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Mendez bound over for trial in wife's 1982 slaying

A 69-year-old Minocqua man accused of bludgeoning his wife to death back in 1982 has been bound over for trial on a first-degree murder charge.

After hearing detailed testimony from sheriff's captain Terri Hook Friday, Forest County circuit judge Leon Stenz ruled the state had shown there is probable cause to believe a felony was committed and Robin "Bob" Mendez committed it.

Mendez is charged with bludgeoning his 33-year-old wife Barbara Mendez to death April 28, 1982 at her place of employment, the Park City Credit Union in Minocqua.

A 36-page criminal complaint was filed against Mendez Feb. 6, after Hook and several of her detectives decided several months ago to take a fresh look at the unsolved murder. After re-interviewing multiple witnesses and combing through several boxes of information, the detectives, with help from a team from the Oxygen television series "Cold Justice," compiled a comprehensive report on the investigation and turned it over to district attorney Michael Schiek.

Mendez is being held in the Oneida County jail in lieu of $250,000 cash.

Stenz presided over the preliminary hearing because both Oneida County circuit judges recused themselves.

The only witness at Friday's preliminary hearing was Hook, who took Schiek through her department's investigation.

Following Hook's testimony, defense attorney Peter Prusinski argued the case outlined via Hook's testimony and in the criminal complaint is circumstantial and there is no proof his client killed his wife as she closed the credit union alone that night.

Schiek disagreed, arguing the pieces of circumstantial evidence paint a picture of a man who was involved in a sexual relationship with an underage girl and wanted out of his marriage, but could not divorce her due to his position in his church.

Stenz sided with Schiek and bound Mendez over for trial. Following the bind over, Prusinski filed a notice of substitution of judge. Mendez will be arraigned after a new judge is assigned.

According to the criminal complaint, it is believed that Mendez went to the credit union, which was located at U.S. Highway 51 and County J, just after 5 p.m. knowing Barbara Mendez was alone closing the office for the day.

Computerized records show Barbara Mendez had begun entering the balance sheet, a key part of her closing activities at 5:02 p.m. and finished at 5:13 p.m.

Approximately two hours later, the branch manager received a call from Robin Mendez reporting that Barbara was expected at the Assembly of God Church in Woodruff at 6:15 p.m. and had not arrived. According to the manager, Robin asked her to drive to the credit union office and look for Barbara. Although the church was actually closer to the credit union than her home, the manager agreed to go look for Barbara.

According to the complaint, the manager told investigators she immediately noticed Barbara's car was still in the credit union parking lot and became alarmed after realizing that the door to the office was unlocked. After walking inside, she discovered Barbara's body face down on the floor in front of the credit union's safe.

There were no signs of forced entry to the building and Mendez had no defensive wounds on her body, according to the complaint.

After conducting an autopsy, pathologist Dr. Robert W. Huntington III found Mendez died of "multiple blunt injuries, abrasions and lacerations to the head, with extensive skull fractures."

He theorized that the injuries were caused by a blunt instrument with a long striking surface "and there's a strong suggestion of an angle in an instrument," according to the complaint.

According to Chris Robinson, an expert forensics consultant who is retired from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the injuries found on the left side of Barbara's face and head are "consistent with being made by a flat, elongated tool" such as a pry bar or a Wonder Bar, tools that are routinely used in the furniture upholstery business. The family of Robin Mendez operates an upholstery business, the complaint notes.

Over the years, the Mendez daughters Dawn, who was 13 on the day her mother was killed, and Christy, who was 11, provided alibi statements for their father that placed him at home the time the murder occurred. However, the women now allege their father manipulated and coached them on what to say to investigators to the point that their memories are too "convoluted to give an accurate recounting of the timeframes" of that day, the complaint states.

"Over the years, the daughters, as they've grown older, have realized that their father was coaching them and creating a timeline for them so that they could give him an alibi," Hook told the River News after Mendez was charged. "They were only 11 and 13 at the time of the murder so it would be easy for him to convince them of what time things really happened."

Another alibi witness, an underage girl with whom Mendez was having an inappropriate relationship at the time of the murder, also admitted to Hook and her detectives that she lied to police to cover for Mendez, according to the complaint.

The charge Mendez is facing falls under the homicide statutes in force in 1982. If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison.

Jamie Taylor may be reached via email at jamie@rivernewsonline.com.


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