Witnesses Called to Stand Wednesday in Schneller Murder Trial

By: John DesRivieres Email
By: John DesRivieres Email

The man accused of fatally beating and stabbing a co-worker's girlfriend is now on trial.

The prosecutions opening statements were presented by State Assistant District Attorney Theresa Wetzsteon, she gave a brief overview of the evidence the state has against Raul Ponce-Rocha which includes video surveillance and DNA evidence, they say will prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he brutally murdered Breanna Schneller.

The defense opening statements were presented to the jury by defense attorney Mike Moran. He told the jury that this will be an emotional case because it deals with the murder of a young woman. He said the jury will hear all of the states evidence against Ponce-Rocha and hear all of the expert testimony, but none of that will include any eye witnesses or video that will prove that defendant is the killer. He said by the time the defense rests there will be plenty of reasonable doubt.

The first witness called by the state was Lori Schneller, Breanna's mother. The prosecution went over phone records of Breanna's cell phone that showed communication with her mom on the morning of May 2nd with calls and texts. Lori sent a text at 10:30 a.m. Breanna never responded, Lori never heard from her daughter again.

The state calls its second witness, Elizabeth Garza, who was at Schneller's apartment complex helping her aunt, when Schneller's body was found. Garza was helping her aunt when there was a knock on the door from a Hispanic male, asking her to call 911. Prosecution played the 911 call in the courtroom, the jury heard the frantic moments just after Breanna's fiancé Sebastian and his brother Hugo found Breanna's body.

The state calls its third witness, Hugo Ramirez, who lived in the apartment with Breanna and Sebastian. Hugo testified he arrived for work at El Tequila Salsa at 10:15 on morning of May 2nd, he saw his brother at work already, and saw Ponce-Rocha leave about 5-10 minutes after he arrived. Hugo saw Ponce-Rocha come back to work around 11:00 a.m with a co-worker, Hugo said he was gone much longer than it takes to pick up co-worker. Hugo took break from work about 1 p.m, got home about 1:17 pm. When he entered the apartment he shared with his brother, Sebastian and Sebastian's girlfriend, Breanna Schneller he noticed the bathroom light on and Breanna's and Sebastian's bedroom door is open. That's when he entered the room and found Breanna's body with wounds on the chest and wrists.

The court recessed at noon on Wednesday. The trial resumed at 1:00 p.m.

After the break, the defense began questioning Hugo Ramirez, he testified that he usually locks the apartment door when leaving, but not sure if locked it the day of murder. When he got to the apartment during his break, he entered, didn't notice anything wrong, as he walked further he noticed the bathroom light was on, which was out of ordinary, as he walked further he saw a body on the floor of his brothers room, body was partly covered by bloody clothing, the carpet had blood, the stereo had blood, he pulled a green towel off the face and recognized the body of Breanna.

Next to be questioned was Officer Paul Piskoty from the Wausau Police Department. He was the first officer to arrive at scene after got dispatch call about woman lying on floor with throat cut. He testifies he found the body, checked for vital signs, saw blood on clothing and body had partially dried. Piskoty says in his professional opinion the body was deceased and no medical attention was needed. With no medical help coming, officers secured crime scene, not allowing anyone in or out of apartment who did not need to be there. Piskoty noticed two bloody knives in bathroom sink, one had tip broken off. He also noticed blood spatter in sink, and a bloody footprint on the rug. Eventually Officer Piskoty turned over the scene to detectives to continue investigating.

William Newhouse, of the State Crime Lab is called to testify next.
Newhouse was contacted by the Wausau Police Department on May 2nd to help process the crime scene. Newhouse arrived approximately 7 p.m. with a photographer to process the apartment scene. Upon visual examination of the body, it became clear the victim had been beaten and stabbed. Newhouse begins looking for objects possibly used in the beating. He finds a broken iron and broken hair dryer, quite likely objects used in beating.

Court adjourns for the day Wednesday at 3:50 p.m. Will resume Thursday morning at 8:30 a.m.

Stay turned to NewsChannel 7 and wsaw.com for the very latest on this trial.

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