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Clemons killer gets virtual life sentence

The last time Richard Leech saw his sister, Myrna Jean Clemons, her face was swollen and bruised and her head was wrapped up from where Michael Mattson had crushed her skull.

The last time Richard Leech saw his sister, Myrna Jean Clemons, her face was swollen and bruised and her head was wrapped up from where Michael Mattson had crushed her skull.

"You're a coward for all the times you hit women," Leech told Mattson before his sentencing Friday. "I hope you think about that every day you're in prison."

Mattson, 56, on Friday was handed what amounts to a life sentence. The Superior man, who confessed to the crime more than a decade after Clemons died, won't be eligible for parole for 35 years, he was told in Douglas County Circuit Court.

"He's not going to make it 35 years," said Mattson's defense attorney, First Assistant State Public Defender J. Patrick O'Neill. If he is granted parole, Mattson will be 90 years old.

O'Neill pointed to Mattson's long history of alcohol addiction and mental health problems. He said the taxpayers were not best served by "warehousing" Mattson in the overtaxed state prison system.

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District Attorney Dan Blank disagreed.

"It should be a life sentence," Blank said. According to information presented in court, Mattson has spent a great deal of time on probation and tried treatment options but still continued to commit crimes.

Judge George Glonek weighed Mattson's long criminal history when setting the sentence. From age 14, Mattson has been in and out of the criminal justice system with convictions ranging from theft and battery to nine separate incidents of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated.

On Feb. 19, 1993, Mattson killed Clemons, who was his girlfriend, by hitting her twice in the head with a piece of firewood. At the time, he was on Huber work release after having been convicted of battering Clemons during two domestic abuse incidents.

Glonek called the crime senseless and vicious. Mattson left to spend a day buying and selling scrap while, according to autopsy results, Clemons may have lain in a pool of blood for hours before dying.

"Mike took a loving, caring daughter from her parents," Leech told the judge. "Mom and Dad had to live and die not knowing if Mike would pay for her death."

Mattson was charged with the murder, but the case was dismissed due to lack of evidence. He confessed to the crime in 2006. A jury found the Superior man guilty of first-degree intentional homicide in February.

When asked to make a statement, Mattson said, "God knows. That's all."

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Bygones is researched and written by David Ouse, retired reference librarian from the Duluth Public Library. He can be contacted at djouse49@gmail.com.