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Jury finds Meyer guilty of 35-year-old Grand Chute homicide

Posted at 3:31 PM, May 20, 2024

APPLETON (NBC 26) — After more than three decades, a verdict in a homicide trial of a case that had gone cold.

A jury found Gene Meyer guilty of first degree sexual assault and first degree intentional homicide for the death of Betty Rolf.

Police say in November 1988, she was found dead, beaten, and strangled under an overpass in Grand Chute.

During closing arguments, the state highlighted DNA evidence saying it ties the crime to Meyer.

Prosecutor Nicholas Grode likened the odds of it being someone elses DNA to winning the lottery.

"25 octillion to one. In this case, this is the level of surety that we have."

The defense again told jurors, the DNA evidence only proves Rolf had sex with Meyer at some point before the killing.

Attorney Jennifer Kelly also attacked the prosecution for bringing up Meyer's living conditions.

"The state says he lived on property in someone else's name. Yeah, you know what? That's called renting. They are criminalizing poverty."

In rebuttal, District Attorney Melissa Tempelis fired back, saying she doesn't care about a defendant's status, just that she wants the facts.

"Let me be clear: I do not want a verdict that reflects the status of poverty, homelessness, or prejudice. The job you have is to search for the truth," said Tempelis.

The jury deliberated for about three hours before returning the guilty verdicts.

Gene Meyer never spoke in court and the defense team declined an interview, but I spoke with District Attorney Melissa Tempelis.

"Our job is to search for the truth and to, ultimately, help achieve that. That was something that we were able to do today.”

Betty Rolf's daugther, Sheila Wurm, told me now they can begin to heal.

“We can rest easy now that they have him and that he’s going away for a long time."

The prosecution says there’s no date set for sentencing yet. But, they expect it to be sometime in July.

From our previous coverage:

A jury has found Gene Meyer guilty of killing Betty Rolf in Grand Chute 35 years ago.

Outagamie County prosecutors say new DNA evidence linked him to the cold case. He was charged with sexual assault and first degree intentional homicide in her death.

From our previous coverage:

On Tuesday, the state and defense gave closing arguments.

In closing, the state reinforced its case that DNA evidence conclusively ties the homicide and the sexual assault of Betty Rolf to Gene Meyer. Deputy District Attorney Nicholas Grode was the first to speak to the jury.

"25 octillion — 25,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 — to one odds," Grode pointed out, referencing the likelihood that the DNA found on Rolf's body is Meyer's. "In this case, this is the level of surety that we have."

Grode likened the odds to winning the lottery.

"Your chances of winning the PowerBall are 1 in 292,000,000.”

Meanwhile, the defense maintained their argument since the beginning of the trial: the DNA evidence alone only proves that Rolf had sex with Meyer at some point leading up to the killing.

Attorney Jennifer Kelly also said the state was attempting to use Meyer's living situation at the time of the murder as further proof of guilt.

“Then the state argued, he didn’t have a lot of money. He lived in a rural area. As does much of the population of Wisconsin by the way," said Kelly.

Kelly also remarked on Meyer's move to the state of Washington, where he lived for decades before being charged with the crime.

"The state says he lived on property in someone else's name. Yeah, you know what? That's called renting. They are criminalizing poverty," said Kelly.

In rebuttal, District Attorney Melissa Tempelis fired back, saying she doesn't care about a defendant's status, just that she wants the facts.

"Let me be clear: I do not want a verdict that reflects the status of poverty, homelessness, or prejudice. The job you have is to search for the truth," said Tempelis.

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From our previous coverage on Monday, May 21:

Final witnesses took the stand on Monday.

  • Gene Meyer, accused of homicide and sexual assault, chose not to testify.
  • Prosecutors say Meyer sexually assaulted and killed Betty Rolf in 1988.
  • Closing arguments and jury deliberation are expected to take place Tuesday morning.

(The following is a transcription of the full broadcast story, with additional details for the web)

Prosecutors accuse Gene Meyer of sexually assaulting and killing Betty Rolf underneath a bridge in Grand Chute in 1988.

The state says new DNA evidence links Meyer to her killing.

The defense claims the DNA only suggests Meyer had sex with Rolf, but didn't kill her.

Meyer's team has also said they believe it was Rolf's late husband, Charles Sr. Who killed her.

On Monday, the defense called its final witnesses to the stand ...

Then, Judge Mark Schroeder turned to Meyer, asking what his decision was on testifying.

"[...] You’ve made a decision whether or not you want to testify. Is that right?” asked Schroeder.

“Yes," replied Meyer.

“…and what is that decision, Mr. Meyer?” Schroeder continued.

"No.”

On Tuesday morning, the prosecution and defense will make closing arguments. Jury deliberation will follow.