A Brookfield man convicted of strangling his girlfriend, burning her body and then dumping the remains in Lake Winnebago in 2009 is not entitled to a new trial, the state appeals court has ruled.
Brandon Mueller, 37, was sentenced in 2010 to life without the possibility of parole for murdering 28-year-old Renee Redmer in his mother's Fond du Lac apartment, the Associated Press reported.
After binging on cocaine and alcohol, Mueller and Redmer, got into an argument that turned physical. Mueller put his hands around Redmer’s neck and she died in the struggle, according to court records.
Mueller put Redmer’s body in a cooler in his mother’s garage and, a few weeks later, doused the body in gasoline and burned it in a barrel. Mueller and his mother's boyfriend then drove out onto Lake Winnebago, drilled a hole through the ice and dumped in the ashes, court records say.
Mueller was convicted for first-degree intentional homicide and mutilation of a corpse.
Redmer, a Waukesha mother of two, disappeared in January 2009, and her fate remained a mystery until Mueller confessed later to a friend that he had strangled Redmer, according to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story from 2010.
In his appeal, Mueller argued his attorney was ineffective for not presenting him with the option of pleading guilty or no contest to the lesser mutilation charge, which, he claimed, would have improved his odds of convincing the jury that Redmer’s death was not intentional.
Although Mueller never disputed that he killed Redmer or disposed of her body, he contended the main trial issue should have been whether the killing
was intentional. In his appeal, he said the grisly corpse-mutilation evidence prevented the jury from fairly considering a lesser degree of homicide.
However, in its ruling last week, the Wisconsin Appellate Court said even if the jury had not seen the gruesome evidence, "sufficient other evidence supported the jury verdict."
For example, one of Mueller’s friends testified that Mueller confessed that he had killed Redmer. And a cellmate of Mueller's also testified that Mueller often joked to other inmates about being charged with Redmer’s murder.
Furthermore, the appeals court noted, Redmer's mother testified that Mueller had a history of violence and had beaten Redmer just weeks before she disappeared.
"Matters of reasonably sound strategy, without the benefit of hindsight, are 'virtually unchallengeable' and do not constitute ineffective assistance," the appeals court wrote. "On this record, we refuse to second-guess defense counsel’s chosen strategy."