By Shereen Siewert
Marathon County Circuit Judge Jill Falstad will step down on July 3, Wausau Pilot & Review confirmed Friday.
Falstad was first elected to the position in 2009. She was reelected in 2015 for a term that expires in 2021. Before serving on the bench Falstad served as Marathon County District Attorney from 1994 to 2009.
Judge Falstad began her career in 1986 as an assistant district attorney in Wood County before moving to Portage County in 1987 and then to Marathon County in 1989. During her tenure in the District Attorney’s office, Falstad led the prosecution of thousands of cases including the June 1998 trail of Chris Jacobs III, perhaps the most high profile case of her prosecutorial career.
Jacobs, who was released from prison in February, was tried and convicted on charges of kidnapping and false imprisonment connected to the death of Helen Kunz, a 70-year-old woman whose body was found nine months after the 1987 deaths of four family members.
Another high profile case Falstad spearheaded was that of convicted serial arsonist Kevin Zarm, who was convicted in 2007 in the 2003 slaying of 84-year-old Sylvia Grade. Zarm was convicted of six counts of arson and 20 other criminal charges in 2005 for a series of fires in the Wausau area. Zarm killed Grade after she caught him burglarizing her garage.
Falstad also led the prosecution of James Emerson, who was convicted in 2009 of first-degree intentional homicide in the death of Rhonda Mertes, whose badly battered body was discovered by a Wausau jogger 10 years earlier.
She was named prosecutor of the year in 2009 by the Wisconsin Association of Homicide Investigators.
As a judge, Falstad presided over several homicide trials including a recent cold case in Oneida County, where she found Robin Mendez guilty in the 1982 murder of his then wife, Barbara Mendez.
Earlier this month Falstad was honored by The Women’s Community with the Outstanding Achievement in Supporting Sexual Assault Survivors Award. From the moment she began her career, Falstad took on sexual assault prosecutions. As district attorney, she continually emphasized the importance of hearing the victims’ voices and empowering victims at every stage of the prosecution. As an advocate who worked with her as the district attorney, she set the standard of excellence in the DA’s office.
In her role as a judge, Falstad treats victims with respect and dignity in her courtroom, giving them a chance to have their voices heard, said Jessica Lind of The Women’s Community, in a news release.
Gov. Tony Evers announced today that he is seeking applicants for the vacancy created by Falstad’s resignation, effective July 3, 2020. The new judge will complete a term ending July 31, 2021.
The application to apply can be found on Gov. Evers’ website by clicking “Apply to Serve.”
Applications must be received by May 4, 2020. Completed applications must be sent to GOVJudicialAppointments@
Potential applicants with questions about the judicial selection process may contact the Governor’s Office of Legal Counsel at (608) 266-1212.