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DNA casts doubt in LI woman's 1994 murder case

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

Lawyers have asked for the release of a former Long Island man serving a life sentence in Vermont for the 1994 rape and murder of his wife after new analysis of DNA evidence cast doubt on his conviction.

John Grega, now 50, formerly of Lake Grove, was convicted less than a year after Christine Grega, 31, was found dead in a bathroom at the West Dover, Vt., condominium where the couple was vacationing with their 2-year-old son.

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 -- not Grega, according to test results contained in a court filing. The testing also ruled out several people who might have contaminated the sample.

"We are thrilled about the recently discovered DNA evidence. It finally proves what we have known all along -- that John is innocent of this horrible crime," said John Grega's mother, Marion, 72, of Ronkonkoma. "We look forward to welcoming him home soon."

Grega's lawyers submitted the test results in a motion filed in Windham Superior Court on Tuesday that asks that Grega be freed or at least granted a new trial. His sentence eliminated the possibility of parole.

Once the Windham County state attorney's office responds to the motion, a Superior Court judge will rule on Grega's fate. Prosecutors did not return a call seeking comment.

The motion marked the first time lawyers have asked a Vermont court to set aside a conviction based on DNA evidence under a 2008 state law, which allows people convicted of serious violent crimes to seek DNA testing. No convicts in the state have ever been exonerated due to DNA.

"It is difficult to overstate the game-changing nature of this new evidence, especially in a case where, as here, the evidence of Mr. Grega's guilt has at all times been purely circumstantial," Grega's lawyers wrote in their motion.

"Under the reasonable doubt standard, this new DNA evidence -- which was never presented to the jury and therefore was never considered in deliberations -- would have not just slightly, but vastly, increased the likelihood of an acquittal or a hung jury in the original trial. Put simply, we now have compelling evidence that John Grega did not commit the crime for which he has served nearly two decades in jail."

Grega has always claimed he was out with his son at the time of the murder, although he conceded during the trial that he may have had his hands around his wife's neck during rough sex earlier in the day.

He told authorities he found his wife unconscious in the bathtub, pulled her out and tried to resuscitate her.

"The significance of these results to him is quite simply beyond description," said Ian Carleton, one of Grega's lawyers. "It's time for John Grega to go home."

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