PRINCETON — The man initially charged with obstruction of justice in relation to the death of Marissa Roberts has been charged with first-degree murder.

Eddie L. Mentgen Jr., 38, of Spring Valley faces a sentence of 20-60 years if convicted for the murder of Roberts, who was found unresponsive in her apartment April 5. An autopsy concluded the 28-year-old woman died of blunt-force trauma.

Mentgen, who was reportedly in a relationship with Roberts and lived at her apartment, originally was charged with obstruction of justice because investigators say he refused to disclose the whereabouts of Roberts’ two young children in the aftermath of her death. A third child had been accounted for. The day after the murder, Mentgen fled to Wisconsin, where he was picked up April 9 for a parole violation stemming from previous charges. He was transported to Dixon Correctional Center.

In a status hearing on Tuesday, Bureau County State’s Attorney Geno Caffarini laid out evidence for probable cause for the murder charge.

According to Caffarini’s statement, Spring Valley police and 10/33 Ambulance were called to Roberts’ residence at 7 p.m. April 5 after Mentgen allegedly struck Roberts on the head with a hammer causing her death. He was seen with her and her two younger children earlier that day. When Mentgen was questioned about the location of the children the following day, he allegedly and falsely stated he was in Granville and would come to the station for questioning, but never showed up. It was at that time investigators say he fled to Wisconsin.

The children were subsequently located in La Salle at the residence of another woman, an acquaintance of Mentgen’s. In a dumpster behind that residence, police found garbage bags matching the pattern of those used at Roberts’ home, a hammer, a pair of size 52-waist pants, a black shirt with red emblem, blankets that had been seen in a Facebook photo from Roberts’ apartment, and bleach. Those items were sent to the state crime lab, where DNA matching Roberts was found on the hammer and the pants, Caffarini said. Mentgen claimed to investigators that he had gone to Metamora the day of Roberts’ death along with her children to McDonald’s and returned to that same location the following day with the La Salle woman. He was seen on video surveillance wearing the clothes found in the dumpster.

Caffarini said both Mentgen’s and Roberts’ phones were tracked together until at least 10 p.m. on the evening she was killed — Mentgen allegedly texted people late into that night saying he was with her.

WHAT’S NEXT?

Caffarini asked for and was granted a $5 million bond for Mentgen. He would need to post $500,000 for release, but the Illinois Department of Corrections still would have control. He also requested Mentgen be remanded to Bureau County Jail, which Mentgen vigorously argued over the advice of his attorney, Assistant Public Defender Brad Popurella.

Mentgen previously argued his wish to be remanded to Dixon, citing hearings regarding his parole violation. At that time, Judge C.J. Hollerich was amenable to the request. This time, however, Hollerich said it made sense to him that Mentgen be housed in Bureau County to have access to his attorney, at least until his July arraignment, at which time he may re-evaluate.

A visibly agitated Mentgen told the judge he wanted to be remanded to Dixon where he had access to a large law library and 24/7 access to a phone. After the judge denied his request, Mentgen said he wanted “go pro se,” representing himself, because he had been looking up case law his entire life.

Caffarini argued Mentgen was being held in Dixon only for parole violation and it made more sense to have him housed across from the courthouse where his hearings will be held.

Hollerich was inclined to agree, saying he did not have all details of the situation in Dixon regarding upcoming hearings, or release date, but it’s his opinion that Mentgen will be better served being held where he has access to his attorney.

“With no access to anything?” an incredulous Mentgen asked, “No, I’d like to go pro se.”

“I’m not going to dismiss Mr. Popurella,” Hollerich responded. “I don’t see any reason to change that. Mr. Popurella has to see what the situation is in Dixon. Let’s not get excited about this.”

Mentgen, who was in county custody this morning, will be arraigned July 15.

Kim Shute can be reached at (8154) 879-5200 or ntprinceton@newstrib.com Follow her on Twitter at NT_Princeton2.

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Bureau-Putnam Bureau Chief Contact: (815) 879-5200 ntprinceton@newstrib.com Covering Bureau and Putnam Counties.

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