Androscoggin County Sgt. Martin Fournier removes the chain around the waist of Daniel Roberts at 8th District Court in Lewiston in 2015. His lawyer had requested that he be allowed to take notes. The waist chain was removed, but his hands and legs remained cuffed. He was in court for a post-conviction review. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

AUBURN — A judge has denied a new trial for a Sabattus man convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend in 2005.

Daniel Roberts, 51, was sentenced to 55 years in prison after a three-week jury trial in 2007.

Roberts petitioned Androscoggin County Superior Court for a new trial in 2019 based on what he claimed was new evidence derived from new DNA extraction techniques. It showed 29-year-old Melissa Mendoza, the shooting victim, may have handled the Smith and Wesson .38-caliber revolver Roberts claimed she was holding before he shot her in self-defense in his garage.

In his 2019 petition, Roberts claimed Mendoza could not be ruled out as one of three contributors to DNA found on the butt of the gun.

Through his attorneys, he asserted that prosecutors at trial introduced evidence that Mendoza had not handled the gun and that evidence had helped sway the jury to convict Roberts.

Superior Court Justice Joyce Wheeler wrote in her June decision that the new DNA evidence only proves that Mendoza “could have touched the gun. The conclusions go no further. There is no evidence to show that Mendoza was in fact the person who touched the gun; she touched it before she was killed; she intended — or even threatened — to kill Roberts or Savanna (their 2-year-old daughter;) or that the jury would have been persuaded in the slightest by this evidence.”

Wheeler wrote that she “cannot say that this new testing in anyway confirms or even gives support to the petitioner’s theory” that Mendoza entered Roberts’ home with the gun and a first responding officer touched the gun when he moved it.

“At most, the court can only say that it does not rule out what the petitioner claims,” Wheeler concluded. “This, however, is not enough to make it probable that a different verdict would result upon a new trial.”

Verne Paradie, a Lewiston attorney representing Roberts with Rosemary Scapicchio of Boston, said Wednesday that Roberts filed a motion asking the judge to reconsider her ruling and, if unsuccessful, Roberts plans to appeal to a higher court.

State prosecutors had filed a motion seeking to dismiss Roberts’ petition for a new trial, calling it “untimely.”

Wheeler dismissed that motion.

Roberts shot Mendoza of California in his garage at 81 Roberts Road shortly before 1:30 a.m. on Aug. 15, 2005. The couple had been embroiled in a custody dispute over their daughter, Savanna, who was 2 years old at the time.

Roberts claimed the shooting was self-defense. But a jury agreed with prosecutors, who said Roberts laid in wait for Mendoza, then planted the gun, which he owned but claimed Mendoza had stolen.

Roberts was sentenced to 55 years in prison.

He unsuccessfully appealed his conviction and later petitioned the court, claiming his constitutional rights had been violated, also appealing that decision to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. Both times, the high court upheld the lower court’s ruling.

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