Police arrest Minocqua man for his wife's 1982 murderSubmitted: 02/06/2018
Allie Herrera
Allie Herrera

Police arrest Minocqua man for his wife's 1982 murder
ONEIDA COUNTY - A Minocqua murder case went unsolved for nearly 36 years.

Barbara Mendez was murdered April 28, 1982 at the Park City Credit Union building in Minocqua, where she worked. The credit union had been located at Highway 51 and County Highway J.

On Monday, police arrested her husband 69-year-old Robin Mendez for her murder. Robin made his first court appearance on Tuesday. 

"The way that she died was a horrible death and people really were affected," said Oneida County Captain Terri Hook. "It's in the newspapers from back then. [Barbara Mendez] was bludgeoned to death so somebody struck her in the head numerous times."

Hook says since the murder, police re-interviewed witnesses, who she says were "[clearer] about things."

"It's what everybody's thought for years. But we were able to put it together in a way that it's presentable to a jury," said Hook. 

A 36-page criminal complaint outlines what happened leading up to the murder and after. 

The day of the murder, Robin Mendez called the Park City Credit Union manager saying his wife hadn't made it to their church yet. The manager of the credit union said Robin Mendez asked her to check on Barbara. That's when she found her body near the counter area. The manager later noticed some money was missing from Barbara's deposit bag. 

The criminal complaint goes on to say Barbara died of "multiple blunt injuries, abrasions and lacerations of head, with extensive skull fractures." Police think Robin Mendez killed Barbara with a pry bar or wonder bar. Robin Mendez's family owned a furniture upholstery business, where those types of tools were commonly used.

Barbara and Robin Mendez were also members of the Assembly of God Church of Woodruff at the time. A church member said Robin didn't act "like a person who had just found out his wife was murdered." Another church member told police Robin Mendez was "a person who thought of himself as a ladies' man." 

The day before Barbara was murdered she had a phone conversation with someone she knew from church. The witness told police Barbara was 'very distressed.' According to the criminal complaint, Barbara said 'she felt that she was going to die soon.' 

Twelve days after Barbara's murder, Robin traded in his motorcycle for a brand new one. The complaint says he paid the remaining balance of $3,774 with a check. About $2,700 was stolen from the Park City Credit Union the night of the murder. 

Barbara's sister said Barbara didn't talk much about her relationship with Robin. She told police Robin never visited the cemetery where Barbara was buried and never bought a headstone for her grave. Barbara's sister and her husband said they eventually bought a headstone for Barbara. 

Police also interviewed a woman who said Robin sexually abused her for years when she was a young girl. She told police Robin was her youth pastor. She told police she first became sexually active with Robin in the summer of 1981 when she was 14 years old. The criminal complaint says Robin would often get the young girl drunk and have sex with her. The girl said on the night of Barbara's murder, Robin told her, "I'm footloose and fancy free now." The next day, they also had sex in Robin's bed. She also said after the murder, Robin told her he was going to buy her an engagement ring." 

The criminal complaint says, Robin told his daughters, "[She] presented herself to me naked and I was weak because your mom and I never had sex. What was I supposed to do?" The criminal complaint says Barbara suspected Robin was having an affair. She said if he would admit it, they could move on. 

Police also spoke with a woman who claimed to have had a romantic relationship with Robin for a few months in 1982. She denied being in a relationship with Robin prior to the death of Barbara and said they started dating two or three months after the murder. She also said Robin once went to the library and started reading a book on how to "beat" a polygraph test. 

The criminal complaint says Robin re-married in 1984. His now ex-wife called him a "pathological liar." She went on to say Robin was paranoid and would say police were wiretapping the house. She said Robin was addicted to pornography and had a collection of magazines and video tapes he kept hidden in their basement. In 2002, she said she discovered Robin looking in a peephole that he drilled into their 14-year-old daughter's bathroom. After the incident, Robin admitted to sexually molesting their daughter when she was 5 years old. The two eventually divorced after that.

Mendez has served at least eight years in prison for sexually assaulting young girls.

People filled an Oneida County courtroom for Robin's court appearance in this case. His daughters with Barbara Mendez, Dawn and Christy, were there.

"We deeply love and miss our mom and are so grateful this day has finally come," said Christy Mendez.

The two daughters were 11 and 13 at the time of the murder. They told police Robin Mendez would often manipulate them so they would help him have an alibi. Dawn and Christy told police Robin became paranoid after the murder. He would take them into the woods, his van, or in the bathroom with the shower running whenever they spoke about the murder. 

"We have great hope in a God who is always good and though many are grateful for this closure this brings to us, we truly see this as a bridge to a new beginning," said Dawn Mendez. 

Dawn and Christy also thanked police for their work on this cold case.

"Those girls were my age in 1982. That was their mom. That was their life. They were just getting into their teenage years and they lost their mom," said Hook. 

Robin is currently in jail on $250,000 cash bond. Robin also cannot have contact with his family. On Tuesday, Judge Patrick O'Melia recused himself from the case. A new judge hasn't been appointed yet. 

The Oneida County Sheriff's Office worked with Minocqua Police Department on the case for 36 years. 

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