FARMINGTON — A Massachusetts man accused of fatally stabbing an 81-year-old Farmington woman pleaded not guilty Friday in Franklin County Superior Court.

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

In court Friday morning, Contreras, wearing an orange prison jumpsuit, handcuffs and leg shackles, nodded his head and whispered “yes” to acknowledge that he understood the murder charge before entering his plea.

Burton’s friends and family sat silent and motionless on a second-row bench, just a few feet behind Contreras in the small courtroom.

During the brief arraignment hearing, Justice Michaela Murphy ordered that Contreras remain held without bail until his next court date on June 5, when the status of the case will be discussed by attorneys.

Julie Shaw, Burton’s daughter, was among those who filed out of the courtroom after the hearing. Shaw and others with her declined to comment.

A trial would likely not start until November, according to Murphy. The murder charge has a minimum sentence of 25 years to life.

Contreras has been held without bail since his arrest Nov. 17 in Waltham. Police said DNA links him to a trail of blood Burton’s attacker left at the Margaret Chase Smith Apartments on Fairbanks Road.

Prosecutors from the Franklin County District Attorney’s Office handled Friday’s arraignment hearing on behalf of Assistant Attorney General Lisa Marchese, who is prosecuting the case.

David Sanders, Contreras’ court-appointed attorney, told the court on Friday that he did not oppose the decision to hold his client without bail until the next court date.

David Robinson – 861-9287

[email protected]

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