Anthony Sanborn Jr. is led from the Cumberland County Courthouse in April 1990 while waiting to be arraigned on a murder charge in the slaying of Jessica L. Briggs. A renowned former FBI criminal profiler now says Briggs may actually have been murdered by a serial killer. Staff photo by Jack Milton; archival photo of Jessica Lea Briggs

The brutal murder of 16-year-old Jessica L. Briggs, who was slashed and stabbed to death on Portland’s Maine State Pier in 1989, may be connected to a serial killer who preyed on women throughout New England in the 1970s and 1980s, according to a renowned former FBI criminal profiler.

In a preliminary report filed Friday in Portland Unified Criminal Court, Gregg O. McCrary described Briggs’ killing as sexual in nature and as strikingly similar to the 1987 death of a Vermont woman believed to be the victim of the Connecticut River Valley Killer. That serial killer is believed responsible for seven deaths between 1978 and 1987.

McCrary and a second criminal profiler are expected to testify at a hearing in July at the request of a lawyer working to exonerate Anthony H. Sanborn Jr., who was convicted of Briggs’ murder in 1992 but was granted bail in April and is seeking review of his conviction. Sanborn, who was 16 at the time of the murder, has maintained he is innocent and is seeking to clear his name, while the state is pushing to preserve his conviction.

The court filing and possible links to other unsolved murders make it clear that Sanborn’s defense intends to argue that the 28-year-old physical evidence points to someone else as Briggs’ killer.

McCrary worked for 25 years at the FBI, including at the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime, until his retirement in 1995. He now provides expert testimony across the country and the world, and teaches a graduate-level course in Forensic and Legal Psychology at Marymount University in Virginia.

Michelle Sanborn, left, Anthony Sanborn Jr. and attorney Amy Fairfield celebrate April 13 after Sanborn’s release on bail. Sanborn, who was 16 when Jessica Briggs was murdered, has maintained he is innocent. Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette

After reviewing autopsy records, crime scene photos and trial testimony, McCrary concluded that the injuries Briggs sustained “reflect an unusually severe underlying psychopathology typically evidenced by serially violent offenders. Therefore, there is a likelihood that Ms. Briggs was the victim of a serial killer,” he wrote.

Briggs’ throat had been slashed, severing the carotid artery and puncturing her jugular vein, and she had been stabbed multiple times and nearly disemboweled after her death, according to McCrary.

He is the first to offer a tentative link to other, identifiable killings.

The other victim he specified, Barbara Agnew, went missing from a highway in Vermont in January 1987. Three months later, Agnew’s body was found nearby. She had been stabbed to death.

“(Agnew) sustained a strikingly similar pattern of injuries to that of Ms. Briggs,” McCrary wrote. “While it would be premature to link this case without further in-depth analysis, these are the types of crimes that, in the interest of justice, should be cross-referenced and analyzed to determine whether or not they could be linked.”

McCrary’s report mirrors that of another criminal profiler, John Philpin, who also concluded in a summary filed in court Friday that Briggs was likely a victim of a serial offender who sought to “own, terrorize, humiliate and ultimately kill this young woman.”

Philpin also offered a tentative link to another Maine killing and suggested that authorities examine it more closely to look for similarities. That murder, of Angela Thomas in 1990 in Brunswick, remains unsolved.

Sanborn was convicted of killing Briggs following an extensive investigation by the Portland Police Department, which focused on the community of poor street kids who lived in the city and hung around together.

Prosecutors said Sanborn, who had dated Briggs briefly before her death, killed her because she did not want to go to Virginia Beach with him, then refused to give him tip money she had earned that night busing tables at DiMillo’s floating restaurant.

The murder weapon was never recovered, and there was no physical evidence tying Sanborn to the scene.

Prosecutors relied on a 16-year-old girl at Sanborn’s 1992 murder trial, Hope Cady, who said she had witnessed the murder three years earlier from a distance on a dimly lit pier. But Cady recanted that testimony in April at Sanborn’s bail hearing. Amy Fairfield, Sanborn’s attorney, has alleged that prosecutors withheld evidence in the case, including information about Cady’s eyesight, among myriad other facts that could have aided Sanborn’s defense.

Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:

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