Nelson, WI (KROC-AM News) - Authorities in western Wisconsin have charged a Rochester man with first-degree murder.

The criminal complaint filed in Buffalo County Court on Wednesday alleges 48-year-old Randall Merrick murdered a Nelson, Wisconsin woman through domestic violence between December 25th, 2016, and March 12th, 2017. In addition to the murder count, Merrick is also charged with hiding a corpse, although the alleged victim's body has never been found.

The charges state that Beth Johnson was last seen alive in her trailer that she shared with Merrick just outside Nelson on Christmas Day 2016. She wasn't reported missing until March 12th the following year when her son contacted law enforcement and reported he had not seen or heard from her since Christmas.

Court documents indicate investigators documented a history of alleged domestic abuse by Merrick and spoke with a witness who stated that Merrick had said he had killed Johnson, saying "I hit her too hard." The witness also told investigators that Merrick indicated the victim's body was in the trunk of her car.

The charges also include a description of an inspection of the property by a specially trained cadaver dog that alerted on the vehicle and several other areas inside and outside the trailer home even though the victim has yet to be found.

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