BRATTLEBORO -- Windham County State's Attorney Tracy Shriver says the evidence that led to the 1995 conviction of John Grega for killing his wife is "overwhelming" and it should stand, despite potential new DNA evidence found in the victim's body.
"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. "The presence of unknown male DNA ... does not exonerate him."
Grega, now 50, his wife, Christine Grega, and their then 2-year-old son traveled to West Dover for a vacation in the days before the murder. Christine was found dead on the evening of Sept. 12, 1994, strangled, raped, sodomized and beaten.
Shriver said the condo and bathroom where Christine lay dead was cleaned before police were called. Both Christine's and John's clothing they had worn earlier that day was also found in the washing machine with blood on them.
The family's luggage was found in the bedroom "tightly packed" and there was no signs of any struggle nor forced entry into the condo.
When asked by police, Grega gave conflicting stories about what had happened the day of his wife's death, first stating her injuries were accidental and later blaming her murder on two painters who were working in the condo complex, Shriver said.
In November 2010, a request was made to test certain items collected from the scene of the
Testing on the swabs was conducted on May 14, 2012, which revealed male DNA that didn't match Grega's.
Last week Grega's legal team, which includes the Vermont Defender General's Office and Burlington attorney Ian Carleton, filed a motion asking that their client be freed or at least granted a new trial.
"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," the lawyers wrote in the 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."
The motion, filed in Windham County Superior Court, was the first ever under the 2008 Innocence Protection Act, a Vermont law that allows those who have been convicted of certain serious crimes to ask the state to consider results from the testing of biological evidence, which might not have been available at the time of their original trial.
However, Shriver argues that the swab from inside Christine's body was never used as critical evidence to prove Grega killed her.
"There was no emphasis placed on DNA at the trial," she wrote. "Instead, (Grega's attorneys) focused on the two house painters who he claimed killed his wife."
Since the swabs were tested, both of the men Grega had maintained murdered and raped his wife met with local law enforcement officers and again denied any involvement and voluntarily provided DNA samples.
Neither men's DNA matched what was found on the swab, Shriver said.
Shriver wrote in her motion on Friday that investigators believed John used a beer bottle to sodomize his wife and found he had drank several beers that day and purchased more at a nearby convenience store.
When asked if the store's clerk had been found or his DNA tested, Shriver said "no comment."
Defender General Matthew Valerio told the Associated Press in a phone interview that he didn't want to comment on Shriver's motion.
"This is the kind of thing that's going to end up getting hashed out by the court when there's a hearing," he said.
A hearing on whether Grega should be granted a new trial or even set free has yet to be scheduled but both parties are expected to call expert witnesses to testify about the unknown DNA and its importance to the case.
Josh Stilts can be reached at email@example.com, or 802-254-2311 ext. 273.