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Mattson found guilty of murder

Twelve jurors have decided Michael David Mattson is guilty of murder. Mattson named himself a liar and a chicken -- but not a murderer -- in testimony Thursday. The verdict came about 4:30 p..m Friday. The Superior man faced a charge of first-deg...

Twelve jurors have decided Michael David Mattson is guilty of murder.

Mattson named himself a liar and a chicken -- but not a murderer -- in testimony Thursday. The verdict came about 4:30 p..m Friday.

The Superior man faced a charge of first-degree intentional homicide for the beating death of Myrna Jean Clemons on Feb. 19, 1993, in the home the two shared. Mattson was on Huber work release from jail that day to work at the couple's scrap business. He was serving the jail sentence for two previous assaults on Clemons.

"Did you hit Myrna Clemons that day?" Mattson's attorney asked Thursday.

"No," Mattson said.

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"Did you cause her death that day?" O'Neill asked.

"No."

Yet Mattson confessed to the murder on Oct. 23, 2006, and admitted it again it two subsequent police interviews. He told Superior police he killed Clemons by hitting her twice in the head with a piece of firewood before leaving for a scrap metal run.

"Those are lies," Mattson, 56, told the court.

"Mike, if you're telling us today that you did not kill her, why on earth would you go in on the 23rd of October and claim that you did?" O'Neill asked.

"Because my situation wasn't very good, um, and I wanted to get back on my anti-depressents, get to jail to get 'em," said the Superior man.

Mattson said he was broke, alone and sleeping on the floor with a blanket when he hatched the plan to go back to jail. Unable to afford the $20 for his prescription medications, Mattson said he contemplated suicide by stabbing himself, jumping out the window or ramming his head into the wall.

"I thought about doing them, I just didn't do it," Mattson said. "I'm, I'm a chicken."

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Instead, he decided to confess.

" ... that was the plan, to go to jail," he told the court.

Assistant District Attorney Jim Boughner questioned Mattson's story. The Superior man has 24 convictions on his record, which translates to time behind bars.

"And you were able to get into jail or prison without having to confess to any homicide, including this homicide, correct?" Boughner asked.

"Yes," Mattson said.

"You knew how to get to jail," Boughner continued.

"Those times I didn't want to go to jail," Mattson said.

In fact, Boughner said, the quickest way for Mattson to get himself back behind bars would have been for him to drink alcohol.

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"I didn't have the money to go drinking," Mattson replied.

Boughner also pointed out that at the beginning of the Oct. 23 interview with police, Capt. Chad La Lor told Mattson they didn't want him to come in and confess just so he could have a place to go. Two days later, Special Agent John Christopherson with the Wisconsin Department of Justice asked if Mattson knew what a false confession was.

"If you'd been making a false confession, that would have been the time to state that," Boughner said.

"Yes, but I wanted to go to jail," Mattson said.

He said he wasn't thinking clearly at the time because he was sunk in chronic depression.

O'Neill poked holes in the state's case today by insinuating that expert testimony was stretched to match the Mattson's confession. He questioned the St. Louis County medical examiner Dr. Donald Kundel's time frame for when the killing blow could have been struck and blood spatter evidence found at the scene and on the boot of Mattson's brother. None was found on Mattson's clothing, although the coveralls he was wearing that morning were never tested. It would have been if Mattson had landed the killing blow, O'Neill said.

"That blood can't lie," he said. "It doesn't have an agenda. It only exists."

He told the jury that Mattson's confession proved he didn't do it. The police were prodding for certain information that the killer would know during their October 2006 interviews, O'Neill said.

"Every single piece of information that was only known by whoever did this, Mike guessed wrong," he told the jurors.

The fact that Mattson skipped over the attack during descriptions of his day during those interviews, O'Neill said, also show his innocent frame of mind.

Although his client "isn't a very nice person," the public defender said, "every fact we have demonstrates he didn't do this."

Boughner pointed to the tape recordings of the October 2006 interviews with Mattson. He told officers he expected to find her dead upon his return to the house.

Mattson's brother testified that he seemed preoccupied with starting a fire when they found Clemons' body. That is not the normal reaction to finding a loved one dead, Boughner sad.

In fact, he said, "Is it normal practice for people to come in and confess to murder when they did not do it?"

Kundel testified that the second blow to the back of Clemons' head shattered her skull and led to her death.

"Hitting her the second time with that amount of force, that shows intent," Boughner said.

Mattson then nudged the body over so he could close the door and went about his normal daily routine, according to his police interviews. He didn't call 911 or try to help her.

"What does that act say about his intent?" Boughner asked.

The jury was whittled down to 12 members and sent to deliberate shortly after noon today. A verdict is expected later today.

Contact Maria Lockwood at (715) 395-5025 or mlockwood@superiortelegram.com

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