WAUSAU – Day five of the homicide trial of Kristopher Torgerson began with a delay and a flurry of motions after prosecutors announced a possible scheme to create a mistrial.
Torgerson, 37, is being tried on charges of first-degree intentional homicide, armed robbery and hiding a corpse in connection with the 2010 death of Stephanie Low. He faces life in prison if convicted on the homicide charge alone.
Low was 22 when she disappeared in October 2010. She remained a missing person until 2013, when Wausau Police announced they believed Low was dead. Despite the amount of blood found in her apartment, Wausau Police Capt. Matt Barnes on Thursday testified that investigators were not convinced she was dead in the early stages of the investigation.
Torgerson has not admitted killing Low but in September 2014 led prosecutors to her body, which was discovered buried in a forest near Wabeno.
Prosecutors this morning asked Marathon County Circuit Judge Greg Huber to admit into evidence a phone call from the jail that was intercepted by police on Thursday. The call was between an inmate who was set to testify today and someone outside of the jail.
Prosecutors said the witness was going to be paid $40,000 to take the stand Friday and say something that would create a mistrial. The defense listened to the phone call outside the presence of the jury before court resumed at around 9:20 a.m.
That witness will no longer testify.
Several witnesses testifying won’t be filmed or shown on camera for safety reasons. Three of those witnesses, who are testifying for the prosecution, are in prison.
The first witness to take the stand on Friday told the jury Torgerson talked with him about burying Low’s hands because of the DNA that could be found on them. The witness told the court that Torgerson told him, “with no body, no motive.”
The witness told the jury that Torgerson told him he put Low’s body in a boat and buried her on an island near Rothschild Pavilion. Prosecutor Richard Dufour argued that Torgerson intentionally misled the witness to determine if the witness was “a snitch.”
Thomas Wilmouth, a defense attorney representing Torgerson, has repeatedly reminded jurors there is no DNA or other physical evidence directly tying his client to Low’s death. Wilmouth has, however, acknowledged that Torgerson was involved in burying the victim’s body.
The trial is set to continue for another week, with additional testimony scheduled for Saturday. A jury of nine men and three women from Eau Claire County, including three alternates, is being sequestered for the length of the trial, which began on Monday.