- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 21, 2015

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - For the third time, the state supreme court on Tuesday denied a request for a new trial for a man convicted of killing a 12-year-old girl more than two decades ago, concluding that new DNA evidence wouldn’t have changed the outcome of the original trial.

In a 42-page decision, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court unanimously affirmed a Superior Court justice’s conclusion that DNA evidence recovered from the victim’s fingernail was not sufficient to warrant a new trial for Dennis Dechaine, who was convicted of murder, sexual assault and kidnapping.

“We’re hoping that this ends the long saga of the myth of Dennis Dechaine’s innocence,” said Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber.

But Dechaine’s lawyer insisted that the ruling wasn’t the end of the road. Lawyer Steven Peterson said he planned another federal appeal.

“This case is not going to go away,” he said. “It’s been going on for 27 years. Until we get a new trial and a fair chance, it’s not going to go away.”

Dechaine, 57, is serving a life sentence for the murder and sexual assault of Sarah Cherry, who was abducted while baby-sitting in Bowdoin. Her body was found two days after she disappeared in July 1988.

Peterson told the supreme court in May that DNA evidence from the fingernail that pointed to someone other than Dechaine should be enough to warrant another trial.

But prosecutors said the DNA sample was degraded and potentially contaminated, that there was other DNA evidence that didn’t rule out Dechaine as a match and that there was a mountain of other non-DNA evidence pointing to Dechaine’s guilt.

Evidence in the case included a car repair bill bearing Dechaine’s name that was found outside the home where Sarah disappeared, and rope used to bind her that matched rope from his truck and barn.

The farmer from Bowdoinham, who was then 30, wandered out of the woods where Sarah’s body was eventually found. Dechaine told police he had been fishing but later admitted he had been doing drugs in the woods.

Over the years, Dechaine has maintained his innocence. He has a loyal band of supporters even as he lost two previous appeals to the state supreme court and an appeal to federal court.

Peterson said Tuesday that there was circumstantial evidence but no actual evidence showing that Dechaine was in the victim’s home or that she was in his truck. He said a new jury should have the benefit of hearing all of the evidence in the case.

The family has said there’s no doubt of Dechaine’s guilt. “I hope I die knowing he’s still in prison and will never get out,” Sarah’s mother, Debra Crosman, said in May.


An earlier version of this story was corrected to show that the defendant’s first name is Dennis, not Douglas, Dechaine.

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