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COVER STORY

Eric Hainstock: Free at last
Prison may be the best thing that ever happened to Eric Hainstock


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Eric Hainstock's first letter to Isthmus, dated April 15, 2008, got right to the point: "When I was 15 years old I shot my high school principal. I never meant for this to happen. He grabbed me from behind and I got scared. I was already pretty stressed, so that freaked me out even more. Please don't get me wrong, I am not blaming Mr. Klang for grabbing me. But I am blaming him, the teachers, social services and the school as a whole for never listening to me.... No one ever listened."

Like other communications to follow, the letter is a plaintive appeal for understanding, with a heavy dollop of self-pity. "No one ever listened"? Perhaps it felt that way to Hainstock.

"I want my story told," wrote Hainstock, now 17, who picked Isthmus on the recommendation of his "celly," a former Madison resident. "I want all the social service agencies to listen, the schools, parents all over the state." He pegged his purpose as altruistic - to make sure no one else would ever have to "live in the hell that I did." (Quotations from Hainstock's letters have been edited for spelling and style.)

On Sept. 29, 2006, Eric Hainstock brought a shotgun and pistol to his school in Cazenovia, about 80 miles northwest of Madison. A janitor wrestled the shotgun away, but Hainstock proceeded down a hall, to be confronted by principal John Klang. A struggle ensued, and Klang was shot three times, in the head, leg and chest. The 49-year-old husband and father of three died later that day.

Hainstock, a high school freshman, was charged as an adult; his lawyers tried but failed to waive his case back into juvenile court. A year ago, on Aug. 2, after a weeklong trial in which he was alternately portrayed as a screwed-up kid and coldly calculating killer, Hainstock was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. His first parole eligibility will be in 2037, when he'll turn 46.

Despite the trial judge's recommendation that Hainstock begin his sentence in a juvenile facility, he was sent to the Green Bay Correctional Institution, a maximum-security adult prison. I wrote him back there, saying Isthmus was interested in doing a story but is "NOT on your side." I also warned that media attention might generate "more outrage than sympathy." (For presumably similar reasons, Hainstock's appeals attorney urged him not to cooperate with this article; he rejected that advice.)

Hainstock, in reply, said he knows it's easier for people to blame him, "to hate me and move on," but this is not the whole story. There is a context for what happened. His 10-page letter and accompanying psychological reports detail a lifetime of abuse and neglect.

In fact, wrote Hainstock, "I face less abuse in prison than I did at school or at home." He's made dramatic gains in his reading and math skills and is working toward his GED. He regards his cellmate as a mentor and protector.

"How does someone do better in every area of their life in prison?" he asks. "Easy. No beatings. No name-calling. If someone were to hit me or call me a name, they would be immediately punished. Yet, at home or school, no one was held accountable."

Home life

On the day of the shooting, Hainstock told police his goal was to confront Klang and "make him listen" to his concerns about bullying. Fellow students, he said, called him "fag" and "faggot" and rubbed up against him.

Other details soon emerged. Eric's father, Shawn Hainstock, was charged in 2001 with felony child abuse for kicking him and other punishments. Family acquaintances said Shawn would berate Eric, calling him names like "retard," or make him stand in the corner, his nose touching a wall and holding one leg in the air, for long periods. Not long before Klang's death, Hainstock clashed with his stepmother and ended up with human bite marks.

But these indicators of turmoil pale in comparison with Hainstock's self-description of the abuse he endured.

"My home life was a prison," writes Hainstock from his cell at Green Bay. "A nightmare. Can you imagine being a kid and hating, fearing, your parents and your home? My dad was charged, then let go on abuse. The community and family knew he and my adopt[ive] mom beat me and tortured me.... They all knew. The school and social services and family."

Eric Hainstock's former home is about four miles northwest of Cazenovia; it's a winding, hilly jaunt through some of the most gorgeous land in Wisconsin. There are vehicles in the front yard and horses on a farm next door. Weston Schools, where the shooting occurred, is five miles from Cazenovia in the opposite direction, on a hill overlooking the countryside. Both places are lovely but feel remote, isolated, detached from their communities.

Hainstock, in his letters, which his cellmate helped him write, sums up his family life as follows: "The only place I actually felt at home was anywhere but." He thrived when, after the abuse charges, he was removed from his father's home to live with his paternal grandmother. "There I felt safe, wanted, loved." His behavior and grades markedly improved. But eventually his father regained custody.

At the home of his father and stepmother, says Hainstock, he was treated like a slave, made to do all the cleaning, sometimes until late at night. He had to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches while his folks "would eat steaks in front of me." He was often hungry at school, because his dad wouldn't pay the 30 cents a day for a reduced-price school lunch. His dad also took him off Ritalin, a drug that had a huge positive impact, because "he didn't want to spend the money."

Hainstock says both parents beat him, kicked him, slapped him and threw things at him. His dad made him hold hot sauce and peppers in his mouth, which burned so bad "I couldn't breathe or swallow," and run laps in the yard, sometimes for hours. He couldn't stop to urinate; "I would have to pee my pants or pull it out while I ran."

The clothes and shoes his father bought didn't fit. He says he was only allowed to shower once or twice a week, which made him stand out at school: "Not one other kid smelled like that." There was never a word of comfort or praise. "I would accept all the beatings if I could have just heard one 'I love you' or 'Good job, Eric.'"

When I phone Hainstock's father and start to explain my purpose on the answering machine, the call disconnects; on second try the hang-up occurs after one ring. But he eventually does respond to a letter asking to talk.

Shawn Hainstock knows he's not a perfect parent but suggests Eric is exaggerating: "What teenager doesn't think they're getting a bad deal?" Making kids run as punishment is what gym teachers do, he notes. As for the peppers, "All I did is take a dried jalapeño pepper when he got a filthy mouth and raked it across his tongue," much like the "half of America" that uses soap on kids' mouths.

Aside from having kicked his son, Shawn says, "I don't think anything I did was wrong." He remembers good times, camping and fishing, working on demolition derby cars. "He was a really good boy," he says of Eric. "He'd just go through really rough streaks."

Eric Hainstock doesn't have any good memories of life with his father and stepmom, Priscilla. He thinks authorities should have "had the courage or even just did their job and got me out of that home. I wanted to die. I tried to die. I wanted to be somewhere else. I would dream about laughing and being loved like I saw other families. Never came true, and now it never will."

School hell

At the time of the shooting, Hainstock was starting his fifth year at Weston Schools, a K-12 facility with about 350 students. He transferred there in sixth grade, which he repeated due to behavior problems and poor test scores. Earlier, while living with his grandmother, he had attended school in Wonewoc, where he did much better.

"There was never, not once, a good day [at Weston]," he writes. "It was hell and misery every single day."

Hainstock, who identifies as bisexual and by his own account "acted like a girl," says he was constantly called fag, gay boy, girlie boy, punk and sissy. "Every day the same thing. They would call me names in the hall, in class, at lunch, before school and after. The teachers all knew this." But they wouldn't protect "the smelly gay kid."

It got physical: "I would be slapped, hit all over my body, pushed in bushes or thrown to the ground, my head was stuck in dirty toilets, sometimes three times a day."

In his letters, Hainstock lists a half-dozen school officials, including Klang, to whom he purportedly complained. "I told them two, three, four times a week every week every year. NOTHING was ever done."

Shawn Hainstock backs up this part of Eric's account, saying his son regularly got "beat up" at Weston. "I complained to that school so many times I was to the point of getting a disorderly conduct - and nobody did nothing."

One student told a newspaper that Hainstock was picked on more than anyone else at school. But other news accounts and web postings from former classmates allege that Hainstock also engaged in bullying and obnoxious behavior. He broke school rules and was often disruptive. Two weeks before the shooting, police were called after he threw a stapler at a teacher. The day before, he got a disciplinary warning from Klang for having tobacco at school.

A few letters into our exchange, I take Hainstock to task. Wasn't his own behavior a problem? Isn't he exaggerating the extent to which he was a victim (head flushed in dirty toilets "sometimes three times a day") or how often he complained to school officials?

Hainstock, in reply, clarifies that he meant to say that, during one single day, his head was flushed three separate times, not that this was a daily occurrence. He admits he bullied two other students, which was "wrong." And when hit or called names, he would respond in kind: "I wasn't a complete doormat."

But he says he only acted out at school "because I was a mess. Not so kids could react or further torment me. That would be insane." He insists there were "at least 25-30 kids at Weston who bullied me." Two of them "lied plain and simple" when they denied this at his trial.

And Hainstock is adamant that he repeatedly importuned school officials. "I asked Klang at least three or four times a week to have students leave me alone," he writes. "I am not in any way overstating the case. I hated it. I wanted it stopped. For crying out loud, I brought a gun to school so it would stop."

Weston officials seem oddly uninformed on this score. Neither Terry Milfred, who was superintendent when the shooting occurred, nor Tom Andres, who was hired afterward, knew enough to say whether Hainstock frequently complained about being bullied.

Milfred recalls that Hainstock had expressed "specific concerns," but doesn't know details. His impression is that Hainstock had a hard time fitting in: "Eric was the type of student who tried to relate in maybe somewhat of a clumsy way that didn't always sit well with [other students]. He tended to irritate people more than befriend them."

Andres, who became superintendent in January 2007, has heard from students that "Mr. Klang was probably one of [Hainstock's] biggest advocates." On bullying, the district is now more vigilant: "Anytime someone comes in with a complaint or a concern we deal with it pretty seriously."

But the underlying issue, believes Andres, is not bullying but "the whole thing of respect. Bullying can be handled. To subvert it, to push it under, is not helpful either. Then you can no longer deal with it."

The shooting

On the morning of Sept. 29, 2006, Hainstock woke up feeling what he later called "anger and rage at everybody. Everyone who picked on me. Everyone who wouldn't help me."

He took his father's .22-caliber revolver and a 20-gauge shotgun. Having missed the school bus, he siphoned gas from lawnmowers for the family truck. He drove to school for the first time, not knowing how to shift the gears.

In his letters to Isthmus, Hainstock says he brought guns to school "to tell them all to stop it." After the shotgun was taken from him, he went to see Klang. The pistol was inside his jacket, under his armpit. When Klang grabbed him, "I freaked out. The gun just went off again and again."

Hainstock says he accepts responsibility for what happened: "Not a day goes by that I don't think, cry and dream about what I did to Mr. Klang. I have to live with it every day. It is a hell unto itself. He didn't deserve that."

But he also feels "I am not to blame for everything. I was 15 and never lived a day of peace or hope." No one got him out of his parents' house. No one stopped "the torture" at school. If they had, he writes from prison, "I would not be here today, and Mr. Klang would not be dead."

There was never any question that Hainstock's actions caused Klang's death, and that he would be punished for it. But under what system and how severely?

Hired by Hainstock's public defenders, Middleton psychologist Michael Caldwell spent a total of seven hours with Hainstock on three occasions, and reviewed voluminous records from his past. He diagnosed attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as well as depression and borderline personality features, including "intense emotional instability." Hainstock had a negative self-image and engaged in self-mutilating behavior, cutting his skin.

Caldwell cited studies showing that adolescents lack control of impulses and emotions due to their level of brain development. He argued that the extreme high stress of Hainstock's entire life further retarded this development, rendering him "substantially less mature than his chronological age."

Hainstock "is particularly weak in his ability to plan, to generate realistic potential future outcomes of various courses of action," wrote Caldwell. "As a result, he is likely to show poor judgment and generate grossly irrational plans, more characteristic of a preteen."

Another psychologist, Marty Beyer of Virginia, similarly found that Hainstock was "emotionally delayed and depressed because of untreated traumas." She saw much of Hainstock's misbehavior as a cry for help: "He desperately wanted someone to pay attention to how unhappy he was at home and school and do something about it."

Beyer quizzed Hainstock about the likely consequences of bringing guns to school. "Eric said he had not thought about it, but now realizes he would have been arrested for having a gun in school. It was apparent when he considered my question [that this] was the first time it had dawned on him that because he carried loaded guns into school, he would have been arrested and expelled, so the point of being listened to would be lost."

System failure

When the Rev. Jerry Hancock talks about the criminal justice system, it is with knowledge and authority.

Before being ordained in January 2006 and starting a prison ministry through the First Congregational United Church of Christ in Madison, Hancock worked within the system for almost 35 years. He was a public defender, a deputy prosecutor under Dane County District Attorney Jim Doyle and an administrator in Doyle's Justice Department. He capped off his career as head of the state's office of consumer protection.

Now he spends his time "speaking truth to power" in pursuit of reform. His prison ministry project has about 60 volunteers who visit inmates throughout the state. He was asked to visit Hainstock in the fall of 2006, shortly after his arrest. At first, at the Sauk County jail, he came once a week. Now, at Green Bay, it's about once a month. Hancock won't discuss the content of these "pastoral visits," but Hainstock does, saying they pray, talk about God, and work on forgiveness.

Hancock, who attended much of Hainstock's court proceedings, challenges his claim that school and social service officials turned a blind eye to his mistreatment. "Lots and lots of people in Sauk County, some who happened to be at Weston high school, cared and still care about Eric," he says. "They tried to help him. But his family life was in such chaos that it was impossible to meet his needs."

He assesses that Shawn Hainstock, who'd also attended Weston, had an "adversarial" relationship with school officials. So "Eric didn't get the help that everybody - except maybe his father - thought he needed."

Even the violence was anticipated. Ruth Willis, the wife of Hainstock's pastor, testified in court that she told a Weston Schools official "if he didn't find help for this boy, he was going to have another Columbine on his hands." According to Hancock, "Everybody saw this coming. They saw that Eric was a deeply needy kid who nobody could quite get to. But people really tried."

Still, Hancock thinks Hainstock's view that nobody helped him is "a perfectly valid way to see it," especially for an adolescent. "The adult perspective is that we tried. The kid perspective is you abandoned me." And, in fact, those who did try to help him failed: "Every adult in his life let him down."

So did the justice system. At the hearing to waive Hainstock back into juvenile court, at which the two defense psychologists testified, Hancock says "it was clear to everybody that Eric needed treatment," due to his lifetime of abuse. And the treatment he needed - "integrated, consistent and intense" - was not something the adult prison system would likely provide.

But the juvenile system doesn't allow confinement or supervision beyond age 25. And so, says Hancock, the judge affirmed Hainstock's status as an adult, perhaps throwing away his chances of rehabilitation but at least ensuring that "the public would be protected."

Hancock is angered by this: "What kind of crazy system is that? In a rational and humane system, you wouldn't have to choose" between rehabilitation and public safety. "Eric's case is a failure of the justice system."

Hainstock also mines the irony: "I would never have been allowed, regardless of how grownup I acted or sounded, to go to war, drink at a bar, vote. But when a mistake happens, then I am old enough to be treated as an adult."

At trial, the prosecutor depicted Hainstock as a habitual liar with a violent temper who resented adults telling him what to do. A school guidance counselor said he "enjoyed playing the role of victim." One student said Hainstock "would push people more than he got pushed."

The jury heard that Hainstock, in the days before the shooting, had made threats about Klang and invoked Columbine. They heard he came to school announcing his intention to "kill somebody." They did not hear from the psychologists who concluded he was emotionally immature and unable to think through the consequences of his actions. The jury found him guilty of first-degree murder.

Rhoda Ricciardi, one of Hainstock's two veteran public defenders, was devastated. After the verdict she took six months off. Then she asked to be reassigned job duties that did not involve criminal cases. As she puts it, "If this is the justice system, I don't want to be part of it anymore."

Happiness is a warm cell

In sentencing Hainstock to life in prison with the possibility of parole, Sauk County Judge Patrick Taggart remarked, "I believe you can be rehabilitated." If there was reason to doubt that statement then, there is less now. Hainstock, in prison, has thrived.

He's gained 50 pounds, filling out his scrawny frame. He no longer has issues with hygiene or personal care. He's gone from a fourth- to a 10th-grade reading level, and is on track to get his GED next year, about when he would have graduated had he stayed in school.

"For the first time, he's had stability and predictability in his life," says Hancock. "He's benefiting from having a consistent environment."

Hainstock agrees. "I have it much better in here than I did out there," he writes. "I am happy." He doesn't want to be in prison. He misses people he knew. He misses fishing and being outdoors. But no one picks on him - the older inmates see to that. No one abuses him. He gets enough to eat. His clothes and shoes fit. "It is sad, but yes, prison is an improvement."

In prison, Hainstock says he doesn't need to be on any medication. Records show his conduct at Green Bay is nearly perfect, save for two minor write-ups for missing class.

Hainstock's days are tightly regimented. Breakfast is at 6:30, school starts by 9 and runs until 4, with a few breaks. In the evenings, he and his cellmate, 37-year-old Brannon Prisk, play games and talk. He recently read How to Be a Successful Criminal, about a former Wisconsin inmate who turns his life around.

Bill Pollard, the warden at Green Bay, wouldn't know Hainstock "if he walked right in front of me." The prison, designed for 750 inmates, has 1,100, including eight under the age of 18. Pollard says Green Bay ends up with younger inmates because it has one of the largest schools, with 20 teachers. Pollard agrees that strict rules can be welcome.

"There's some people who, due to their previous environment, find this setting to their liking," he says. "They like the structure. I wouldn't, personally."

Hainstock says Prisk is like a father to him. "He listens to me. When I get a good grade he puts it on the wall. He tells me how good I am and can be. He doesn't hit me or call me names like my parents did." Prisk, who is straight, knows Hainstock is bisexual and is okay with that. "My dad said gays would go to hell. Brannon said God loves me the same as anyone."

Prisk reminds Hainstock to brush his teeth. He helps him with his schoolwork. "He talks to me and lets me talk to him" - about politics, music, whatever. They play word games to build Hainstock's vocabulary. Prisk, serving a sentence for aggravated battery, will get out in May 2010. Says Hainstock, "I don't know what I will do without him."

In one letter, Prisk pops in to offer his thoughts. "It breaks my heart that he is here," he writes of Hainstock. "He is a great kid."

Shawn Hainstock is impressed with Eric's educational gains but feels he's having "a rough time" in prison. He says his son seems consumed with anger and is "sucking up a lot of the garbage" he hears in prison. Recently, Eric wrote a letter telling his father off.

The state Department of Corrections refused to let me visit Hainstock at Green Bay. DOC spokesman John Dipko says "a close family member of Mr. Klang" voiced strong objections. State law permits denying media access when this would "jeopardize or be detrimental to...the welfare of the victim, victim's family or the community."

This decision upsets Hainstock. "Once again, they are attempting to not hear the truth," he writes. "Why can't my story be told? I was a victim, too."

Hainstock, in his letters to me, becomes increasingly familiar, at one point signing off with "talk to ya later gator." He scrawls an elaborate signature he says is a bunny. Later, he sends me a drawing of Sylvester the Cat. He wants readers to know they can write him: Eric Hainstock 516990, GBCI, P.O. Box 19033, Green Bay, WI 54307. Prisk will screen the letters, to filter out the nasty ones.

When we finally do speak, it's via collect calls from prison. He sounds older than I expected, and more mature.

Hainstock says some people in prison have told him he's "cool" for having killed his principal. He corrects them: "No, I'm not. I took a life. He can't go to his daughter's wedding. He can't walk her down the aisle."

He thinks about the Klangs every day. "I hope someday I can see them, talk to them, tell them how bad I feel. And I hope they can forgive me. I know it ain't easy." (Klang family members, through the DOC, declined to be interviewed for this article.)

Hainstock says that with Hancock's help he's forgiven the students who picked on him. He's working on forgiving his father. But that's a tougher task.

"I love my dad because he is my dad," he says. But he's still plenty angry. He says his father never lifted a finger to help him. He hasn't given him a single item for his cell. at one point Hainstock implores me, "I hope and pray you have no mercy on him."

And yet, in Hainstock's life, this is the parent who has stood by him. Shawn and Priscilla make the 160-mile trek to Green Bay about twice a month. Eric's birth mother isn't even on his visitor's list. When he was a little boy, he remembers, "She would promise to pick me up for a visit. I would pack my little bag and sit at the front step waiting for her. She would never come." She still doesn't.

Shawn Hainstock, telling the same part of Eric's story, begins to cry: "I don't know how anybody can turn their back on their own child."

Looking to the future

Hainstock says his Milwaukee-based appellate attorney, Paul Bonneson, intends to appeal his conviction on grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel, arguing that Hainstock's public defenders made critical errors. Bonneson refuses to discuss the case with Isthmus. He has thus far gotten six extensions of the deadline for which to file an appeal and blown five of them. The latest gives him until Aug. 11.

Hainstock wants to take a vocational class in masonry, to learn a skill. After he gets his GED, he plans to take college classes. Someday he hopes to visit schools, cautioning students against bullying. "I want to help kids," he says. "I don't want this to go on no more."

But what he wants most of all is to someday have a family. When I ask if he thinks he'd be a good father, he laughs softly. "I believe I would be. I wouldn't screw up like my dad. I'd try to tell my kid the mistakes I made."

I ask the Rev. Hancock what he hopes will happen. It is the longest wait for an answer in my reporting career.

"First and foremost," he says at long last, "I would hope for all the love and compassion in the world for the Klang family. And I would hope that we as a society will meet our responsibilities to Eric Hainstock."

What responsibilities are those? I ask. Again, the pause seems interminable. More than a minute. I can see that Hancock is not just trying to formulate his response, he's trying to channel it - from his life, from his ministry, from his soul. When he does respond, there are tears in his eyes. "They're the same responsibilities that society has to all children - to allow them to grow up safe and secure with a sense of self-esteem."

Note: For the text of an apology Hainstock wrote to the Klangs, some examples of his letters to Isthmus and an article about internet discussions involving Hainstock's classmates and others, see "Related Articles" at right.

The life of Eric Hainstock: A timeline

This chronology is drawn from psychological reports from experts who had access to school, court, social service and mental health records.

April 4, 1991: Born in La Crosse, Wis., the only son of Shawn Hainstock, then 20, and Lisa Marie Buttke, 19.

November 1993: Parents file for divorce.

1993-1996: Shawn Hainstock, now in Reedsburg, has several intakes for depression and anger issues at a mental health center.

April 1995: Eric, on turning 4, is evaluated for kindergarten in Reedsburg and found to be one to two years behind in language and other skills.

August 1995: Shawn Hainstock gains custody of Eric. He discontinues Eric's use of Ritalin for attention deficient hyperactivity disorder and pulls him from therapy after a single session.

December 1995: A woman Shawn Hainstock is dating obtains a harassment restraining order against him, then one to protect her children. She says Shawn used "frequent and severe spankings" to discipline Eric.

March 1996: Eric, still 4, is brought by his father to the Sauk County mental health unit for temper tantrums and "inappropriate sexual behaviors."

April 1997: A Reedsburg school evaluation finds Eric, having just turned 6, has significant problems with inappropriate behaviors, temper tantrums and aggression. He cries often and hits himself, at times needing to be physically restrained. This same month, Shawn Hainstock marries a woman named Priscilla.

July 1997: A police report states that Eric has been sexually abused by his 13-year-old stepbrother during visits to his mother for about a year, including fondling and "digital/anal penetration." The report also says his mother's new husband would kick and hit him. As a result, visitation with his mother is curtailed.

September 1997: An abuse probe is launched after Eric comes to school with a split lip from his dad. Abuse is not substantiated, but authorities deem Eric at risk and refer the family for treatment services; Shawn Hainstock does not follow through.

November 1997: An evaluation describes Eric as "desperate" to please adults and disruptive in class; his behavior is said to have deteriorated from the previous year.

1999: Hainstock's mother is sentenced to 60 days in jail for failure to pay child support.

February 1999: Seven-year-old Eric's unruly school behavior prompts another evaluation. It finds significant problems with anxiety, depression, hyperactivity, aggression and social skills.

December 1999: Eric, now 8, runs away from home after being punished by his father. Police find him past midnight sleeping on bales of hay, wet and cold; he is taken to the emergency room with mild hypothermia. He tells police he does not want to live with his father and stepmother anymore.

January 2000: Eric punches a student who takes his hat, knocking out a tooth.

March 2000: Lisa Marie terminates parental rights, and Priscilla adopts him.

May 2000: A school nurse puts Eric on a low dose of Ritalin. The improvement is dramatic; he's "well behaved, polite [and] respectful," but problems with impulse control and hyperactivity remain. The medication stops when the school year ends.

September 2000: Following a move, Eric, now 9, begins fourth grade in Wonewoc. He bites a student who gets on top of him. The next day, he doesn't come home from school and is found hiding in a public restroom, expressing fear about his father's reaction to his misbehavior.

October 2000: Eric is again prescribed Ritalin, and again his grades and behavior dramatically improve.

June 2001: A progress report says Eric, 10, is no longer taking Ritalin, resulting in "setbacks in progress."

September 2001: Police are called after Eric's father kicks him several times for botching chores. They learn he also makes Eric hold hot sauce on his tongue and hits him with a paddle marked "Board of Education." At one point, Shawn Hainstock tells authorities they can keep his son. Eric is removed and placed with Irene Hainstock, his father's mother. Shawn is charged with felony child abuse, later reduced to misdemeanor battery and ultimately dismissed.

Fall 2001: Eric's behavior deteriorates. He disrupts class, reports nightmares and fears of dying, makes threats of suicide. He kicks a peer and is suspended for bringing powdered magnesium to school, saying it was drugs.

Winter 2001: Eric, now with his grandmother, resumes taking Ritalin, and his behavior and school performance improve.

April 2002: Shawn Hainstock regains custody of Eric, now 11.

September 2002: Eric transfers to Weston Schools for sixth grade.

April 2003: A review finds Eric, now 12, has a "severe attention deficit problem that needs to be addressed through medication," but his father and stepmother object to his receiving it.

2003-2004: Eric has multiple detentions and is removed from classrooms an average of twice a week. He has to repeat sixth grade. A report calls him "very immature and emotional," saying he cries often. He is physically assaulted by another student. Sauk County officials receive two neglect referrals - one after Eric comes to school shirtless after being up late doing chores; one deeming him "filthy and smelling." Neglect is not substantiated.

March 2005: Now in the seventh grade, Eric is academically at a fourth- or fifth-grade level and has significant problems with learning, behavior and depression. His parents oppose counseling or other treatment, with his father saying he "is doing better with discipline."

2005-2006: A school psychologist notes in an undated report that eighth-grader Eric is "often hungry because his father would not pay for the discount lunch (30-40 cents)."

February 2006: Police are called to Weston after Eric, 14, becomes angry at another student and a teacher and throws chairs.

Sept. 14, 2006: Eric, 15, quarrels with a student and throws a stapler at a teacher. He is charged with second-degree recklessly endangering safety, disorderly conduct and criminal damage. Several days later he has a physical altercation with his adoptive mother that leaves him with bite marks on his arm and chest. (She later denies biting his chest.) She is not charged.

Sept. 29, 2006: Eric Hainstock goes to school with two guns and fatally shoots principal John Klang.

March 2007: A psychologist interviewing Eric notices he has cut the words "Fuck you" into his forearm. He explains that he is referring to himself.

April 2007: After a hearing, a Sauk County judge refuses to waive Eric's case back into juvenile court.

July 26, 2007: Hainstock's trial starts in Sauk County court, in Baraboo.

Aug. 2, 2007: A jury finds him guilty of first-degree intentional homicide.

Aug. 3, 2007: Judge Patrick Taggart sentences Eric to life in prison, with his first eligibility for parole in 2037. Shawn Hainstock tells reporters, "We love our son."

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