James Emerson Found Guilty of Murder

By: Liz Hayes Email
By: Liz Hayes Email

James Emerson is guilty of killing Rhonda Mertes in Dec. of 1999.

A jury found the Wausau man guilty after only an hour and fifteen minutes of deliberation Tuesday evening.

"I'm very relieved and very thankful," said Charlie Jones.

Jones was the lead investigator with the Wausau Police Department when Rhonda Mertes, 37, was brutally killed almost a decade ago. He has since retired from the force.

"I'm relieved. It's been a long ten years. I don't wish it on.... any investigator. It's hard to deal with," he said.

But finally this murder myster is solved. The 12 person jury finds James Emerson guilty of murder.

"Very thrilled with this verdict. We're happy the jury paid very close attention to our case and made such a quick decision. And relieved for the family and just thrilled that after this many years there is justice for Rhonda Mertes," said District Attorney Jill Falstad.

Falstad spent months preparing her case against Emerson, 44.

She says the newly available scientific evidence spoke volumes.

"I think that was just a very powerful combination of scientific evidence and I think with good law enforcement work."

She says DNA evidence connecting Emerson to the crime both maternally and paternally may be what convinced the minds of the jurors.

Charlie Jones agrees.

"I believe the dna evidence was very significant for them."

But it was the relentless pursuit for justice by law enforcement, prosecutors and Rhonda Mertes' family that helped bring this case to a close.

"Law enforcement never let this one go. There were a lot of people who really kept it alive and kept working on leads," Falstad said.

And all of their work has finally paid off.

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