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Stillwater grad pleads guilty to Madison murder

Washington County (Minn.) Jail photo

A 2006 Stillwater (Minn.) Area High School graduate, who moved to Madison to attend college, has admitted to murdering a Madison man in his home.

Adam Charles Peterson, 20, pleaded guilty to felony first-degree homicide in Dane County Circuit Court this morning, admitting to a judge that he stabbed 31-year-old Joel Marino.

Marino lived near the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus and was stabbed in the abdomen and chest during the early morning hours of Jan. 28. Authorities found Marino near death in a nearby alley. He died the same day.

Peterson, a native of Grant, was enrolled at the university in the fall of 2007, but dropped out after a semester and remained living in Madison at various addresses. He moved back to Grant earlier this year and was extradited to Wisconsin in June.

According to court documents, Peterson faces a mandatory life sentence, and a potential maximum sentence of life without parole. However, he could be paroled after 20 years under Wisconsin state law.

Judge James Martin dismissed a further charge of use of a dangerous weapon, a felony that would have carried a five-year sentence.

In evidence entered in court proceedings, Peterson said Marino was a stranger who he stabbed as part of a failed robbery. He denied being under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time.

DNA extracted from a backpack and stocking cap found outside Marino's apartment after the murder matched that found on the 4-inch paring knife used to stab Marino. Police traced the clothing to Peterson through receipts to a State Street sporting goods store.

Peterson suffers from mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, and depression, and has been prescribed numerous medications to treat them.

However, his public defender, Dennis Burke, told Wisconsin media that Peterson was able to tell right from wrong at the time of the slaying and that Peterson chose to enter a guilty plea rather than wait for a scheduled January trial.