John Grega appears in Windham District Court in Brattleboro, Vt., Thursday, July 26, 2012, for a status hearing. (Zachary P. Stephens/Reformer)
John Grega appears in Windham District Court in Brattleboro, Vt., Thursday, July 26, 2012, for a status hearing. (Zachary P. Stephens/Reformer)
Thursday April 16, 2013

MONTPELIER -- A suburban New York man released from a life-without-parole sentence last summer after new DNA tests cast doubt on his conviction in his wife's killing two decades ago in Vermont is scheduled to be arraigned again on a murder charge.

John Grega, 50, is scheduled to appear in court Thursday in Brattleboro on a charge of aggravated murder in the September 1994 death of his 31-year-old wife, Christine Grega, who was killed in a Dover condominium where the couple and their young son were vacationing.

The hearing is listed as a pretrial conference and an arraignment, but Grega's attorneys have asked that the charges against him be dismissed. It's unclear if the judge in the case will act on the request or any other motions filed in the case.

Last month, Windham County State's Attorney Tracy Kelly Shriver filed an amended charge of aggravated murder against Grega, alleging he killed his wife while sexually assaulting and sodomizing her with an unnamed object.

The original affidavit of probable cause, which was refiled along with the amended charge, described how Christine Grega was found in a bathroom after John Grega and their son returned from an outing.

A 2008 change in Vermont law allowed for the retesting of DNA evidence in certain cases. Testing done after that change found DNA of an unknown male on Christine Grega's body.

Prosecutors pursued a theory that the sample had been accidentally contaminated, said Grega's defense attorney, Ian Carleton. As a result 25 to 30 people who were near the crime scene, such as medical personal and police, were tested to see if their DNA matched the sample found on the body.

All those people were excluded as being the source, which "strongly suggests that this is DNA from the perpetrator," Carleton said.

Shriver declined to comment, except to say that Grega is scheduled to be arraigned Thursday.

Grega, who has maintained his innocence from the beginning, was convicted in 1995 of aggravated sexual assault and aggravated murder. The murder conviction was the first time a Vermont defendant was convicted of the charge, which carries an automatic sentence of life without parole.

The Grega case also marked the first time a Vermont court was asked, under a 2008 state law, to overturn a conviction based on the retesting of DNA evidence.

Grega's conviction was vacated last summer and he was released on bail after 18 years in prison. Since then, he has been living at his parents' home in Lake Grove on Long Island.