Prosecution Rests in Jay Mercier Murder Trial
It's the fourth day of the murder trial of 56-year-old Jay Mercier. He's accused of beating Rita St. Peter to death and running her over with his truck back in July of 1980. Mercier is not expected to take the stand, but Tuesday the jury got to hear from him.
Three edited-down versions of recorded interviews conducted by Maine State Police Detective Bryant Jacques in 2010 were played for the jury. During those interviews, Mercier repeatedly denies knowing St. Peter, even though she actually lived next door to him for a time. This is part of the interview conducted in january of 2010 by Detective Jacques.
Detective Jacques: "How well did you know her?"
Mercier: "Not at all. Not that I can recall. Funny thing is she lived right beside us at some point."
Detective Jacques: "As far as you know have you ever dated Rita?"
Mercier: "No I never met her."
Detective Jacques: "Never been in your truck before?
Mercier: "No. It was kind of screwed up years ago if you ask me. I don't know why they looked at me on the first place. Just cause I had a 3/4 ton pickup truck."
During the interview Detective Jacques noticed Mercier had smoked four cigarettes and discarded one on the ground. "I put a pair of gloves on, picked up the cigarette butt, put it in a bag and left," Jacques told the jury.
He then delivered the cigarette butt to the Maine State Police Crime Lab in Augusta where DNA analayst Kathy MacMillan analyzed it. MacMillan testified Monday the DNA profile from the cigarette butt was consistent with the DNA profile identified from the bodily fluids taken off the body of Rita St. Peter during the 1980 autopsy. State Police investigators later swabbed Mercier's cheek to get a known sample of his DNA and that, too, was matched to the bodily fluids taken from the victim.
Detective Jacques returned to Mercier's house in Industry with another Detective, Adam Kelley, this time armed with the DNA evidence linking Mercier to the the victim.
Detective Adam Kelley: "He's got scientific proof that you know her. He's got information from the crime lab in Augusta, there is absolutely no doubt you had contact with Rita St Peter."
Mercier: "Must be a miracle"
Detective Adam Kelley: "It can't be a scientific fact you never met her and he has scientific evidence that says otherwise?"
Mercier: "Well I never did."
Detective Bryant Jacques: "There is DNA evidence that links you to Rita and we're looking for a reasonable explanation. You told me before you never picked her up. How certain of that are you?
Detective Bryant Jacques: "We have evidence that links you to the crime scene..."
Mercier: "Alright, well I never met her. I told you what I know about it. I don't know what you have."
Detective Adam Kelley: "I know that you have more information and if you're unwilling to share that, shame on you."
Mercier: "I told everybody everything I know...I've already said I never met her, never went out with her."
During cross examination, defense attorney John Martin went after Detective Jacques about the evidence in the 32 year old case that can't be accounted for.
Martin: "We have heard evidence about a comb. Did you ever see this comb?"
Detective Bryant Jacques: "No."
Martin: "There are photos that are missing, many photos. Any idea where those went?"
Detective Bryant Jacques: "No idea."
However, during his redirect examination of Detective Jacques, Deputy Attorney General Andrew Benson hammered home the point that the state still has quite a bit of incriminating evidence, evidence that points the finger at Mercier. Benson drove that point home even ignoring a furious and sustained objection from the defense. "The photographs of known tire impressions from the scene, did they go missing? The known tire impressions from Jay Mercier's truck, did they go missing? The rectal smear slides containing the defendant's DNA, did they go missing? The pictures of Rita St. Peter's beaten body, did they go missing?" thundered Benson.
Earlier in the day, prosecutors once again presented evidence that they say puts Mercier at the scene where the 20-year-old St. Peter's body was dumped back in July of 1980. After the testimony of one the primary investigator in the case, prosecutors may be getting closer to doing just that.
Tuesday Paul Stewart, the primary detective investigating the case 32 years ago, told the jury that Mercier gave conflicting accounts of his actions the night St. Peter was murdered. Stewart testified that during his initial interview with Mercier in 1980 he told police he had not picked up any hitchhikers or women that night, and he also told police he had not been on the Campground Road in Anson, the road St. Peter's body was discovered, the night of the murder.
However, in a second interview Stewart conducted with Mercier in September of 1980, Mercier started backtracking on his previous statements. Stewart told the jury that Mercier admitted to being in Anson that night and when he was asked once again if he had been on the Campground Road that night he started to waver from his original story. "He said he could have been on the Campground Road," Stewart told the jury.
Stewart claims Mercier also told him during that second interview he had drank several six packs of beer and he might have picked up a hitchhiker. "He said he must have blacked out, because if he picked up a hitchhiker, especially a girl, he would have remembered that."
Stewart also testified that police searched extensively for the tire iron that Mercier had kept in his truck, but never located it. Police believe St. Peter was beaten to death with a blunt, heavy object, possibly a tire iron. Stewart said Mercier didn't know where the tire iron was. According to Stewart, Mercier told police he had put the tire iron in the cab of his truck because he was having a problem with someone at the Depot and wanted it nearby for protection. The Depot is the Madison bar where Rita St. Peter was last seen before, according to witness testimony, she was seen highly intoxicated walking across the bridge from Madison into Anson.
During cross examination of Stewart by defense attorney John Alsop a new theory the crime emerged. Alsop, using Stewart's 32-year-old police report as a reference, brought up an abandoned vehicle found in Somerset County back in 1980. Inside that vehicle a red mallet was found. "Why was that of interest to you?" Alsop asked Stewart. "Because it could be used as a weapon," Stewart responded. "Was there not blood and hair found on the mallet?" Alsop asked. "Yes," Stewart said.
That mallet was turned over to Mark Anton in the Maine State Police Crime Lab shortly after it was found. Stewart wrote in his report that the mallet was ruled out as a possible murder weapon.
The prosecution will continue presenting their case this afternoon. The trial is expected to be in the hands of the jury by Thursday.
Cold Case Trial Day 4: Prosecution Trying To Put Mercier At Scene Of The Crime