SKOWHEGAN — A search by police in 1980 of a pickup truck owned by Jay Mercier and statements made by him to police investigators that year, and later in 2010 and 2011, will be admissible when the Industry man goes on trial for murder.

Mercier, 56, is charged with killing Rita St. Peter, 20, in Anson, on July 5, 1980. Mercier has pleaded not guilty to the charge.

He was arrested Sept. 28, more than 30 years after the killing and was charged with a single count of murder.

A date has not been set for trial.

Motions to suppress Mercier’s statements to investigators and to exclude evidence gathered in the search of the truck were denied in a ruling filed June 25 in Somerset County Superior Court

Justice John Nivison ruled that Mercier had given his consent in writing to the search of his truck on July 6, 1980, by State Police Detective Paul Stewart.

Police moved the truck to a nearby garage for inspection and took impressions of the tires to compare them with tracks that appeared to lead directly to St. Peter’s body.

St. Peter was last seen walking just after midnight near the Anson-Madison bridge after having left the newly opened Depot Tavern in Madison. Two witnesses told police they had seen Mercier in his truck outside the bar at around the same time.

Prosecutors say Mercier sexually assaulted St. Peter, bludgeoned her on the head with a weapon similar to a tire iron and partially ran her over with his pickup truck on a field road off Campground Road in Anson.

According to a court affidavit, the tires on Mercier’s pickup, which had different types of tires on the front and back, matched the tracks at the murder scene.

A forensic analyst also determined that Mercier’s DNA matched the semen found inside St. Peter, the affidavit states.

Nivison also ruled that police were not required to inform Mercier of his Constitutional rights against self-incrimination, known as the Miranda warning, during several interviews before his arrest because he was not in custody and was not about to be arrested.

During the final interview on April 9, 2011, detectives told Mercier they had a search warrant to collect a DNA sample from a swab of Mercier’s cheek. Mercier at that time was read his rights, but was not in custody and was not questioned during the search, according to court documents.

A Miranda warning is necessary only if a defendant is in custody or is subject to police interrogation, according to the court documents.

In an interview in October, when Mercier made his first appearance in Superior Court, Assistant Attorney Andrew Benson said forensic evidence had led to Mercier’s arrest, but would not elaborate.

Contacted Friday, Skowhegan attorney John Alsop, one of two defense lawyers representing Mercier, said he is working on the case and confirmed that no court dates are immediately pending.

Mercier remains held without bail at the Somerset County Jail in East Madison.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

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