A Rock County judge on Wednesday allowed a key piece of evidence to be presented in the case of the 2015 stabbing homicide of Mark Marquez in Milton.

Mario E. Lopez, 29, of Janesville, is accused of stabbing his stepfather on Nov. 15, 2015. He is charged with party to first-degree intentional homicide.

Mario’s brother Michael originally faced the same charge but was convicted in 2016 of aiding a felon and sentenced to four years in prison.

Mark Marquez died from a chest infection as he was recovering from surgery in February 2016 but not before telling his common-law wife, Priscilla Perez, that Mario was the one who stabbed him, according to her testimony at a motion hearing Wednesday.

Marquez was in a coma for about a month after surgery to repair damage from the stabbing, Perez testified, and the day he regained consciousness, he said Michael was not at fault and that Mario had stabbed him.

Perez sobbed as she recounted the events and said she was the first person to talk to Marquez when he awakened.

“I never left his side. I was there every day, every night,” she said.

Perez said Marquez, of Milton, had been a father to her three sons since they were little and that he still loved Mario after the stabbing.

“They were drinking the night it happened, and he (Marquez) didn’t want anything bad to happen to Mario,” she said.

The brothers confronted Marquez at a party because they were angry over an allegation that Marquez had hit their mother, according to the criminal complaint.

Marquez’s words as reported by Perez would be hearsay evidence, which is not allowed at trial except in narrow circumstances.

One exception to the hearsay rule is “excited utterance,” which typically are words spoken in the heat of the moment at the time of the crime.

Marquez’s excited utterance came after he came out of coma, Assistant District Attorney Jodi Dabson-Bollendorf noted.

Marquez was fighting for his life and wanted to make sure the right person was held accountable, Dabson-Bollendorf said.

Defense attorney Michael Murphy argued that Marquez was not excited at the time he spoke. Perez said the words came “out of the blue,” but she said Marquez exhibited no excitement, stress or emotion other than sadness.

Judge Michael Haakenson agreed with the prosecution, saying Marquez’s statements were delayed by the coma, but they came out the day he regained consciousness.

“It’s clear he was still under stress of the event at that point,” Haakenson said.

A final pre-trial conference in the case is set for Jan. 31. A three-day trial is scheduled to start Feb. 5.

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