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Dennis Dechaine's DNA 'excluded' from crime scene items after enhanced testing

Christopher Cousins
Bangor Daily News file
Dennis Dechaine, who is serving a life sentence in Maine State Prison for the 1988 murder of Sarah Cherry in Bowdoin, appears in Cumberland County Superior Court on November 7, 2013. Dechaine maintains that he is innocent of the crime.

New and enhanced DNA testing of several items recovered from the crime scene in Bowdoin where 12-year-old Sarah Cherry was killed in 1988 does not directly tie convicted murderer Dennis Dechaine to her death.

An evidence examination report from the California-based Serological Research Institute says Dechaine is excluded from four key items. The report also indicates he "could be included" as a contributor on two other items, but his attorney, John Nale, says those particular DNA samples are too small to rule him out.

Nale is convinced this marks a breakthrough in the case.

"I believe that this additional DNA result excluding him would result in a different verdict — a new trial and a different verdict," he says.

Nale says the lack of DNA evidence is consistent with the lack of fingerprints, hair and fiber that could link these two people. He says that's significant.

"I think when you consider what they're saying he did, that his DNA should be all over her, all over these items that were used in the commission of the crime, all over his truck and inside his truck. Nothing," he says.

Dechaine, who has spent 34 years in prison, has long maintained his innocence.

Nale says he is "fully aware" of how painful these developments are for the Cherry family, but Nale says he's convinced that the latest DNA findings justify a new trial.

A request for comment from the Maine attorney general's office was not immediately returned.

In the past, prosecutors have maintained that plenty of other evidence links Dechaine to Cherry's kidnapping and murder. They have also pointed out that Dechaine has brought multiple appeals for a new trial, all of which have been rejected by different courts.

Nale says he will use the latest findings to try again.