Most of the country is familiar with the Pam Smart case where she convinced teenagers to murder her husband after he had changed and she didn’t like it, but feared she would lose everything in a divorce. But I wouldn’t have expected to find a similar story that came out of Wisconsin.
In Jefferson, WI, a twisted tale of a teacher’s aide, three teenagers, and a plea to help an abused woman escape her vicious husband who was going to leave her with nothing and even take her children, leaving her homeless.
In February 1979, Ruben Borchardt was a widower. His wife, Susan, had died in a car accident. Soon afterwards, Ruben met the secretary at work, Diane Pfister. She too was divorced, and the couple hit it off immediately. Ruben had two young children, Brook 3 and Chuck 1. In October of that same year, 8 months after Susan died, Ruben and Diane got married. They had a daughter together, Regan, who was born the following year.
Diane did her best to eliminate Susan from the Borchardt home. She removed pictures, halted conversation about her, and stated that she was no longer a part of their family as she was deceased. It became even more troubling when Diane doted on her daughter Regan, but resented having to raise and care for a dead woman’s children.
Several years went by and Diane and Ruben constantly fought. Diane would argue about anything. Diane also became extremely jealous of Ruben and the children. Diane didn’t want Brook and Chuck to know that Susan was their mother, Brook learned that Diane wasn’t her mother when she was in the third grade, and Diane despised it when people would say that Brook looked like Susan.
Fast forward to 1994, Diane was now working as a teacher’s aide at the local high school, and the students all seemed to like her. She was a person that the kids would go to if they had problems.
Ruben had been seeing another woman named Judy, and he had filed for divorce. Until the property and custodial matters were settled, he moved into the basement. Diane refused to leave the house, and then tried to get custody of Chuck.
In April, Ruben won physical custody of his son, and Diane was told to vacate the house by April 15. The students in Diane’s study hall noticed a change in her as well. But the students that noticed the most were Doug Vest, Josh Yanke, Michael Moldonado. Echoing the statements that Pam Smart used in 1990, Diane told Doug Vest that she needed help in getting rid of her husband. He had physically abused her, and that she would lose everything in a divorce.
During the divorce, the fighting between Ruben and Diane became so constant that Brook moved into a friends house. Chuck was at the house but didn’t want to be there and stayed with friends as often as possible. It also was common to hear Diane threaten Ruben, which Ruben took seriously.
Diane was smart and reached out to vulnerable children. Each of the boys she spoke to either had a single parent home or some other problem in their life. To teenage boys, the promise of $20,000 from an insurance payout, her wedding and engagement rings, and two cars, was a very attractive payment.
On April 2, trouble was brewing. Ruben said “Something strange is going on.” Diane had taken Regan and the dog, Bugsy, to visit Susan’s parents, over 200 miles away. Diane wasn’t very close with Susan’s parents, and the dog had never travelled with her, but he was prone to bark wildly if anyone entered the house.
On the morning of April 3rd, the three teenagers arrived at the Borchardt’s home. They got into the house through the first floor. Ruben was coming up the basement steps and met the gunmen. He was shot once at the top of the stairs, as he attempted to get away he was shot again, and then he was knocked down the stairs.
Chuck was upstairs and heard the blasts, when he raced downstairs, he found his father, still alive, and called 9-1-1. Before he died and before authorities arrived, Ruben murmured; “I can’t believe she would do this to me.”
In Ruben’s obituary, Susan had been mentioned, and Diane had complained to the attorney. It is believed that Diane’s motive was greed, but also obsession. Diane and Regan stayed in the Borchardt home, the same home that Ruben had been murdered in. Chuck was in the permanent custody of his aunt, and Brook was working full time at a group home for the mentally handicapped.
Doug Vest accidentally let it slip that he was involved with Ruben’s murder. When confronted about it Doug made a full confession, and provided the names of his accomplices. It wasn’t long before arrests were made.
Diane, Doug, Joshua, and Michael all were tried and they were convicted of the following:
Joshua Yanke – Plead guilty to second degree intentional homicide and is sentenced to 18 years in prison.
Michael Maldonado – was found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. He will be eligible for parole after serving 50 years of his sentence.
Douglas Vest Jr. – was found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. He will not be eligible for parole until he had served 25 years of is sentence.
Diane Borchardt – was found guilty of first degre murder and sentenced to life in prison. She will be eligible for parole after serving 45 years of her sentence.
Stay Curious my Friends!