A judge in Wausau Monday sentenced James Emerson to spend the rest of his life behind bars for beating and strangling Rhonda Mertes to death in December 1999. Emerson will not be eligible for parole.
Marathon County district attorney Jill Falstad agrees it was one of the worst cases she's ever seen. She described it as a violent and vicious attack that stands out in her mind.
Mertes' sister, Renee Eggebrecht, joined others in calling Emerson a vicious, despicable, thoroughly disgusting person. She says the sentence was fair and served justice for the victim's family.
Brother Dave Betts told Emerson he'd kill him right now if he had the chance, and says Emerson will face an even greater sentence when he dies. Betts says Emerson will get a chance to "rot in hell."
Emerson himself said he would not take credit for the murder because it's something he could not have done.
Police linked Emerson to the murder through a jailhouse confession and because his DNA matched crime scene evidence.