Jail Inmate Testifies Against James Emerson During Murder Trial

By: Liz Hayes Email
By: Liz Hayes Email

The trial for James Emerson, 44, pushes on in Marathon County court as more witnesses take the stand.

Tuesday, a Marathon County jail inmate, whose identity we cannot release for safety concerns, testified that Emerson confided in him that he killed Rhonda Mertes, 37.

Mertes was found beaten and strangled to death in an industrial area of Wausau on Dec. 4th, 1999.

The inmate says he and Emerson played cards, chess and watched TV, and admits the defendant began offering details about his murder case.

At first Emerson denied knowing Mertes, but eventually told him he had accidentally killed her after they left the 101 Pub.

He testified Emerson told him they went to smoke marijuana, but then he began making sexual advances towards mertes, and she said no.

"They were kissing, making out. She tried to stop the situation and said she was leaving. He said he hit her in the head with a brick," the inmate testified.

He says Emerson's story suggests Mertes started crying, so he hit her on the head again.

The inmate also testified that on several occasions Emerson was pacing around while in jail mumbling, "Why did I do this? Why did I hit that lady?"

Defense attorney Peter Thompson wanted to know if the 'snitch' gave up the information to get a better deal out of his pending cases. But he told the court police confronted him, asking if Emerson ever talked about the case while in jail.

Also Tuesday, two employees from the state crime lab - a forensic scientist and forensic technician - say they found male DNA on Rhonda Mertes' undergarments and under her fingernails; however they did not identify who it belonged to.

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