FARMINGTON — A Massachusetts man accused of fatally stabbing an 81-year-old woman is expected to enter a not guilty plea in court today in Farmington, his attorney said.

Juan A. Contreras, 27, of 92 Chester Lane, Waltham, Mass., faces a murder charge in connection with the death of Grace Burton. According to a police affidavit, Burton was stabbed 35 times and died as a result of the wounds sustained in the attack inside her Farmington apartment on June 21.

Contreras will be arraigned at 10 a.m. today in Franklin County Superior Court.

David Sanders, Contreras’ court-appointed attorney, said Thursday that defense attorneys normally advise clients to enter a not guilty plea unless there is a plea deal with the prosecution, which has not happened in this case.

“It’s too early at this stage to make any real substantive statements,” he added.

Contreras has been held without bail since his arrest Nov. 17 in Waltham and a Franklin County grand jury last week indicted him on one count of murder.

Assistant Attorney General Lisa Marchese, who is prosecuting the case, did not return a call seeking comment Thursday.

There likely wouldn’t be a trial until November, Franklin County Superior Court Justic Michaela Murphy has said. The murder charge has a minimum sentence of 25 years to life.

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 of Contreras, according to a police affidavit.

Contreras crashed his bicycle on a road in Farmington a month after Burton’s death, according to a police affidavit.

Sgt. Michael Adcock, who was the officer on the scene of the bicycle crash, found out Contreras was living in a trailer park on Pillsbury Lane, which is off Fairbanks Road and near the Margaret Chase Smith Apartments, where Burton was killed.

Adcock became suspicious after Contreras disappeared from town several weeks after the slaying, passing on the hunch to state police detectives, according to the affidavit.

Police believe Burton’s killer cut a screen and entered through an unlocked window of her first-floor apartment on June 21. The attacker left a trail of blood outside the apartment and near the window.

Contreras’ wife old police Contreras had cuts on his hand the night of Burton’s death. Contreras, who was drunk, told her that he cut his hand whittling wood, according to the affidavit.

Amanda Contreras also told police that her husband ran to a back bedroom to avoid investigators who were gathering DNA samples in her neighborhood in the weeks after the slaying. She said she is no longer in a relationship Juan Contreras and has had no contact with him since he moved to Massachusetts.

During a police interview in Waltham on Nov. 16 Contreras denied being in Farmington at the time of Burton’s slaying and denied knowing Burton.

Investigators took several hundred DNA samples from men with ties to the Farmington area. Contreras voluntarily submitted a DNA sample. Police said the estimated probability of selecting a random person in the population matching Juan Contreras’ DNA profile for the southeastern Hispanic population is one in 2.4 trillion and the southwestern Hispanic population is one in 718 billion.

Burton, who called 911 after the attack, told police her attacker was a medium-sized man with a thin mustache. She was taken to Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, where she died later that morning.

The court previously ordered that Contreras undergo a forensic evaluation, a psychological review to determine a defendant’s mental and emotional condition.

Sanders said Contreras has yet to undergo the evaluation, which will be conducted by an independent agency and is likely among the next steps in the case.

David Robinson – 861-9287

[email protected]


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