October 4, 2012

No jury trial in 81-year-old Farmington woman's killing

Juan Contreras, 27, who entered a not guilty plea in January in the murder of Grace Burton, waived his right to a jury trial in the Franklin County Superior Court on Tuesday.

By Matt Hongoltz-Hetling mhhetling@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

FARMINGTON -- The trial for a Massachusetts man accused of fatally stabbing an 81-year-old Farmington woman may take less than the five days scheduled, his attorney said Wednesday.

click image to enlarge

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

Juan Contreras, 27, who entered a not guilty plea in January in the murder of Grace Burton, waived his right to a jury trial in the Franklin County Superior Court on Tuesday.

David Sanders, his court-appointed attorney, said that holding a jury trial in Franklin County would have been impossible because of the amount of publicity the case has received.

Sanders said that in some cases, the defendant is better served by having a judge decide guilt or innocence instead of a jury.

The trial is scheduled for five days beginning Monday, Nov. 5, but Sanders said that he didn't expect it to take that long to air the evidence in the case.

"I'm sure it will take more than one day," he said. "I don't think it will take five days."

Burton was stabbed 35 times in her apartment June 21, 2011, but managed to call police and describe her attacker. She died later that morning at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston.

Police believe that the attacker cut a hole in the screen of an unlocked window to gain access.

Police investigators say they have linked Contreras to the scene by matching his DNA to that of blood found there. Contreras voluntarily gave a DNA sample to investigators, who collected samples from hundreds of men with ties to the area.

Farmington police Sgt. Michael Adcock, who met Contreras at a bike accident a month after Burton's murder, became suspicious after Contreras moved back to Massachusetts from the mobile home park on Pillsbury Lane near the apartment where Burton was killed.

Contreras is being held at Somerset County Jail in Madison. The murder charge carries a 25 years to life sentence.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling -- 861-9287

mhhetling@centralmaine.com

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