ROCKLAND — The Maine Attorney General’s Office in a court filing disputes claims made by lawyers for Dennis Dechaine, who is seeking a new trial in an effort to overturn his conviction in the 1988 murder of a 12-year-old girl.

The defense has asked the court to hold a hearing on its request for a new trial, after DNA findings last fall cast doubt on the state’s allegations against him. The state responded June 7 to the defense filing of May 17.

Dennis Dechaine, shown in court in 2013, was convicted of murdering Sarah Cherry in 1988. Press Herald staff photo

Dechaine was convicted of the 1988 kidnapping and murder of Sarah Cherry, who was babysitting at a house in Bowdoin when she disappeared. Her body was found two days later in the woods three miles away, close to where Dechaine’s truck had been parked when he was picked up by police the night of the abduction.

The AG’s office argues in its filing that Dechaine’s “memorandum downplays a simple truth – Dechaine confessed multiple times.”

The AG’s response also contends that some of the statements in the defense filing were inaccurate or misleading including that blood was found under the fingernail of Cherry. The state said the state medical examiner at the time of the trial did not say that he found any flesh or skin under the victim’s fingernails.

Dechaine’s defense has claimed Cherry had scratched her attacker and that Dechaine had no marks on him.


The AG’s office also pointed out that the defense’s contention that someone rifled through Dechaine’s truck was false because Dechaine had the keys on him when he was picked up by police and hid them under the front seat of the cruiser.

The AG’s office is asking the court to limit the witnesses who would testify at a hearing on the new DNA evidence. The state wants to exclude Dechaine’s prior attorney, Tom Connolly, from testifying about how he would have used the new DNA evidence, or from a Maine attorney on the impact of DNA on Maine juries.

Testimony should be limited to the new DNA testing and the analysis conducted on the samples, the AG stated.

Some of the memorable photos of Sarah Cherry displayed by her grandmother at her home in Lisbon Falls in 2005. John Patriquin/Staff Photographer, file

Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber filed the response.

Dechaine has served nearly 35 years in prison for the murder in the town of Bowdoin. A Knox County jury convicted Dechaine of the murder of Sarah Cherry in 1989 and he was sentenced to life in prison.

In July 2022, Justice Bruce Mallonee ruled that additional DNA testing could be conducted on evidence connected to the murder. Dechaine’s attorneys over the past 34 years have filed numerous appeals and requests for additional DNA testing. Dechaine, now 65, has maintained his innocence.


Cherry was 12 years old and at her first babysitting job on July 6, 1988, at a home in Bowdoin. Neighbors reported hearing someone pull into that driveway that afternoon, and heard the family’s dogs barking.

When the baby’s mother returned home, Cherry was gone. In the driveway, the mother found a receipt and a notebook with the name Dennis Dechaine on them. She called police, who began to search for both Cherry and the then 30-year-old Dechaine, who lived in the adjacent town of Bowdoinham.

Around 8:45 p.m. that day, Dechaine walked out of the woods on Dead River Road in Bowdoin, three miles from the home where Cherry disappeared. Police picked him up and questioned him. While he was in custody that night, police found Dechaine’s truck at the end of a logging road. Two days later, Cherry’s body was found less than 500 feet from where the truck was parked. She had been sexually assaulted with sticks, stabbed 13 times, slashed with a knife and choked to death, and a rope and scarf from Dechaine’s truck were used to commit the crime. Police later said Dechaine made incriminating statements during his time in custody.

At trial, Dechaine testified in his own defense. He said he went into the woods that day to inject drugs, and had trouble recalling parts of the day when Cherry went missing.

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