RACINE - Teri Jendusa Nicolai sat at a long table looking up at the judge and the speakerphone projecting her ex-husband's voice into the cavernous courtroom.
She had two attorneys on each side - the guardian ad litem who looks out for her children's best interests, her family court attorney, her civil court attorney, and the attorney in charge of the trust funds set up for her children from their father's seized assets.
David Larsen was asking the court for two things: to let him see his children and to reduce his child support payments. It's been six years since Larsen saw the girls, now 12 and 9. The last time they visited him was the day he tried to kill their mother.
He beat Jendusa Nicolai with a baseball bat, stuffed her in a garbage can and left her to die in a freezing storage unit.
This is the first time since 2004 that Larsen has requested to see his children. Larsen's proposal was to have the girls spend time with his parents, who could then drive the girls to Waupun, to visit him in prison. But Judge Gerald Ptacek said Larsen can't petition for his parents to get visits with the girls. The grandparents would have to request that on their own.
"I'm still a parent here and I'm being denied access to my children," Larsen said in court Tuesday. "I'm trying to do what's necessary to change that. I don't know what else to add, short of that, at this point."
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But Larsen is in prison - where he doesn't have visits with his children - because of what he did, attorneys pointed out. He tried to kill the girls' mother, which sets this case apart from most cases with an incarcerated parent, said the judge.
Larsen's responsibility for his incarceration came up again when he asked to have his child support payments reduced.
Because he is in prison, he said, he has no income. With no income, the amount he pays should be changed. But again, it is his own actions that put him there.
Larsen has fought paying child support. Before he was convicted, he was accused of using his parents to dispose of assets and move money around so Jendusa Nicolai and the children couldn't have it.
Money for the children and to pay child support is now set aside in several accounts, after a civil suit in which Jendusa Nicolai and her family won $3.7 million from Larsen. Because of those accounts, Larsen is current on his child support payments.
Leaving the child support payments in place, Ptacek said, protects the children "so that if there is a windfall of some sort, an inheritance, then they would be in line to have benefit from that."
Toward the end of the hearing, a fifth attorney stepped in on Jendusa Nicolai's behalf.
Racine County District Attorney Mike Nieskes, who had watched the hearing from a seat in the front row, walked up to talk with Attorney Donald Conner, Jendusa Nicolai's attorney on the family case. Conner then addressed the court.
"The state of Wisconsin has informed me they will be filing a harassment motion based on the custody and placement motion filed by Mr. Larsen," Conner said.
Wisconsin's truth-in-sentencing laws prohibit defendants from filing lawsuits solely to harass their victims, and that's what Jendusa Nicolai and the District Attorney believe these motions are designed to do.
"There is no legal basis," Nieskes said after the hearing. "It's not for any legitimate legal argument. It's for the purpose of harassing the victim on the matter."
When Larsen realized what he was being accused of, he spoke over the judge.
"I'm harassing because I'm attempting to see my children," he said.
Ptacek tried to cut him off - "That's not something to deal with today," the judge said. But Larsen continued speaking.
"How does that make sense?"