January 26, 2013

Judge allows additional DNA testing in Dechaine murder case

The follow-up work – on a shirt worn by the 12-year-old murder victim – is part of Dennis Dechaine’s retrial bid.

By Edward D. Murphy emurphy@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

The judge who is considering Dennis Dechaine's bid for a new murder trial is allowing further DNA testing of a shirt worn by the victim of the 1988 slaying.

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Dennis Dechaine

Gregory Rec / Staff Photographer

The additional testing will take about three weeks, said Assistant Attorney General William Stokes, who declined to specify Friday what type of testing will be done.

Stokes said the upcoming testing involves using another "kit" on the DNA. He said it is follow-up work to testing that was completed last month.

Attempts to reach Steven Peterson, Dechaine's attorney, were unsuccessful Friday.

Dechaine is seeking a retrial in the kidnapping and murder of 12-year-old Sarah Cherry in Bowdoin. He is now serving a life sentence.

The girl's body was found in a wooded area near a home where she was baby-sitting. Dechaine was found by police near that wooded area, saying he was lost.

The evidence against Dechaine included papers of his that were found in the driveway of the home where Cherry was baby-sitting; the rope that was used to tie the girl up, which was similar to rope found in Dechaine's truck; and contradictory statements that Dechaine made about his whereabouts and activities on the afternoon that the girl was kidnapped and killed.

Recent testing has shown DNA from an adult male, but not Dechaine, in scrapings taken from under the girl's fingernails.

Dechaine, who has maintained his innocence, has been supported in his efforts for a retrial by the Innocence Project, a New York-based nonprofit that relies on DNA testing to help free those wrongfully convicted of crimes.

Stokes said the Attorney General's Office did not oppose the request for further testing, which was approved Thursday by Superior Court Justice Carl O. Bradford.

He said the state is interested in completing testing to help get a ruling on Dechaine's request for a new trial, which it opposes.

The state contends that Dechaine's original conviction was valid, based on the evidence.

"If there's something to be done, let's do it," and then hold a hearing on the motion for a new trial, Stokes said.


Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:



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Today's poll: DNA testing

Do you agree with the decision to pursue more DNA testing in Dennis Dechaine’s bid for a new trial?



View Results