MySpace quote, you would have seen that indeed, there are allegations of regular abuse. While I wouldn’t in any way condone the young man’s actions, I find it truly unnerving that the first four comments regarding this post were of the self-righteous, “screw you, kid” variety.

    As a former victim of emotional and physical abuse, I can say that yes, most people DO know better, but every individual reacts differently to their circumstance. I remember many nights walking downstairs to our family kitchen, pacing back and forth, opening and closing the cutlery drawer, very close to chosing the butcher knife, trying to decide whether or not to “do it”.

    I spent several years of this nighttime ritual trying to decide if it was worth stabbing my father to death in his sleep, but gratefully, I never made the choice to carry out such a horrible act. The reasons behind my anger are things that took me years to move past, and while my relationship with my father has changed tremendously, it was not just a normal growing up thing. He doesn’t even remember a lot of his previous actions and behaviors…or maybe that’s just my personal rationalization, I don’t know.

    I’m 40 now. Over 25 years ago I could have been in the very same place, but my fear of being locked up forever was my personal override. I had been pushed to limits that I hope none of you ever had to endure growing up, but if you for one moment think you know what right and wrong is, you’d better think twice about what someone else has been through before you pass judgement. That dismissive kind of self-righteous behavior is exactly what causes things like this to happen.

  9. says

    I can’t believe how ignorant some of you people are! This kid is 15 years old (just turned 16 last week) He is sitting in an adult prison at this very moment, at risk of being further abused and possibly raped by adult male prisoners.

    He did kill someone, so he needs to be punished for that. But in a JUVENILE FACILITY! Last time I checked, 15 years old=juvenile. They want to put him away for life without parole!

    Also, how could all the blame be put on a 15 year old kid? Eric’s Aunt has contacted us at justiceforjuveniles.com and has confirmed that the abuse and negect suffered by Eric Hainstock was in deed much worse than this article mentions.

    Is the gay community, or any community for that matter, just going to sit back and watch this child be warehoused and made an example for other kids?

    I am not saying at all that this kid should be “set free”…don’t get me wrong. I think he should be transferred immediately to a juvenile facility and the adults in his life should be brought to justice for having ignored years of his cries for help.

    There are still too many states without anti-bulling laws, and even the ones with strict laws are not always enforced, and kids, including gay and lesbians, are suffering all over America, and some are even dieing. How long must we put up with this?

    As long as people remain in their ignorance and fail to see the reasons why kids decide to bring guns to school, there will be many many more school shootings.

    Thank you Andy for finally having posted this story. Jamie

  10. Derrick from Philly says

    I’m surprised more gay people who’ve been tortured since childhood haven’t resorted to “Virginia Tech” type reactions. We’re too damn humane.

    I pray the young man DOESN’T get a life sentence.

    There are quite a few gay-bashing bastards from my early years I’d have loved to have the pleasure of putting in the grave yard.

  11. Leland says

    Luv ya, Zeke, but why should you feel MORE sorry for the principal’s family than for the boy?

    Some Towleroadies write reams of rants about “leave poor Anderson, Johnny Weir, Mika, Reichen fill in the blank alone” and yet some here are effectively joining the combined group of Hainstock’s tormentors who made every moment of his life at home and school hell. Countless people wanted to string up disturbed Mark Foley for his hideous abuse by e-mail of “innocent” 16 and 17-year olds. Sure, a couple of them may have played along, measured their dicks for him, but they were CHILDREN! Hainstock was 15 when this happened but, hey, forget prison or a mental hospital. Let’s make a real example of him. Let’s publicly torture him to death. Will “drawn and quartered” satisfy you? Let’s meet up at the House of Pancakes near the courthouse. You bring the torches, I’ll bring the stake.

    Am I suggesting he be set free? No. But the mental condition of the accused must always be FAIRLY considered, and too little attention has been paid to the fact that in almost every school shooting the shooter has been the victim, yes, victim of psychological terror, usually involving gay-baiting, because the schools, the local government, the community, the churches don’t want to take responsibility for their participation in/acquiescence of a cultural that supports homohating. Culling the herd as ranchers might say. What I’ve read here today could have appeared on the site of the American “Family” Association or even the KKK and you make me weep for our future as a community.

  12. Chris in Seattle says

    I think he should be tried as an adult. He did a very adult thing. There are thousands of kids that are bullied at school, and thousands that are abused at home..Should each of them be allowed to kill a couple people and then only suffer minor consequences? Whoever his PR people are also should think about leaving out lines like “he was denied after school snacks and seconds at dinner,”

    no snacks, or seconds? wow. compared to the hundreds of kids in America, and thousands around the world, who get absolutely nothing to eat, not getting cookies and milk after school must be tough.

  13. Pam says

    It’s not all about snacks and seconds. This is just one small item I found when researching Eric’s past. I included it in the information on the MySpace which I built for Eric. The abandoment, abuse and bullying were the main points, but missed by the commentators here. Eric’s father was charged with felony child abuse when Eric was 10. He was never prosecuted for that. That is a serious charge. When Eric was 4 the judge who gave Eric to his father (Judge Taggert) instructed him to keep Eric out of the taverns. I think the commentators here have taken the least important, but still unacceptable part of Eric’s childhood (snacks & seconds) and conveniently tried to make it the worst part in trying to justify the reason this child will be thrown to the lions. It is obvious people don’t get it at all. It wasn’t about the snacks or seconds, it was about the predatory bullying, child abuse, sexual abuse and abandonment by his mother as a child. How many of you seemingly “know-it’alls” can claim you’ve walked in those shoes and how many of you can say you wouldn’t have snapped? Jumping on the snacks and seconds, is just a way for everyone to feel better about what is going to happen to this bullied, abused child.

  14. says

    Chris In Seattle, you obviously haven’t looked much into this story.

    The fact of the matter is that Eric’s father Shawn weighs 400 pounds and keeps all the food in the house locked up in his bedroom, mostly consisting of things like bags of chips and twinkies. Eric’s father made him go to school hungry and without lunch money. He would also force Eric to put on his shoes and tie them since he was too overweight to do it himself.

    Also, Eric for many years needed medication for his ADD but Eric’s father couldn’t be bothered and preferred spending his disability checks on beer at the local bar where he played horseshoes.

    I can go on and on about the abuse and neglect Eric suffered, which even included at least 2 counts of sexual abuse.

  15. Anonimo says

    For whatever it’s worth, thank you, Pam and Jamie, for being involved, thank you for stepping up to the plate, and thank you for exposing facts that otherwise would go unseen in this case. This kid’s life has been ruined at this point and he may never recover. After reading through Pam’s thorough material and listening to the Bill Farkas show reading at the MySpace account set up by Pam, I am in tears. Again, this could have been me 25 years ago. It could be so many others. Truly, “ignorance is no excuse.”

  16. Craig says

    I can hardly believe some of the comments being made!

    Too many people here obviously don’t understand the point having a juvenile justice system. A five year old can understand what a gun is, what a gun does and how to fire it. A five year old has the capacity to feel rage against someone, hold a gun and fire it knowing what it will do. Does that mean we should start sending five year olds that do that to adult prisons for life without parole? Some people here would do well to read the scientific underpinnings of the Missouri case that struck down the use of the death penalty for offenders under the age of 18 when their captial offense was committed.

    Second, I do feel some sympathy for the principal’s family, but far less sympathy for him if he truly, knowingly allowed a child under his charge to be abused and bullied because the child is or is perceived to be gay. Bullying is a real problem. A big problem..on a national scale. Terrance, the blogger from The Republic of T. and a contributor at Pam’s House Blend, just recently wrote about his own research into the spats of gun rampages at schools over the last several years. He discovered what many of those in education already knew, bullying that goes unpunished by schools leads the victims to either 1) committ suicide or 2) become violent and fight back against their aggressors and those that enable/allow their aggressors with a gun or other weapon since they are unable to fight back any other way.

    Teachers and principals often see the bullying or see the signs that it is taking place, but stand idly by for fear that the local nutball soapbox preacher will get them fired for “endorsing and encouraging homosexuality” or something similiar. That and they know that the victims of the bullying rarely sue and when they do, they rarely win due to the enormous shield of immunity the courts throw up around school officials, even for conduct that border gross negligence or depraved indifference.

    How many kids bullied for being gay or being perceived as gay get told, “take it like a man” or “get over it.” How many are told “learn to stand up for yourself.” Sage advice when “standing up for themselves” ends up being behind the barrel of a gun.

    This should be extremely disturbing to people, but it fails to resonate. It gets chocked up to the “boys will be boys” mentality. We need laws to stop bullying in schools. We need school officials to enforce them. We need stiff penalties, both civil and criminal, when school officials fail to enforce them. Schools should be a place where children can feel safe and be who they are without fear of being beat up, bullied, teased or taunted because they are or are perceived to be gay, fat, Jewish, black, wear glasses, etc, etc, etc. Schools aren’t doing enough to stop it.

    And before anyone accuses me of being anti-teacher or anti-school administrator, I come from a family of teachers and school administrators including both parents and 5 aunts and uncles.

  17. says

    You are so right Anonimo. It could have been any one of us. I myself suffered years of bullying, to this same extent, and I just thank goodness that we never had guns in the house.

    Severe bullying will follow you around your whole life. I remember waking up in my twenties seeing RED and wanting to go “back there” and hurt them just like they hurt me.

    It’s no wonder why so many people in the glbt community have issues with drugs, alcohol, and low self-esteem. Too many of us have suffered at the hands of bullies and school authorities looking the other way.

    Something needs to be done to address this problem before there is more bloodshed. You would think that gays would be the first to be sympathetic to the cause of getting a 15 year old victim of homophobic bullying out of an adult prison and into a juvenile facily, but unfortunately, ignorance exists in all walks of life in every community.

    I have two letters here that Eric Hainstock wrote to me, and judging from his handwriting and his vocabulary, he doesn’t even realise what is happening to him. He has severe learning disabilities, probably a result of not being able to concentrate on his education due to his home life and the bullying.

    I am so glad that there are a few of you who see where I’m coming from. Please take a few minutes out of your day to visit http://www.justiceforjuveniles.com and get yourself aquainted with this story, and get active and pressure your governments to put an end to this act of warehousing juveniles in adult prisons. In my own homestate of Vermont, we put children as young as 10 years old into prison with adults, and I’m sure that the population isn’t even aware of this. Study after study shows that keeping juveniles in adult prisons is NOT a deterrent!

    Your thanks Anonimo are worth a million dollars. Your encouraging words help us to continue the fight.



  18. Dan says

    This is crazy. The kid was obviously abused at home and at the next place he should have been able to get help (school) he just found more abuse. When people are abused like this they don’t think rationally. This should all be taken into consideration in the trial.

  19. Dan says

    Also, it’s interesting how all you “hang ’em high” folks concentrated on the snacks and ignored the other parts “His father, Shawn Hainstock doled out unorthodox, humiliating punishments. Hot peppers and hot pepper sauce was forced down Eric’s throat, induced physical exhaustion such as forced running, being forced to stand in prolonged torturous positions. Also, Eric was beaten with belts and other objects; he was bitten…” and this was just one night. You all live with this and see how it effects you.

  20. peterparker says

    I can’t believe some people here are advocating for a fifteen year old to be tried as an adult because he “did a very adult thing” or because “At age 15 everyone knows and fully understands murder”.

    The fact of the matter is that some juveniles at the age of 15 DON’T fully understand the consequences of their actions. That’s why adolescents are notorious for engaging in behavior that puts themselves or others at risk…because they haven’t thought through the consequences of their actions.

    When someone is abused or neglected (as Eric Hainstock was) their emotional development is severely arrested. And that means their ability to differentiate between right and wrong is also limited. Eric Hainstock was abused by his father at a very young age. Therefore, what you have is a young person who was emotionally (and probably cognitively) much younger than his chronological age. His ability to understand fully the consequences of his actions are severely limited by the abuse he suffered as a child (and no, I’m not speaking of afterschool snacks, but rather sexual abuse).

    Eric Hainstock’s actions were the result of abuse at home and neglect at school.

  21. Chris in Seattle says

    The fact that its about more than afterschool snacks and seconds is exactly why I said that they should leave things like that out, because it makes the issue seem completely stupid.

    My question to all of you, is this..What are you doing about it? Sitting on a gay website, whining about how horrible it is? I too, was bullied throughout school, for being gay and overweight. I had it horrible in school, as well as a home life that was less than perfect. Did I go shoot a person? No, I grew up, and went to college, got multiple degrees and then focused my life on change. In the two years since I have moved back to where I grew up, I have created gay/straight alliances in every single junior high and high school in the county that i live in, created and ran a drop in center for queer and questioning youth, as well as creating programs with a group for safe schools against bullying.

  22. says

    Well Chris, you obviously weren’t bullied so much that you couldn’t concentrate on your education. Multiple degrees? Just out of college? Creating gay/straight alliances in all the schools you’ve been to? Oh please! You obviously didn’t have it hard to be able to accomplish all that.

    What am I doing besides sitting on a gay website “whining” as you call it? Me, I call it EDUCATING, something you can use a little more of obviously. I’ve done much much more than just sitting on websites chatting with ignorant, disrespectful folks such as yourself, and that includes writing letters to judges, lawyers, other government officials, even Eric Hainstock himself; sending him money in prison since his own family has abandoned him.

    So what are YOU doing about it Chris In Seattle, besides creating gay/straight alliances when you were 14 years old and sitting on gay websites advocating that we put a 15 year old abused and neglected brother in prison for life with adults simply because he reacted as any caged animal would in his situation?

  23. RB says

    Peterparker, really! Are you serious? You continually amaze me. With your line of thinking here we would never convict anyone of wrongdoing! Why don’t we just forego the trial and let him go?! That is what it sounds like!

  24. Chris in Seattle says

    I didnt create gay/straight alliances when i was 14 years old..Im creating them now, when im 25 years old. I have stepped in, to all the schools in my city and neighboring cities and structured and organized gay/straight alliances in every single school, as well as educating students through a group called Safe Schools that deals specifically with bullying. Im the one going school to school,educating hundreds of people about the effects of bullying and abuse, while you sit there and write your letters to government officals who simply throw them in the trash. I was bullied and neglected from a young age, but the point is that I didnt grab a gun and go shoot somebody. I actually worked through it and did something with my life, which is the message that we try to spread at our meetings. You can’t wait until somebody actually kills another person and then write letters..thats not activisim..thats reactionism.

  25. says

    My point Chris is that you are on here advocating that we put this kid in prison with adults. What’s wrong with a Juvenile Detention Center? What is the purpose of even having Juvenile Courts if we’re just going to throw them away in an adult prison?

    I don’t appreciate you belittling what I’ve been doing to help this kid. If there were “meetings” in my community, I would go to them. I would do so much more to help these kids, but there are only 24 hours in a day.

    I see that you are too rigid and set in your ways to even try to begin where I’m coming from. You are right about one thing: I’m wasting my time here, not by writing details missing from the above article that I’ve spent so many hours researching, but by trying to convince YOU to see my point of view.

    I suggest you go to Wikipedia and look up “bullying” and “bullycide”. As long as this problem exists, there will continue to be many more school shootings. And instead of just locking these kids up in adult prisons, maybe we as a society should start looking into the root of the problem and figure out what makes a kid bring a gun to school in the first place.

    Most school shooters show signs before committing their crime, and are just screaming for help. And in most cases also, school authorities are turning their heads and refuse to address the problem, before the crime happens. What’s wrong with holding these people partly responsable for the crime, these people that we pay out of our pockets to protect our children and see to it that they are able to concentrate on their education without worrying how they are going to avoid being beaten up by Billy Bob after school?

    I commend you for going to schools and educating our young about bullying. But please show a little respect to people who don’t agree with your philosophy of locking kids up with adults.

  26. Pam says

    I don’t think anyone can judge what another persons threshold or pain and torment is. Everyone has a different tolerance level. Eric had abuse on all levels for a very long time. I agree that when Eric finally did stand up for himself, it was behind a barrel of a gun. That is the very sad reality. No one stopped it, so he tried to by standing up for himself, using a gun, the thing that he thought would get him results. He was standing up for himself, finally.

  27. Nathan says

    I don’t think anyone is advocating throwing this boy “to the lions”, I certainly am not. Take a deep breath, folks, and READ. God, I can’t believe how reactionary many of you are–that’s precisely how these horrible situations happen in the first place.
    #1. YES! Schools must become vigilant about protecting children who are not heteronormative or different in any way. No one should have to endure torment. I did as a child, and it was horrible!
    #2. YES! The adults in Eric’s life should be held accountable for his actions. Children depend on adults to protect them, not harm them. This includes Aunts and Uncles who now come forward with stories of Eric’s abuse. Where were they when he needed them–in his formative years?
    #3. NO! He should not be tried as an adult…
    Now, let’s be realists…
    #1. Many, many of us suffered parental abuse, many of us sufferede at the hands of our peers…and we did not kill anyone.
    #2. Eric could have sought help from a guidance councelor (I did) rather than shoot his principal.
    #3. If homosexual panic is not allowed as a defense (many horrific gay killings are committed by boys who have been abused in parental situations), why is straight harassment acceptable?
    Because we sympathize with the gay child. Because we have felt his pain.
    Bottom line: Murder is not acceptable. Under any circumstances. Ask the families of the students at Virginia Tech. Ask the families at Columbine. Those killers were tormented, too. Do we love them? Do we find thier deeds justifed? I stand by my original statement: if Eric was South Korean and killed another child rather than an adult, would you be as sympathetic? Somehow it’s okay in our “gay” universe to KILL a percieved “straight” oppressor–well, it is NOT okay. Are we that desensitized to violence? We may fantasize about killing (God knows I did!), but we must not EVER raise a gun to anyone.
    Eric was a desperate child in a desperate situation, and for that, my heart goes out to him. He was ignored by teachers, and ignored by his extended family. I don’t care if his father was fat and locked up the Twinkies… that’s extraneous information, and smacks of a whole different kind of warped justification. The real problem here is that we are teaching (through media) that violence is a solution. We need to teach that there are mental health facilities that are geared to children. There ARE places kids can go to help them cope. Picking up a gun and shooting is not the answer–and if Eric goes unpunished to some degree, what sort of message are we sending?

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