About once a week for the last several years, Jay S. Mercier and his girlfriend, Christine Fischer, traveled down their dirt road on the Industry-Starks town line to visit their neighbor.

Richard Brown lives alone in a camper in the woods and said he appreciated the couple stopping by to say hello.

“He seemed rational,” Brown said, sitting at a small table by the window. When Brown heard that 55-year-old Mercier had been arrested Sept. 28 on a charge of murder, “I was a little surprised, yeah.”
“To me he was a decent fellow,” Brown said. “But everyone has skeletons in their closet.”

Mercier, who has been charged with killing Rita St. Peter 31 years ago in Anson, has an extensive history in the court system. In the last 20 years, he has faced more than a dozen criminal and civil court matters.

He has spent time in jail for assaulting his now ex-wife, been sued, sued others, struggled to keep a job and pay his bills, filed for bankruptcy and lost his marriage.

At the time of his arrest, Mercier was a self-employed laborer and was working to tear down chicken barns somewhere, according to Brown.

Neighbor Carmen Rose lives on a road parallel to Butterfield Road, where Mercier last lived.
“They were always quiet folks,” Rose said, standing with her front door propped open. “Far as I was concerned, they were decent neighbors.”

She said she minds her own business and likes neighbors who do the same. “When they said it was him, it was like, ‘really?’ Never would have known it,” she said.

Both Mercier and his girlfriend declined to comment. Mercier pleaded not guilty Oct. 6 and is being held without bail at the Somerset County Jail in East Madison.

St. Peter’s body was found off Campground Road in Anson on July 5, 1980, by a man exercising horses. She had been beaten and her skull was fractured. Police said she may have been run over by a car or truck.

Her death was ruled a homicide, but autopsy results, the official cause of death and other details of the case have not been released to family members or the public.

When St. Peter was killed at the age of 20, she left behind a 3-year-old daughter named Terri Lynn.

Kept to himself
Somerset County Sheriff Barry DeLong was a trooper in 1980 and was the first law enforcement officer to see St. Peter’s body.

He was drinking coffee at a store in Solon with a game warden named Jimmy Ross when he got the call, he said. The two drove to Anson, looked at the scene, blocked off Campground Road and called the criminal investigation division of the Maine State Police.

“I vividly remember going there,” he said. “Of course you don’t like to see anyone murdered, especially in the fashion she was.”

St. Peter was last seen getting into a pickup truck on the Anson-Madison bridge the night of her death.
“She certainly wasn’t a threat to anybody,” Delong said. “It didn’t make much sense.”

DeLong didn’t say how police knew, but they went to Mercier’s residence in Madison the morning they found St. Peter’s body. When they arrived, Mercier was washing his pickup truck.

“He was in the process of washing it when we got it,” DeLong said.

The recent arrest “shows some tremendous follow-up many years after. It sounds to me somebody’s doing something right,” DeLong said.

Those who knew Mercier when he was young said he was often alone.

“Kept to himself, real quiet,” said Dan Arsenault, who grew up with Mercier in the same neighborhood in Madison. “As far as friends go, jeez, not a whole lot, I don’t think.”

Arsenault said he used to slide down the street on a sled in the winter and end up at Mercier’s house. He said he remembers being yelled at by Mercier’s mother.

A different family now lives at the home on Nichols Street where Mercier grew up. Teresa Ziemek, who rents the property, said the place had to be remodeled with new walls and floors before her family could make the move in March 2010.

The basement had flooded and there was mold, she said. The inside is clean now.
“We feel at peace here,” Ziemek said.

Still, “It just gave us an eerie feeling to know that he had lived here,” she said.

‘A very violent temper’

Mercier has been in and out of the courts during the last three decades.
In October 2003 he assaulted his wife in Madison, according to court paperwork filed at Somerset County District Court in Skowhegan. He was sentenced to one year of probation and prohibited from contacting her.

Two weeks after he pleaded guilty to assault, in November 2003, Mercier violated his probation by again assaulting his wife, operating under the influence, failing to refrain from contacting her and failing to refrain from using alcohol, according to court records.

He was sentenced to 75 days in jail and again prohibited from contacting the victim.
Even before he assaulted his wife the first time, in March 2003, Mercier’s sister-in-law and mother-in-law filed protection orders against him.

“Has a very violent temper,” the sister-in-law wrote in her complaint. A judge denied their request for relief because they failed to prove Mercier abused or harassed them, according to court documents.

The following year, in November 2004, Mercier again violated probation by operating after suspension, operating under the influence and violating his probation by using alcohol, all in Madison, according to court documents. That time he was sentenced to 105 days in jail and lost the right to drive for 18 months.

About six months later, in the summer of 2005, his divorce was finalized. The child support order at district court mandated Mercier maintain health insurance for the benefit of his child, who was 6 at the time, and pay $64 each week for child support.

The primary residence of the child was granted to the mother, and the child was allowed weekly supervised contact with his father, court documents state. The couple had been married five years.
The ex-wife identified in court documents declined to comment for this story. The Morning Sentinel does not name victims without their consent.

Money troubles
About a year later, in April 2006, Mercier was back in court to file a lawsuit against William Marceau and Byron Davis, of Farmington Land LLC, alleging he was owed $16,000 for cleaning up material and debris from a property.

The two responded that they “rightfully” canceled their contract with Mercier because he failed to complete the work, failed to maintain liability insurance and failed to use funds provided to Mercier to pay subcontractors.

The company’s “damages more than offset any sum Mercier claims is owing Mercier,” they wrote.
Mercier later asked the court to dismiss his claim, in August 2006, “in light of pending bankruptcy matters,” his attorney wrote in a letter.

Mercier had filed for chapter 7 bankruptcy in October 2005, though court documents do not indicate details about his debts.

According to the United States Bankruptcy Court, Mercier also filed for chapter 13 bankruptcy in both April 1993 and June 1996 and chapter 7 bankruptcy in October 1996. Those cases also don’t provide details.

Chapter 13 bankruptcy allows people to develop a plan to repay all or part of their debts. In chapter 7 bankruptcy, debtors’ assets are sold to pay back creditors.

In November 1997, district court issued a judgment of foreclosure and sale on property Mercier owned on Collins Road in Anson. Previously, in July 1992, a foreclosure judgment was filed against Mercier for property in Madison.

Records make clear that Mercier had money problems. In September 2007, a complaint filed in district court alleged he passed a bad check for $12.56 at a hardware store in Madison. Mercier pleaded guilty but didn’t show up for the sentencing hearing, according to court documents.

In May 2007, Mercier was back in civil court, this time because he was the one being sued for breach of contract. A writ of execution was issued, allowing police to force Mercier to pay Frank Woodworth Inc. in Pittsfield more than $5,600.

The contractor had provided the money to Mercier for materials and services to demolish a house in Pittsfield, the complaint states. Though Mercier did the job and received an hourly rate, he didn’t pay back the sum provided up front.

Meanwhile, Mercier experienced problems with property on Nichols Street in Madison. He “has unlawfully refused and still refuses to quit the premises,” according to a forcible entry and detainer complaint filed in February 2007 by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services in district court.

The department served as guardian of Mercier’s mother, who owned the property, the document states.

Despite the legal matter, Mercier allowed a tenant to live at the property. The tenant wrote to the court: “DHS tells me Jay isn’t landlord, he fraudulently represented himself, lease is illegal and house is in foreclosure.”

The tenant filed a small claims complaint and her rent money and security deposit were returned.
At that time in 2007, Mercier listed his place of residence as 5 Butterfield Road, Industry.

In 2009, Mercier admitted to a civil charge of animal cruelty tied to his mistreatment of three horses, which he owned while living in Industry, according to Franklin County Assistant District Attorney Andrew Robinson.

The court ruled the horses were not getting proper care from Mercier, who was ordered to pay a $500 fine and was prohibited from owning livestock, according to Robinson.

Criminal cases of operating under the influence and operating after suspension for a man named Jay S. Mercier date back to 1981 and 1987, according to a docket list filed at Somerset County Superior Court. However, little is listed about the defendant, and no date of birth is provided. The original files have been destroyed.

Erin Rhoda — 612-2368
[email protected]

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.