MERRILL, Wis. (WSAU) – A Lincoln County jury found a Wausau man guilty Wednesday of strangling his mother to death then staging it to look like an accident at a lake near Harrison in June 2010.
The jury of seven women and five men deliberated for nearly three hours before finding Chase Boruch guilty of first-degree intentional homicide in Sally Pergolsk's death.
Boruch faces an automatic life prison sentence. Judge Glenn Hartley must decide whether he will ever be eligible for release on extended supervision. Boruch hung his head as Hartley read the verdict.
Defense attorney John Voorhees declined to comment after court.
The case could end up being challenged on appeal. Hartley denied a request for a mistrial Wednesday after he refused to honor Voorhees’ request and send back a defense pathologist’s report when jurors asked to see the autopsy report during deliberations.
“I'm very pleased with the jury's verdict,” Lincoln County district attorney Don Dunphy said.
Dunphy said he and assistant attorney general Don Latorraca carefully built the evidence for jurors in what he described as a circumstantial case. Dunphy pointed to testimony from pathologists for the state and defense that a fatal brain injury Pergoslki suffered could have been caused by strangulation as a significant piece of evidence for jurors.
“It showed a likely method and...may have been a turning point,” he said.
Boruch testified in his own defense Tuesday that he found his mother lying unresponsive on her living room floor the morning of her death. He said she had choked on a piece of meat. He pulled the meat out but could not revive her.
"Choking is not consistent with trauma to the back of Sally's neck,” Latorraca said in his closing argument Wednesday morning.
Voorhees disputed the state's findings about exactly how Pergolski died.
"There's no certainty about the cause of death - about how, when, where, why or if there was a traumatic event. There isn't enough evidence to say strangulation was cause of death,” he said in his closing argument.
Boruch admitted staging his mother's drowning to collect on her life insurance, saying he saw it as a once in a lifetime opportunity to gain financially from her death.
But Latorraca said Boruch took his motive a step further and used it to plan and carry out Pergolski's murder.
"How much is a human life worth? He made the decision that his mother was worth more to him in death than in life,” Latorraca said.