Thursday, February 22nd

Debra Pyka began to notice something was off with her son after his 19th birthday.

Joseph Chernach had been a rambunctious teenager, a high-achieving student with an active social life who loved hunting, fishing and wrestling.

That changed during his sophomore year at Central Michigan University. He became depressed and reclusive. His behavior became erratic. He got upset frequently, drank a lot and got into car accidents caused by reckless driving.

He dropped out of school and moved back in with Pyka on the family’s farmstead in Hixton, about two hours northwest of Madison.

“I remember standing in his room one day. And I pointed my finger at him and I said, ‘You are not going to die before me.