Jury finds Industry man guilty of murder in death of Rita St. Peter

Posted Sept. 27, 2012, at 12:45 p.m.
Last modified Sept. 27, 2012, at 3:01 p.m.
Jay Mercier (right) listens to closing arguments on Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012, in his trial for the 1980 murder of Rita St. Peter.
Linda Coan O'Kresik
Jay Mercier (right) listens to closing arguments on Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012, in his trial for the 1980 murder of Rita St. Peter.
Defense attorney John Alsop delivers his closing arguments to the jury in the trial of Jay Mercier for the 1980 murder of Rita St. Peter on Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012.
Linda Coan O'Kresik
Defense attorney John Alsop delivers his closing arguments to the jury in the trial of Jay Mercier for the 1980 murder of Rita St. Peter on Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012.
Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson listens to closing arguments Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012 from Jay Mercier's defense attorney at Mercier's trial for the murder of Rita St. Peter in 1980. The trial is taking place at the Somerset County Superior Court.
Linda Coan O'Kresik
Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson listens to closing arguments Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012 from Jay Mercier's defense attorney at Mercier's trial for the murder of Rita St. Peter in 1980. The trial is taking place at the Somerset County Superior Court.
Rita St. Peter
Courtesy photo
Rita St. Peter

UPDATE, 2:50 p.m.: A jury of seven women and five men found Jay S. Mercier of Industry guilty of murder in the death of Rita St. Peter of Anson.

SKOWHEGAN, Maine — A jury of seven women and five men began deliberations late Thursday morning in the cold-case murder trial of Jay S. Mercier of Industry.

Mercier is accused of killing Rita St. Peter, 20, of Anson, whose body was found off Campground Road in Anson on July 5, 1980. Mercier, who was the prime suspect for 32 years, was arrested in September 2011.

If the jury does not find Mercier guilty of murder, it could find him guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter. The jury was instructed by Superior Court Justice John Nivison just before noon Thursday, after closing arguments were made in Somerset County Superior Court.

One of Mercier’s attorneys, John Alsop of Skowhegan, said the state’s case is a three-legged stool. He said it’s sturdy if all the facts are there, but he argued that many of the facts are past their expiration date.

“The three legs are feeble, cracked or weak. Don’t sit on the stool, ladies and gentlemen,” said Alsop.

Alsop told the jury that because the case is 32 years old, some witnesses have passed away, evidence has been lost, and memories are faulty.

He also said that just because Mercier may have lied about sexual contact with St. Peter, that doesn’t make him a murderer.

But the prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson, said otherwise.

“Sex may not make Mr. Mercier a murderer, but sex in this case proves murder over and over and over again,” said Benson.

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