The man convicted last year in the 1983 murder of a Fayette woman lost an appeal to have his conviction overturned by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

The court’s ruling Thursday means Thomas H. Mitchell Jr. will continue to serve a life sentence for the stabbing death of Judith Flagg, who was 23 when she was killed in her rural Fayette home on Jan. 6, 1983.

Four of the justices concurred in the decision.

Justice Warren M. Silver dissented, saying he would grant a new trial and allow a jury to hear an alternative-suspect theory.

“The evidence in this case is much stronger than in cases where we have held that alternative suspect evidence was properly excluded,” Silver wrote in his dissent.

The murder was unsolved for deacdes. Mitchell was indicted in connection with the case in September 2006 after authorities re-examined evidence using new techniques to recover DNA. Mitchell’s DNA was found under fingernail clippings from Flagg’s right hand.

At the time of the indictment, Mitchell was nearing the end of a 35-year prison sentence for the attempted murder, kidnapping and rape of a 17-year-old girl whose parents he had befriended.

Mitchell, now 53, was convicted by a jury on June 23, 2009, after a seven-day trial in Franklin County Superior Court.

In his appeal, he asked the Maine Supreme Judicial Court to overturn that conviction. Oral arguments were presented May 16 in Bangor.

Mitchell’s attorney, James Strong, argued that the defense was prevented from telling the jury about an alternative suspect — allegedly, one of Flagg’s neighbors — and from cross-examining the medical examiner who did Flagg’s autopsy.

“We were prevented from putting on a complete defense,” Strong told the panel of supreme court justices.

Justices disagreed in an 28-page opinion by Associate Justice Jon D. Levy, which also included Silver’s dissent.