FARMINGTON — Lois Seamon is ready to stop thinking about the death of her close friend Grace Burton, an 81-year-old Farmington woman who was killed in her apartment during an attack in June.

Seamon, 81, wants instead to start thinking about a lifetime of memories the friends shared. And she hopes Thursday’s arrest of a Massachusetts man in connection with Burton’s death will let her move on after nearly five months waiting for closure.

“It’s just the answer to our prayers that this can hopefully finally be finished,” Seamon said Friday.

A local police officer’s hunch, DNA evidence and a detailed description Burton was able to give of her attacker before she died led to the arrest Thursday night of Juan A. Contreras, 27, of 92 Chester Lane, Waltham, Mass. Contreras faces a murder charge in connection with the fatal stabbing of Burton. He is being held without bail and awaiting a court date next week in Farmington, police said. He was arrested in Waltham.

Maine State Police Lt. Brian McDonough said Friday that Contreras was living in Farmington at the time of the slaying.

After months of investigating the homicide, the arrest was made after DNA samples taken from Contreras provided a match to samples taken at the crime scene, he said.

McDonough said that a random encounter between a Farmington police officer and Contreras broke the case open, making it possible to get the DNA match that is the key evidence supporting the murder charge.

Sgt. Michael Adcock followed a hunch and is responsible for making the connection to Contreras, McDonough said.

Contreras crashed his bicycle on a road in Farmington a month after Burton’s death. Adcock responded to the crash and discovered Contreras was living in a trailer park on Pillsbury Lane, which is off Fairbanks Road and near the Margaret Chase Apartments, where Burton was killed.

Adcock interviewed Contreras after the crash and passed the information on to state police detectives, the affidavit states.

He did not ask for a DNA sample at the time, but he followed up leads tied to Contreras and became suspicious after Contreras disappeared from town several weeks after the slaying, McDonough said. Deputy Attorney General Williams Stokes said Contreras was under surveillance before his arrest.

Police believe Contreras cut a screen and entered through an unlocked window of Burton’s first-floor apartment. Her attacker left a trail of blood outside the apartment and near the window.

Investigators took several hundred DNA samples from men with ties to the Farmington area. Contreras voluntarily submitted a DNA sample on Wednesday, McDonough said.

Burton, who called 911 after the attack, gave police a detailed description of the attacker, describing him as a medium-sized man with a thin mustache. She was taken to Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, where she died later that morning.

McDonough said Friday that the description played a big role in guiding the investigation.

McDonough also praised Burton’s family for working with investigators and keeping the case in the public spotlight.

Julie Shaw, Burton’s only daughter, made a tearful public plea for help catching her mother’s killer, just a week after the homicide. Family and friends of Burton, who had five children and numerous grandchildren, also raised a $17,000 reward for information leading to an arrest, police and family members said.

Police Chief Jack Peck said Friday that the death had spread fear and frustration through the Franklin County town of about 7,700 residents.

He told reporters that he hopes the arrest can bring closure for Burton’s family and community, as well as provide residents with a renewed sense of safety in their own homes.

“This senseless act affected the whole community,” he said.

Contreras waived extradition and Maine State Police were expected to take him Friday to Franklin County Detention Center in Farmington, according to Deputy Attorney General William Stokes, whose office is prosecuting the case.

According to the affidavit, Massachusetts police charged Contreras in 2003 with breaking and entering at night to commit offenses. His criminal record also includes a shoplifting charge and charge of possessing a prohibited weapon other than a firearm, the affidavit states.

The murder charge in Maine has a minimum sentence of 25 years to life. Contreras likely will appear in Franklin County Superior Court early next week, Stokes said.

David Robinson – 861-9287

[email protected]

 


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