Thursday, October 18, 2018

Chris Vetter

Review: "True Conviction" show of Marquardt case is compelling TV

  • fls-Marquardt-2-020118

    Bill Marquardt while on trial in May, 2006

    Shane Opatz

The new TV show that analyzes the Bill Marquardt murder cases is nothing short of fantastic.

“True Conviction,” a new series on the Investigation Discovery (ID) network, recreated the case in a compelling story that is easy to follow.

I joined the Leader-Telegram staff in 2001, a year after the Marquardt murder in rural Chippewa Falls took place, so I wasn’t here for the initial stories. But, I have written numerous stories and followed the twists and turns that led to Marquardt later being convicted of two murders in Florida, years after he was acquitted of killing his mother.

First and foremost, this is a professional, well-done true crime show. A few years ago, I participated in a taping of “Snapped: Killer Couples,” about a different murder case here in the Chippewa Valley. I hated the final edit of that show; it was a sensationalized tabloid and was way too over-the-top.

That’s not the case here. Anna-Sigga Nicolazzi, a well-known prosecutor in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office, hosts the show, and she treats the murders with the seriousness and gravitas they deserve.

The first third of the 43-minute show focuses on the deaths of two women in Florida in March 2000, and how baffled investigators were there. There was no motive, and few leads. It was an open, cold case for several years.

Coming out of a commercial break 15 minutes into the show, viewers are introduced to Eau Claire County Judge Jon Theisen, who was Chippewa County District Attorney in 2000 when Mary Jane Marquardt was found murdered in her home. Theisen sits down opposite Nicolazzi and walks her through the case, the evidence they had that pointed to Bill Marquardt as the killer, and ultimately, his inability to convince a jury to convict him.

Theisen walked Nicolazzi through how he began searching for possible other murders committed by Bill Marquardt, trying to figure out why there was DNA from two unknown women on it.

Perhaps the biggest flaw is the show never made it clear that Bill Marquardt was serving a 75-year sentence for armed burglary and animal cruelty in the Mendota Mental Health Institute in Madison. I felt the show left the impression that Marquardt was a free man after he was not convicted of his mother’s murder.

Nicolazzi interviewed retired Chippewa County Deputy Ken Oemig, who had arrived at the murder scene in Eagle Point, and she interviewed former Chippewa Herald reporter Jeff Hage, who had covered the murder for that newspaper. Hage gave solid insight into explaining how Marquardt’s defense team planted seeds of doubt, ultimately leading to the not guilty verdict.

This is a fascinating retelling of these three murders. If anything, the ending felt rushed; I would have loved more footage of Marquardt appearing in court in Florida.

There are a few quick glimpses of downtown Chippewa Falls. Overall, I feel the show treated Theisen, the murder cases, and the city with the respect they deserve. I strongly encourage people to watch the show.

The episode of “True Conviction” can be watched online now, for free, at The show has a 43-minute running time.

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