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Bid to vacate murder conviction of ex-LIer

John Grega on his way to his arraignment

John Grega on his way to his arraignment in Hauppauge. (Dec. 19, 1994) Credit: Newsday/Don Jacobsen

Vermont prosecutors are fighting to uphold the conviction of former Long Island resident John Grega, whose guilt in the 1994 rape and murder of his wife was called into question this week by new DNA evidence.

Windham County State's Attorney Tracy Kelly Shriver on Friday filed court papers arguing that new test results, which traced skin particles from inside Christine Veal Grega's body to a man other than her husband, do not entitle John Grega to a new trial.

"The scientific evidence relied upon here cannot, alone, overcome the overwhelming circumstantial evidence that John Grega is the person responsible for his wife's murder," Shriver wrote in response to a motion by Grega's lawyers to vacate his conviction. "The presence of unknown male DNA . . . does not exonerate him."

Grega, now 50, formerly of Lake Grove, was convicted less than a year after his 31-year-old wife was found dead in a bathroom at the West Dover, Vt., condominium where the couple was vacationing with their 2-year-old son. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

DNA tests conducted in May by Vermont's state crime lab on a sample taken from the victim showed it was from an unknown man, according to a court filing.

At a status conference Thursday in Windham County Superior Court in Brattleboro, Vt., Shriver said the skin particles likely transferred into the victim's body when she was attacked by Grega with an object, court records show.

Shriver elaborated on that theory in Friday's filing, claiming a bottle was used in the attack and pointing out that Grega had purchased bottled beer the day of the murder.

Prosecutors have always said an object was used in the crime, but no such object -- including bottles -- were entered into evidence, court records show.

Shriver also said she needed more time to test the DNA of 12 people involved in the case -- police detectives and others who may have contaminated the sample -- in an effort to match the skin particles.

Superior Court Judge John Wesley said he would schedule a hearing in the near future to hear expert testimony about the DNA evidence. Regardless of what Shriver finds, Wesley said, a new trial will probably be necessary because of the new evidence.

"We believe simply overturning the conviction and setting John free is the most appropriate approach," said Grega's lawyer, Ian Carleton.

Grega has said he was at a playground with his son at the time of his wife's murder, though he initially attributed many of her injuries to rough sex they had before her death, court records show.

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