Thursday, May 23, 2013
By DOUG HARLOW Morning Sentinel
SKOWHEGAN – From when he was first accused right up to the weeks leading to his arrest last year for the murder of 20-year-old Rita St. Peter in 1980, Jay Mercier maintained his innocence.
David Leaming / Staff Photographer
Rita St. Peter in an undated file photo. She was 20 at the time of her death when her body was found off the Campground Road in Anson on July 5, 1980.
In recorded interviews with state police detective Bryant Jacques in 2010, played in court on Tuesday, Mercier stuck to the story he has told ever since he became a suspect in the murder 32 years ago: He did not know St. Peter, had never met her, had never picked her up in his truck and never had sex with her.
He kept to the story, even when confronted with DNA evidence pointed to his having had sexual contact with St. Peter.
In one of three taped interviews with Jacques played Tuesday, Mercier could be heard saying that if he dies in the coming months, he has one request:
"If you see my obit in the paper, do not put it in the paper that the (Rita St. Peter) case is closed," Mercier, 57, said. "I've told you everything I know."
In one of the interviews, Jacques challenged Mercier's statement that he didn't know St. Peter.
"There's absolutely no doubt you had some contact with Rita St. Peter," Jacques told Mercier in an interview recorded in November 2010 at Mercier's home in Industry. "There's got to be an explanation because both things can't be true."
St. Peter was last seen alive around midnight July 4, 1980, walking toward the bridge over the Kennebec River connecting Madison and Anson. She had been at a Fourth of July party and stopped at the Depot Tavern in Madison for a drink before heading home to Anson.
Prosecutors say Mercier, now 57, sexually assaulted St. Peter, beat her with something like a tire iron, then ran her over with his truck.
In testimony Tuesday before Justice John Nivison in Somerset County Superior Court, Jacques said he took over investigation of the St. Peter murder case in 2005. He said later that year he worked with Alicia Wilcox, a former technician at the state police crime lab, to develop a plan to break the state's longest running cold-case homicide.
The state's chief medical examiner testified Monday that St. Peter died from blunt impact injury to the head and chest.
Kathy MacMillan, a forensic DNA analyst with the state police crime lab, told the jury that Mercier's DNA matched samples taken from St. Peter's body.
The trial is scheduled to resume Wednesday morning.
Morning Sentinel Staff Writer Doug Harlow can be contacted at 612-2367 or at: