In the North Woods of Wisconsin, you will find trees, tranquility, and wildlife. What you won’t often find is crime, and it’s even more rare to find a murder, especially one that involved 5 members of the same family. But in Cushing, WI, in Polk County on the border of Minnesota, that’s exactly what was found.
With a population of 715 people, Cushing, WI, was a small town and home to the Brenizer family. There was Rick, 35 and his son Bruce, 15. Rick had a longtime girlfriend Ruth Berentson, 31. She had two daughters, Heidi, 10 and Mindy, 7. Rick and Ruth also had a daughter together, Crystal, 5.
In April 1991, Bruce had contacted police to report his family had never returned from a shopping trip to Minneapolis. When the police went out the family trailer, which was secluded, there was no evidence of a crime. It was almost three weeks later when the family was found. Their station wagon was burnt out and there were bone and tooth fragments in the car.
Using dental records, the police learned they had found Rick, Ruth, and the three children. Rick’s remains showed the presence of lead. The case was no longer a missing persons case, it had graduated to homicide.
Rumors ran wild when it was learned of the family massacre, drug dealers, satanic worshippers, ax-wielding maniacs were all mentioned and considered suspects. That is until Jesse Anderson came forward and said that the real killer was Bruce Brenizer.
Who was Jesse Anderson and how did he know Bruce was the killer of his own family?
Jesse and Bruce were close, in fact they had the same mother, Alice Anderson. Jesse’s girlfriend told police that she thought Jesse and Bruce knew more about the murders than they were saying.
Jesse agreed to cooperate with police and told them that Bruce, who disliked his living conditions, said that he had planned to kill his whole family. This was on April 21. Jesse did not believe that he would follow through on the threat. On April 22, Bruce called Jesse and said, “I did it, I killed them all.”
Jesse shared what Bruce told him about the slaughter. Bruce tied up and shot Mindy and Heidi outside the trailer first. Rick, Ruth, and Crystal came home, and Bruce executed them one by one outside as well.
Then Jesse was called to help clean up the crime scene and dispose of the bodies. They used shovels to clean up blood that had pooled from the gunshots. Bruce drove the bodies to a wooded area, Jesse followed in a separate car.
Bruce had pulled the large bone fragments from the car and put them into a duffel bag. The car and bodies were then set on fire, the larger bones were buried on Jesse’s property.
Bruce was arrested for the murder of his five family members. Jesse was given immunity for his assistance in the case. Bruce was in court two years later and pleaded guilty to all five counts of murder, the minor murders were by reason of insanity.
Bruce Brenizer is currently serving his consecutive life sentences at the Mendota Mental Health Institute in Madison, Wisconsin. He will be eligible for parole in January 2023.
Stay Weird Wisconsin!