Prosecutor reveals new information during Mendez trial
Defense brings difficult witnesses to the stand
By Lori C. Adler
The trial of Robin Mendez for the 1982 murder of his then wife, Barbara Mendez, resumed Monday after a several-day adjournment. District Attorney Michael Schiek presented his final witnesses during the morning session, including a former motorcycle salesman and a woman who had a relationship with Mendez shortly after Barbara Mendez’s murder.
John Miller appeared first. A former employee of M & J Sports, Miller stated he sold Robin Mendez a new motorcycle in early May 1982. Mendez traded in a slightly older motorcycle and then wrote a check for the balance of over $3,700. The prosecutor then brought witness Sandy (Brandenburg) Jennings, who testified to having a short relationship with Robin Mendez which started the summer following Barbara Mendez’s murder and continued until Mendez’s arrest for child sexual abuse that following October. Jennings stated that once, when dancing with Mendez while on a date, he said “how does it feel dancing with a murderer?” Jennings also noted that she was not aware of Mendez’ simultaneous relationship with a 14-year-old girl while she was dating him.
The final witness for the District Attorney’s case was Captain Terri Hook of the Oneida County Sheriff’s Department. Hook explained why the cold case had been reopened again and the role the television show “Cold Justice” played in resurrecting the case. Hook outlined how the program helped with providing experts and giving advice on how to proceed with the case; however, Hook noted, all the actual work with witnesses, evidence, and review of all the old files was done by Oneida County.
The biggest reveal, however, was what happened shortly after the state filed the criminal complaint and took Mendez into custody. While Mendez was in jail, two additional inmates were celled with him for a short period of time. Later, these inmates asked to speak with the prosecuting attorney in Mendez’ case, stating that he had confessed to them the murder of Barbara Mendez. The recorded interviews with these two inmates were presented to the judge last week, but it was Hook’s testimony on Monday that added weight to these interviews. Hook explained that Mendez only had the written criminal complaint with him while in jail with these other inmates, and that the inmates gave specific details about Mendez and about the murder which were not detailed in the written complaint and not known to anyone involved in the case at that time. Hook listed at least five specific details that the inmates knew about Mendez not in the complaint but later confirmed by authorities.
Following the resting of the state’s case against Mendez, defense attorney Peter Pruzinski immediately moved to dismiss the case, stating that only circumstantial evidence was present and that no murder weapon or eyewitnesses had been presented. Judge Jill Falstad, however, ruled the state had “met their burden,” stating the district attorney showed that Mendez had both motive and opportunity to commit the crime.
Pruzinski then called his first witness for the defense, Michael Boze, brother of now deceased Thomas Boze, whom the defense is trying to show as committing the murder instead of Mendez. Michael Boze, who appeared on videoconference from Michigan, fearing arrest if he came to Wisconsin because of his medical marijuana use. Michael Boze’s memory was not clear and he was unable to remember much about the events of the day of Barbara Mendez’s murder. He stated that he arrived that day by airplane for a visit with his brother. He was picked up by his brother and taken back to his brother’s house. He then “medicated with cannibis” and took a nap. He did not wake up until it was dark and remembered seeing the police cars at the credit union when he and his brother drove by that evening on their way to get something for dinner. Michael Boze referred to his brother, Thomas, as a “screw-up,” and did state his brother would steal if given the opportunity but didn’t feel he was capable of murder.
The defense then presented Judith Boze, former wife of Thomas Boze, who was brought into the courtroom in handcuffs for failure to appear after being subpoenaed. Though claiming to not suffer any memory loss, Judith Boze stated she was unable to remember anything from that time. In response to many questions, she replied, “I don’t remember stuff like that; I try not to.”
The final witnesses of the day were Raymond Norris and Diane Hassien. Norris, who while in prison had confessed to being an accomplice with Thomas Boze in the Mendez murder, could not now remember ever making that statement as well as any other details from that time. Norris stated he suffered several strokes and now has memory loss. Hassien then testified that she was in the bank in the early afternoon on the day of Barbara Mendez’s murder and witnessed the two Boze brothers arguing loudly. She also stated they seemed to be “casing” the bank and felt afraid, saying she got into her car quickly and locked the doors.
The Mendez trial continued Tuesday with a couple more witnesses for the defense. Mendez was then asked if he wished to testify, but he declined. The defense rested its case, and court was adjourned. The trial will resume Wednesday morning with the prosecutor and the defense presenting closing arguments.