The Vermont prosecutor who won the conviction of former Long Island resident John Grega in 1995 said he still believes Grega is guilty of his wife's murder -- despite new DNA evidence that defense lawyers say proves his innocence.
Former Windham County state's attorney Dan M. Davis said he built his prosecution of Grega around circumstantial evidence and Grega's own statements to police, in which the former Lake Grove man attributed his wife's injuries to rough sex they had before her death.
No eyewitness testimony or physical evidence linking Grega to the crime was ever presented at trial, records show, but Davis said his case was still strong.
"The new DNA evidence should not change the guilty verdict that the jury returned," said Davis, now a criminal defense attorney. "Although it was a circumstantial case, there was a substantial amount of circumstantial evidence. The evidence clearly shows that he was responsible for the death of his wife."
Grega, now 50, was convicted less than a year after his wife Christine, 31, was found dead in a bathroom at the West Dover, Vt., condominium where the couple was vacationing with their 2-year-old son. The trip was an attempt to repair their troubled marriage, authorities said.
Grega, formerly of Lake Grove, always said he was at a playground with his son when someone killed his wife. He is serving life in prison without parole.
Grega's legal team, led by Ian Carleton, contend the newly discovered DNA belongs to the man who raped and killed Christine Grega. They have asked a judge to free Grega based on the new evidence, or at least grant him another trial.
"Had this new information been part of the evidence at trial, the state would have had to explain to the jury how unknown male DNA got inside the victim's [body]," the lawyers wrote in their motion seeking Grega's release.
Davis said the evidence -- DNA from skin particles -- proves little.
"If this had been seminal fluid other than John Grega's, I'd be the first to say John Grega should be released from jail and charges should be dismissed," Davis said.
Davis believes the skin particles likely transferred into the victim's body when she was attacked with an object -- a theory shared by the current Windham County state's attorney, Tracy Kelly Shriver, who said that object was a bottle, court records show.
Gretchen Bennett, executive director of the New England Innocence Project, which consulted with Carleton, said the new DNA evidence should be enough to overturn his conviction.
"This is not some glancing touch transfer -- it's a significant DNA result," Bennett said. "This is very close to the gold standard" for exonerative evidence.
A judge is expected to schedule a hearing soon on the new evidence.