By Associated Press - Wednesday, February 5, 2020

PROVIDENCE R.I. (AP) - A judge has dismissed a murder charge against a Rhode Island man who last year was arrested in connection with the 1988 killing and disappearance of a 10-year-old girl.

The charge against Joao Monteiro, 59, was dismissed Tuesday days after prosecutors said in a filing they didn’t have enough evidence to present to a grand jury.

“He was ecstatic, to say the least,” said William Devine, Monteiro’s attorney.

Police charged Monteiro last July in the January 1988 death of Christine Cole.

The Pawtucket girl disappeared when she was sent to the store by her mother to get milk. Her body was found nearly two months later on a beach in Warwick. The medical examiner determined she died of “asphyxia with submersion.”

Monteiro and the girl didn’t know each other, but lived in the same neighborhood at the time, police said. Monteiro has maintained his innocence, Devine said.

Monteiro was arrested based on DNA testing on blood found on Christine’s pants. The DNA was a partial match for DNA that belonged to Monteiro’s son, born five years after the girl’s death. Police concluded the suspect would be a close relative of the closest match, but prosecutors said that could mean any male relative.

Pawtucket police pledged to continue their investigation.

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