Robin Mendez trial begins Thursday
By Lori C Adler, Reporter
The trial of Robin “Bob” Mendez of Minocqua begins this week at the Oneida County Courthouse in Rhinelander. Mendez has been charged with the 1982 murder of his then wife, Barbara Mendez, after additional information surfaced.
Originally scheduled to begin on April 8, Marathon County Circuit Court Judge Jill Falstad had ruled in favor of an adjournment request from defense attorney Peter Prusinski last week. Prusinski filed a Denny Motion on April 1 which Judge Falstad granted, allowing the defense to present evidence potentially implicating two different persons in the crime. As a result of this motion, Prusinski then requested an adjournment to allow more time for review.
On Monday, a status conference convened with District Attorney Michael Schiek and Captain Terri Hook of the Oneida County Sheriff’s Office at the Oneida County Courthouse and defense attorney Prusinski from the Marathon County Courthouse via video conference. Judge Falstad presided, also via videoconference from the Marathon County Courthouse. Robin Mendez was not in court. With both parties now ready to proceed, a new trial date was set. In addition to scheduling a new court date, a request from Law and Crime Network, a producer of live coverage of court trials, was reviewed. The network requested to live stream video and audio over the internet throughout the entire trial. Both Schiek and Prusinski expressed concerns regarding the witnesses in this case, due to its sensitive nature and the ages of several of the witnesses at the time of the murder. Prusinski also pointed out that witnesses having access to the live stream could affect their testimonies. Judge Falstad ruled that no live streaming will be allowed. She then ordered sequestering of the witnesses and asked counsels to advise their witnesses that they are not to watch or read any news coverage during the trial.
The case has garnished national attention after the Mendez’ daughters, Dawn Mendez Shape and Christy Mendez Wadas, enlisted the help of the cold case investigative television program, Cold Justice. Barbara Mendez was found bludgeoned to death in 1982 at a Minocqua bank where she worked, and the case was never solved. Though reopened in 2002, there had not been sufficient evidence to charge anyone with the crime until recently. The Cold Justice team reviewed evidence and interviewed witnesses and was then able to provide authorities with additional information. The case was opened once again, and the state filed the first-degree murder charge against Robin Mendez in February 2018. The Mendez trial will begin Thursday, April 11, with opening statements at 8:30 a.m.