Nothing could have prepared Tara Pakanich for what she encountered in the early morning hours of 23 February 2022. Inside a green bucket covered with a shower towel at her home in Green Bay, Wisconsin, was the mutilated head of her 24-year-old son Shad Thyrion.
Thyrion’s torso, penis and carved-out organs were later found by law enforcement in her basement. The gruesome nature of the murder was on full display in court as Taylor Schabusiness faced trial in July 2023.
It jury took just 30 minutes to convict Schabusiness on all counts of first-degree intentional homicide, mutilation of a corpse and third-degree sexual assault in Thyrion’s death. She was sentenced to life in prison in September.
Schabusiness, 25, and her victim knew each other since middle school and had been involved in a sexual relationship, she told law enforcement. On the fateful day of Thyrion’s death, they had been consuming methamphetamines and prescription drugs.
But despite Schabusiness’ attempts to enter not-guilty pleas for reason of insanity, prosecutors honed in on the atrocious evidence they said suggested premeditation.
Over the course of the three-day trial, jurors heard about Schabusiness’ online searches for “Jeffrey Dahmer walking into court all sexy” as well as how she allegedly preserved Thyrion’s blood and then showered with it before recounting to detectives how much she “liked strangling him.”
Throughout the proceedings, she also attacked her own lawyer and was seen smirking as gruesome details about the murder were mentioned.
Here’s everything we know about the case:
Schabusiness picked up Thyrion from her mother’s home around 9.30pm on 21 February 2022. A friend of the couple joined them before they headed to an apartment where the three smoked marijuana.
Schabusiness told police that she and Thyrion also smoked methamphetamine and injected Trazodone. Schabusiness and Thyrion eventually returned to his mother’s home and spent the day there while Ms Pakanich was away.
The killer claimed in an interview with police that she and Thyrion used chains to choke one another as foreplay. This time, she said, she and Thyrion put metal chains on each other.
Thyrion laid face down in bed before Schabusiness “went crazy” and repeatedly choked him despite the fact that he was coughing blood and turned purple.
Green Bay Police Detective David Graf testified in court that Schabusiness allegedly admitted to enjoying the ordeal.
“Her response was that she liked it,” Detective Graf said, according to local news station WBAY.
Schabusiness went on to tell law enforcement that she continued having sex with the dead body for a period of time because she enjoyed it and then gathered kitchen knives with the intention to dismember Thyrion and keep all his body parts, “but she got lazy,” according to the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
Detective Graf said that Schabusiness proceeded to use a bucket and a tote bag to collect Thyron’s blood, which she then used to shower with. Dane County Medical Examiner Dr Vincent Tranchida also testified in court about the lack of blood on the scene of the murder.
“We have decapitation, we have dismemberment, we have transection of the torso, subsequently internally the body has been eviscerated. In other words, we have entered inside the body through various cuts through the abdomen and between the ribs where the victim’s organs have been removed, largely one by one,” he told jurors.
Dr Tranchida also said that one of Thyrion’s feet had been shoved into his chest cavity and that his back was “filleted.”
Decapitated head found by Thyrion’s mother
Ms Pakanich told the court that she was woken up by a knock on her front door around 2.30am two days after the murder. She went to the basement to check whether Thyrion was there and after not finding him, she went back upstairs and found the bucket with part of her son’s remains inside.
Ms Pakanich’s boyfriend Steve Hendricks then called 911. Bodycam video of the officers responding to the scene shows them searching the basement of the home and securing the crime scene after confirming that a human head was inside the bucket.
“I went downstairs. At the bottom of the stairs, to the right, there was a green bucket with a shower towel on top of it. Just to verify we had an actual head in the bucket, lifted the towel off and there was in fact a human head severed head in the bucket,” Green Bay police officer Alex Wanish testified during the trial.
The rest of Thyrion’s body parts were found placed inside plastic bags and cardboard boxes in the basement and in a minivan at the property.
Schabusiness told police they would ‘had fun trying to find all of the organs’
Schabusiness had been previously convicted of unrelated fleeing, eluding and obstructing a police officer charges. She was sentenced to three months in jail in January 2022, but it is unclear whether she was under home arrest or work release at the time of Thyrion’s murder.
Following testimony from Thyrion’s mother, authorities eventually located Schabusiness, who had removed a GPS tracker from her ankle.
Detective Graf testified that Schabusiness had initially claimed to have blacked out while choking Thyrion, but then allegedly admitted thinking that she regained consciousness and thought she was “already this far” so she just kept on, referring to choking the victim.
The criminal complaint also read: “Schabusiness stated she thought it took 3-5 minutes for the Victim to die. Detective Kempf clarified with Schabusiness that when the Victim began to cough up blood she just did keep on choking the Victim because she wanted to see what happens.”
“Schabusiness stated she enjoyed choking him and made comments to detectives asking if they knew what it was like to love something so much that you kill it.”
Schabusiness allegedly indicated the crime scene and told officers that they would “have fun trying to find all of the organs”.
Schabusiness entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity entered by her former attorney.
A physician appointed by the court found that she was able to stand trial. Her attorney said at that time that Schabusiness has been diagnosed as bipolar in the past and that she had been getting mental health treatment since she was in the seventh grade.
However, Brown County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Walsh ruled in March that Schabusiness was competent to stand trial.
In February, Schabusiness attacked her previous attorney during a court hearing before a deputy wrestled her to the courtroom floor.
Schabusiness’s current attorney filed a motion to exclude evidence of searches Schabusines made before the murder, including “Jeffrey Dahmer walking into court all sexy” and “Jeffrey Dahmer’s butt.” Judge Walsh ruled that the evidence can be admitted in court, but no mention should be made of her searches for satanism.
According to his obituary, Thyrion worked with his father and grandfather in the family business.
“Shad enjoyed camping, games, and spending time with his family,” the obituary read. “He was a very kind and compassionate person who often thought of others before himself. A talented artist, he also enjoyed wood carving.”