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The husband of a Wisconsin woman who was murdered 37 years ago while working at her credit union job, a case recently revived by the Oxygen show “Cold Justice,” is finally facing some justice himself. An Oneida County Circuit Court judge found Robin Mendez guilty Tuesday, April 30, of the 1982 murder of Barbara Mendez.
The mother was working at Park City Credit Union in Minocqua when she was killed by multiple blows to her head. She had been bludgeoned to death with a pry bar, something her husband used frequently as a tool at his family's furniture business, prosecutors said.
"On April 28, 1982, Mr. Mendez saw an opportunity and he took it," Marathon County Judge Jill Falstad said Tuesday before explaining her reasoning for the guilty verdict, the Wausau Daily Herald reports.
Robin reportedly had no expression on his face when the verdict was announced. He had waived a jury trial, which allowed Falstad to decide for herself.
The case went unsolved until the couple’s daughters, who were just 11 and 13 in 1982, told police their father had manipulated them into providing an alibi for him. They testified that their dad told them what to tell investigators. Those two brave daughters, Dawn Mendez Shape and Christy Mendez Wadas, reached out to Oxygen’s “Cold Justice,” which helped breathe new life into the case, local Fox station WSAW reported last year.
“The Cold Justice Team was an integral part of the success of our investigation,” Oneida County Sheriff's Department Sheriff Grady Hartman said in a 2018 press release.
Because the credit union is long gone, “Cold Justice’s” Kelly Siegler, a former attorney and prosecutor, recreated a duplicate floor plan of the crime scene with her team to determine that the killer was somebody Barbara knew and trusted enough to turn her back on.
That episode aired in August of last year.
Investigators reportedly long suspected Robin, but never had enough evidence to press charges. That is, until February 2018, when he was first charged with first-degree murder, thanks in part to the production of the “Cold Justice” episode. After the show did its own investigation, Oneida County Sheriff's Department investigators brought the case to the attention of District Attorney Michael Schiek who pressed those charges in February.
“Shout out to Oneida Co DA Michael Schiek for taking on and handling the Mendez cold case,” Siegler tweeted on Wednesday along with the hashtags #nevergiveup and #coldjustice. “Beautiful job of methodically and effectively presenting a circumstantial case!”
After Robin’s arrest, some fellow inmates were disgusted with his incessant bragging about his affairs with minors, the Wausau Daily Herald reports. One such alleged affair was related to the case, and inmates testified in court that he boasted about taking a trip with a 14-year-old after killing his wife, Wausau Daily Herald reports.
Barbara’s friend also testified that Barbara confided in her one day before her murder that her husband was having an affair with a 14-year-old girl.The distraught wife told her friend she would tell him that night that she was going to leave if things didn’t change.
Robin’s former teen victim herself testified Robin was "footloose and fancy free" after the killing. She said he also coached her what to say to police, telling her not to tell that they had sex prior to the murder.
Mendez will be sentenced under 1982 state sentencing guidelines, which means he will likely get life in prison, but will be eligible for parole after about 13 years. No sentencing date for Mendez has been set yet.
Daughter Shape read a statement after the verdict which said in part, "The wise King Solomon writes, 'there is a time for everything under the sun' He also writes, 'God will call the past to account'. Today, that past has been brought to account,” local outlet WXPR reports.
In March, “Cold Justice” was credited for helping break another cold case in Colorado. Jesse Hogue, 73, was arrested for the 1994 murder of his ex-wife after the "Cold Justice" team re-examined her murder during the most recent season of the show. The show has also been credited for leading to an arrest in a 2011 murder, the killing of Donna Wilson. Her boyfriend, Dustin Koelliker, was arrested last year in connection with her killing.
Working alongside local law enforcement from across the country, the “Cold Justice” team has successfully helped bring about 40 arrests and 20 convictions.
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