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Judge rejects Avey's mercy killing claim, imposes life sentence

Charles Avey, convicted in the murder of his stepson Cody Reetz, says goodbye to his  son Charles Avey Jr., left and his attorney John Kuczmarski after being escorted from the courtroom following sentencing.

Charles Avey, convicted in the murder of his stepson Cody Reetz, says goodbye to his son Charles Avey Jr., left and his attorney John Kuczmarski after being escorted from the courtroom following sentencing. Photo By Rick Wood

June 4, 2010

West Bend — A Washington County judge Friday forcefully rejected convicted murderer Charles A. Avey's last minute story that his stepson Cody Reetz asked to be killed so that he wouldn't face further sexual assaults by an alleged abuser Avey did not name in court.

In a statement read to Washington County Circuit Judge James Muehlbauer at Friday's sentencing, Avey described his strangling of 14-year-old Cody as a mercy killing and repeatedly said Cody wanted to die.

"Cody is in a much better place," Avey said of the Grafton boy's death.

Muehlbauer told Avey that his "attempts to put some spin" on the horrible facts of the murder did not make sense.

"For you to claim this was a mercy killing, and for you to say he is better off, is one final insult to Cody's family," Muehlbauer said.

The judge then sentenced Avey, 38, to life imprisonment with no opportunity for release. Under state law, the judge had the option of sentencing Avey to life in prison with an opportunity for release under state supervision after 20 years.

"You are quite calculating, and I find you to be quite dangerous," Muehlbauer said to Avey.

"I don't see you as a remorseful person," Muehlbauer said.

Both of Cody's biological parents - Trista Avey, Charles Avey's wife, and Allen Reetz of West Bend - asked Muehlbauer to put Charles Avey in prison for the rest of his life. Both parents cried throughout Friday's proceeding.

"Cody will always live in our hearts," Trista told her husband in comments she read in court. "You will rot in prison with your black heart."

Allen Reetz said, "You've taken a sweet, innocent life from all of us."

Avey used a necktie to strangle Cody Reetz on Nov. 15 inside a van parked in the lot of a Germantown Wal-Mart.

'Innocent little boy'

Washington County District Attorney Todd Martens also recommended life in prison with no possibility of release due to "the incomprehensible brutality and savage nature of this crime."

"Avey squeezed the life out of an innocent little boy who loved him," Martens said. "Their faces must have been inches apart."

Avey's story of a mercy killing is contradicted by cell phone text messages he sent and handwritten notes he wrote to Trista and other family members, as well as his confession of killing Cody, Martens said.

Charles Avey told investigators that he strangled Cody as payback to the boy's mother for reporting to Grafton police on the same day that Avey had beaten her with a hammer earlier in November. She also is known as Trista Ziehr.

In discussing the Nov. 8 beating of his wife, Avey told the judge that his wife started the fight.

"She never knew when enough was enough," he said. "I finally snapped."

Muehlbauer later observed that Avey continually tries to blame others for his actions.

Charles A. Avey Jr., 15, a Jackson resident and one of Avey's three biological sons, sobbed as he read a statement in court asking the judge to allow the possibility for his father's release from prison.

"I hate what he did, but God has a plan for all of us," the boy said. "I love you, Dad."

Trista Avey, Allen Reetz and more than a dozen other family members and relatives were in the courtroom Friday during Avey's sentencing. Each wore a pin bearing a photo of Cody. He was in the eighth grade at John Long Middle School in Grafton at the time of his murder.

Avey pleaded guilty to first-degree intentional homicide on April 1 and waived his right to a jury trial. Muehlbauer convicted him that same day.

At the April 1 court hearing, Avey testified that he tightened a necktie around Cody's neck with the intent to kill him while the two were inside the van.

He had told his stepson only that the two of them were going "for a ride" late in the afternoon of Nov. 15, according to an investigator's report.

After he parked the van outside the Wal-Mart, Avey told Cody only that "they were going to sit there and talk," according to a summary of the investigator's interrogation of Avey.

After murdering the boy, Avey covered the body with clothing and book bags and left the van to meet a friend.

He had called the friend while in Jackson, before driving the van to Germantown, and asked her to pick him up at the Wal-Mart parking lot.

Avey subsequently turned himself in to the Washington County Sheriff's Department.

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