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Crime lab finds Clemons' blood on piece of firewood

Wisconsin crime lab experts today took turns hefting a piece of firewood that may have struck the killing blow to Myrna Clemons 15 years ago.

Over a foot long and at least five inches in diameter, the log is marked by a protruding knot and three spots where blood-stained bark was cut out for testing.

The blood on all three spots was from Clemons, DNA analyst Jennifer Zawacki testified in Douglas County Court today during the murder trial of Michael David Mattson.

Mattson, 56, faces one charge of first-degree murder for the 1993 beating death of Clemons in the Allouez home they shared. At the time, he was on Huber release while serving a jail sentence for two previous attacks on Clemons.

Finding blood on the wood is consistent with Mattson's Oct. 23, 2006, confession to the crime, which was aired in Douglas County Court Tuesday.

The audiotape starts like a coffee date.

"Hi," Mattson said to Capt. Chad La Lor of the Superior Police Department. He is then introduced to Det. Kirk Hill.

"Hi there, nice to meet you," said Mattson.

He then gets right to the point.

"Well, it seems like you got a good case against me and all so I'm confessing to the murder," Mattson told the officers. "Lock me up and throw away the key."

The rambling two-hour interview touches on everything from Clemons' dying screams to football; trips to Arizona and California to wood stoves; what Joe Fox did on his farm outside of Proctor to Mattson's visit to Clemons' grave.

Mattson mentions that he can't make ends meet and has no place to go.

"I want to be locked up," he says. "I do."

Under questioning, he gradually provided details of the day Clemons died. He remembered her wearing an old blue bathrobe that was worn nearly white. He remembered his brother finishing off a box of chips in the truck that afternoon. And he remembered the attack.

"After we loaded up the truck and we were getting ready to go, Jack was in the truck ... I went back in the house and got a piece of popple and hit Myrna in the head." Mattson said. Then, much more softly, he said, "That must have killed her."

He told the officers he picked up a piece of firewood from the porch. Hiding it behind his back, he knocked on the door and asked Clemons to open up. As she was opening the door, Mattson said, he hit her.

At first, Mattson couldn't recall why he did it. Maybe, he said, he was jealous that his brother was sharing his home with Clemons while he had to report to jail each night. Maybe it was triggered by the jail sentence he was serving.

"I'm a little mad at her, mad at her for turning me in for beating her up in November," Mattson said. "Maybe that came rushing in my head."

Mattson said he hit Clemons twice -- once on the forehead and once in the back of the head as she was falling down.

"We did knock the chair over, screaming," Mattson said. "And she fell right by the door. I shut the door and left."

He had to move Clemons' body a bit in order to shut the door.

Mattson also remembered burning the piece of wood he used to kill her. When questioned further by officers whether he burned it or not, Mattson appeared frustrated and said he has a poor memory.

When asked why he chose to turn himself in, Mattson said the guilt has been gnawing at him like a cancer for years.

"It's been wearing on me," he said. "She was a good woman and I just snapped that one time ... not just that one time ..."

As the interview resumed after a short break, his frustration once again surfaced.

"How hard is it to get arrested around here?" he asked.

Ken Olson, a forensic scientist, testified today that the majority of the blood stains on the log were impact stains -- also known as blood spatter -- which could be created by a beating.

"Usually the first blow does not create impact spatter," he said. "You need a source of blood to create a blood pattern."

If the knot on the log had broken the skin deep enough to hit a source of blood, he said, it could have created the impact spatter.

Blood spatter stains were also found on the front and sleeve of Clemons' robe. Olson testified they could have been caused by either a blow or blood being expirated through her nose and mouth during a CPR attempt.

The trial is expected to last through Friday.