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Autopsy reveals 'brutal' attack

The blow that killed Myrna Jean Clemons 15 years ago was brutal. It tore her scalp, shattered her skull, injured her brain and caused bleeding from her ears, nose and mouth, according to Dr. Donald Kundel, who testified Tuesday at the murder tria...

The blow that killed Myrna Jean Clemons 15 years ago was brutal. It tore her scalp, shattered her skull, injured her brain and caused bleeding from her ears, nose and mouth, according to Dr. Donald Kundel, who testified Tuesday at the murder trial of Michael David Mattson, 56.

Even if she would have received medical treatment immediately, Kundel testified in Douglas County Circuit Court, it would not have helped. Her injuries were so severe that she could not have survived them, he said.

And she never saw it coming. There were, the doctor said, no defensive wounds.

"That indicated the attack occurred out of the blue," said Kundel, a medical examiner in St. Louis County, Minn., who has performed more than 5,000 autopsies.

He testified that the wounds were caused before her death, as evidenced by the large amount of blood that had collected. Kundel estimated Clemons died between 12:45-2:45 p.m. Feb. 19, 1993. The blow that killed her may have landed hours prior to her death, he said, giving a time range from 3 a.m. to 11 a.m. that day.

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Mattson is accused of first-degree murder for Clemons'death. At the time she died, he was serving time in the Douglas County Jail in Superior for two previous assaults on Clemons. Mattson had been granted Huber work release to run the scrap metal business he and his brother John Mattson operated in Allouez.

Mattson was originally charged in 1993 for the death of Clemons, but the case was thrown out during a preliminary hearing for lack of evidence. The case was reopened in 2004, and new charges were filed after Mattson confessed to the crime in October 2006. He told Superior Police Capt. Chad La Lor that he struck Clemons twice with a piece of firewood before leaving the house that morning.

John Mattson was the first witness to take the stand Monday. He recalled the day Clemons, 50, died.

He woke after Clemons started a fire and his brother arrived home from jail by bus. The brothers shared coffee, a quick breakfast and then loaded their truck with scrap metal. As they let the truck warm up, the two returned to the house to get fresh cups of coffee and grab lunch. John Mattson said he went back to the truck first and waited a short time - from 30 to 90 seconds, he estimated - before his brother came out of the house.

They gassed up at the President's One Stop convenience store in Superior, then headed to West Duluth and Saginaw, Minn., to pick up and drop off scrap metal. Michael Mattson had an appointment at the Duluth Clinic East, then they returned home to find Myrna dead.

Clemons' body lay on the floor. Blood was pooled around her head.

"I knelt down to see if I could help her in any way," John Mattson, 59, testified Monday. "I knew it was helpless because she was cold. Still I tried pumping her chest."

He said he pulled an Afghan over her still form and set a pillow under her head while his brother worried about restarting the dying fire in the wood stove.

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"It sure wasn't a concern to me, and I can't believe it was a concern for Mike," John Mattson said of the fire.

The first thing his brother said, John Mattson told the court, was "they're going to blame me."

Tuesday morning cross-examination from J. Patrick O'Neill, Michael Mattson's attorney revealed John Mattson told police that his brother did help tend to Clemons.

"I think he knelt over her and also tried to get a pulse," Neill read from one of John Mattson's police interviews. "Then I got a blanket and pillow. Then I pushed him aside ..."

He also questioned the amount of time that took place before Michael Mattson came out to the truck.

Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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