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TV show 'True Conviction' puts Marquardt case back in spotlight

Ex-DA, now judge, Theisen interviewed for episode on search for justice in women’s deaths

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    Now an Eau Claire County judge, Jon Theisen pre­sides over a March 2016 court ses­sion.

    Staff file photo

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    Theisen

    Contributed photo

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    Marquardt

    Staff file photo

CHIPPEWA FALLS — Bill P. Marquardt, who was found not guilty in Chippewa County of killing his mother in 2000 but was later convicted of killing two women in Florida, is the subject of a new TV show.

“True Conviction,” a new series on the Investigation Discovery (ID) network, has an episode that features Marquardt, showing how DNA on a knife in his possession tied him to the deaths in Florida. Each episode is hosted by Anna-Sigga Nicolazzi, a well-known prosecutor in the Brooklyn, N.Y., district attorney’s office.

Eau Claire County Judge Jon Theisen was Chippewa County district attorney during the prosecution of Marquardt’s murder case in Wisconsin, but Theisen was unable to persuade a jury that Marquardt killed his mother.

Theisen participated in taping the episode last May. Show producers were able to convince the current owner of the Marquardt home in Eagle Point to allow cameras inside to record footage.

“(Nicolazzi) showed me around,” Theisen said. “I’d never been in it before. They took me to the location of the Marquardt cabin, and they flew me down to Florida to see the murder scene.”

Theisen dug out his files on the case and allowed the TV crew to make copies. They filmed an interview with Theisen inside his courtroom. He was impressed with the final edit of the TV show. It quietly aired in early January, but the show is scheduled for a bigger push.

“This ‘True Conviction’ does just an amazing job,” he said. “After the show came out, they were happy with the release, so they asked me to appear in promos.”

Theisen will fly to New York next week to promote the show.

“Last (week), they asked me if I could fly to New York to appear on the ‘Today Show’ with Megyn Kelly,” Theisen said. “It was actually days I had blocked off to go to a seminar, but I had decided not to go. I don’t know if they are going to interview me or if I’m ‘window dressing.’ They’ve given me no information on the format.”

He is tentatively scheduled to be on the live TV show on Friday, Feb. 9.

Marquardt, who is now 42, was suspected of killing his mother, Mary Jane Marquardt, whose body was found in the town of Eagle Point on March 13, 2000. Her body was found by her husband, Alfred Marquardt, on the floor of the couple’s two-car garage. She had been shot in the head and stabbed twice.

Marquardt was acquitted of charges related to her death in 2006. However, Marquardt suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, and he was serving a 75-year sentence for armed burglary and animal cruelty in the Mendota Mental Health Institute in Madison.

After Theisen couldn’t get a conviction in the murder case in 2006, he searched for unsolved cases matching blood evidence on a knife — which also contained Mary Jane Marquardt’s blood — that the state’s authorities had confiscated. After additional DNA testing, authorities determined that the blood samples on the knife matched two women in Sumter County, Fla.

Marquardt was convicted of forcing himself into a Tarrytown home in Sumter County on March 15, 2000, and fatally shooting and stabbing 72-year-old Margarita Ruiz and her 42-year-old daughter Esperanza Wells. The women were killed in front of two toddlers they were baby-sitting. The children hid from the attacker, surviving the violence.

In February 2012, Florida Judge William Hallman III ruled Marquardt should die by lethal injection for the two murders. Marquardt has been incarcerated in Florida since he was flown there in May 2009.

Theisen said this is a case that just continues to resurface.

“The only thing that surprises me is this comes up suddenly,” Theisen said. “It has sat dormant for years. ‘Dateline’ had contacted me, but they haven’t done anything. ‘CSI’ did a version of the story. There are times I get tired of it, but it reiterates the collaboration of the long, hard work by law enforcement across the nation.”

Theisen said there are still parts of the case where he still feels he doesn’t have closure. He said he’s still haunted by the death of two women he never met. But he’s proud of his role in apprehending Marquardt and getting the conviction for their deaths.

“This is always going to be one of those stories, you look back on a career, and you’re remembered for,” he said.

Chippewa County Sheriff Jim Kowalczyk isn’t surprised the murder remains in the public eye.

“It’s a very interesting case, with the investigation and series of happenings,” Kowalczyk said. “The question that will probably never be answered is what is his role in his mother’s death. We have no other suspects. There is always that little hope he didn’t do that, but that is so remote. When the death penalty happens, that will be closure to the case, but there will still be questions about Mary Marquardt’s death.”

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

Contact: 715-723-0303, chris.vetter@ecpc.com


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