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Judge vacates man's conviction in wife's murder

John Grega appears in Windham District Court in

John Grega appears in Windham District Court in Brattleboro, Vt. for a status hearing. (July 26, 2012) Credit: AP

A former Long Island man serving life in prison for his wife's murder in Vermont is expected to be released on bail after a judge vacated his conviction Tuesday and ordered a new trial based on DNA evidence.

John Grega, 50, formerly of Lake Grove, could post $75,000 bail as early as Wednesday after spending 18 years in prison for the rape and murder of Christine Grega, 31, in September 1994 -- a crime he has always maintained he didn't commit.

DNA tests conducted in May by Vermont's state crime lab on a sample taken from inside the victim's body showed it was from an unknown man -- not Grega, according to test results. The testing also ruled out several people who might have contaminated the sample.

"We are encouraged by this development and have faith that this time justice will prevail in court," Grega's lawyer, Ian Carleton, told Newsday.

Upon his release, Grega must stay at the Lake Ronkonkoma home of his mother, Marion, 72, Vermont Superior Court Judge John Wesley said in the judgment. Grega must also check in each day with a local police department and stay away from Christine Grega's family, Wesley ruled.

"We look forward to welcoming him home soon," Marion Grega said in a statement.

Efforts to contact Christine Grega's family were unsuccessful.

Grega was convicted less than a year after his 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 has always said he was at a playground with his son at the time of his wife's murder, although he initially attributed some of her injuries to rough sex they had earlier in the day, court records show. He told authorities he found his wife unconscious in the bathtub, pulled her out and tried to resuscitate her.

Tuesday's judgment was the result of a motion filed by Grega's lawyers on July 24, asking that Grega be freed or at least granted a new trial based on the DNA evidence. His original sentence had eliminated the possibility of parole.

The motion marked the first time lawyers had 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.Windham County State's Attorney Tracy Kelly Shriver initially fought to uphold the conviction despite the new evidence.

She filed court papers arguing that the DNA -- which consists of skin particles -- probably was transferred into the victim's body when she was attacked by Grega with an object. But no such object was entered into evidence, court records show.

Prosecutors agreed later to a new trial, according to the judgment. Shriver could not be reached for comment.

"This is emotional stuff for everyone involved," Carleton said.

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