WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAU) – Opening statements begin this morning in the trial of a Wausau man charged with killing a high school senior in May 2009.
Raul Ponce-Rocha is accused of breaking into Breanna Schneller's west-side apartment while armed and beating and stabbing her to death. Prosecutors believe the murder happened when Ponce-Rocha went to pick up a co-worker in the same apartment complex.
Prosecutors say Ponce-Rocha was motivated to steal Schneller's underwear to add to his collection of women's panties. Investigators say Ponce-Rocha knew Schneller and had been in her apartment before.
The 23-year-old has pled not guilty to first-degree intentional homicide and armed burglary charges. He faces life in prison if convicted.
Attorneys picked a jury of eight men and five women from La Crosse County Tuesday to hear the case. Marathon County Judge Patrick Brady excused one juror because her brother-in-law died.
Twelve jurors will ultimately decide Ponce-Rocha's fate. One will serve as an alternate. The jury will be sequestered for the trial, which is expected to last at least a week-and-a-half and could include Saturday testimony.
Brady said the out-of-county jury was the best choice in giving Ponce-Rocha a fair trial. Brady said finding a local jury would have been difficult given pre-trial publicity in the case.
Prosecutors will introduce several pieces of evidence they say links Ponce-Rocha to the crime, including his DNA found on a plastic bag with Schneller's cell phone and a striped glove inside that was thrown away in a Dumpster. A bloody footprint found under the sink in Schneller's apartment is consistent with the shoe Ponce-Rocha admits he wore that day.