Trial and Error

The Outcry for Justice in the Dennis Dechaine Case

View Open Letter to Attorney General from Channel X radio director

Aug 4, 2010

Hon. Janet T. Mills, Attorney General
Department of Attorney General
6 State House Station
Augusta, Maine 04333

RE: State vs. Dennis Dechaine

Dear Madam Attorney General:

Dennis Dechaine is a native of Madawaska, one of the communities to which we are licensed. Members of his family continue to reside in the Saint John Valley. Many facts, some new, some old, continue to produce pivotal, but unanswered questions.  I have outlined below some of the facts various members of our audience find troubling:

  1. The State‘s evidence suggests that on July 6, 1988, Dechaine transported Sarah Cherry in his truck from the home where she was babysitting on the Lewis Hill Road in Bowdoin to a wooded area about three-miles due north, where, two-days later, she was found dead.
  2. A microscopic search of that vehicle by lab technicians did not find a single trace of Sarah Cherry: not blood, sweet or tears, not hair, urine, or salvia, not skin, fabric or fiber; nor were Sarah’s fingerprints or DNA found there.
  3. A trained police tracking dog did not detect Sarah’s scent within that truck, or track her to or from .that vehicle, and the State failed to share that information with the defense prior to our during the trial.
  4. On Sarah’s remains, the State’s experts did not detect any forensic trace of Dechaine’s person; i.e., body fluids, DNA, fingerprints, hair.
  5. Since the 1989 trial and the 1992 motion for a new trial, DNA evidence has been discovered in blood under one of Sarah’s thumb nails, DNA not belonging to Dechaine; not from police or medical personnel, or family members, or any of thecadavers autopsied just prior to Sarah’s.  Some of this DNA belongs to a male (not Dechaine), but yet unidentified.
  6. In sworn testimony, state medical examiner Dr. Ronald Roy, testified that Sarah had died approximately 30 to 36-hours prior to his initial examination of her remains (conducted at 2:30PM on Friday, July 8, 1988), although he did add that “it could have been longer.” That would mean Sarah expired between 2:30 and 8:30 Thursday morning—five-hours after Dechaine was in police custody.
  7. That 36-hour time span has been reconfirmed recently by two extremely experienced and competent forensic pathologists: Dr. Cyril Wecht and Dr. Walter Hofman, both of Pennsylvania.
  8. During her ordeal, Sarah’s carotid artery was cut yielding a considerable volume of blood, yet there was no observable trace of her blood on Dechaine or on his clothing or footwear. This appears singularly telling inasmuch as the State suggests Dechaine was in a drug induced stupor at the time.  Had that been the case, would he have been able to avoid all contact with her blood, either from her cut artery or the multiple stab wounds Sarah endured?  Would he have been able to keep all forensic traces of Sarah Cherry from his person—and his from her?
  9. At that time, Dechaine weighed 135-pounds; Sarah, 93.  Is it realistic to think he could have abducted this athletic young girl from that second floor home without some sign(s) of a struggle?  Police found no evidence of a struggle in or around that structure.  Does that fact, combined with the lack of forensic evidence, and more recently the mismatched DNA, create any doubts, any at all, for the State?  We are asked that repeatedly.
  10. The AG’s office incinerated evidence on June 18, 1992: the rape kit and hairs found with Sarah Cherry’s body and did so even though a motion for a new trial had been filed44-days earlier, on May 5, 1992.  Investigators were unable to match those hairs with Sarah or Dechaine.

Articles belonging to Dennis Dechaine were found at the home where Sarah was

baby-sitting, and in the woods off the Hallowell Road in Bowdoin between Sarah’s body

and Dechaine’s vehicle, while still others were with her remains.  We have been asked time and again how Dechaine could have been so “out-of-it”, so careless to do that, while not transferring any forensic evidence to or from her body? This question takes on added importance when one understands that Sarah ultimately died of strangulation—after she was cut—a murder method requiring extremely close and somewhat prolonged personal contact, contact that would reveal the transference of some forensic traces (hair, blood, DNA) from one to the other.

Another question our listeners have raised is about the objects found in the Henkel driveway: It seems odd to some that of the eight-score items in Dechaine’s truck, only two of those items “fell out;” the only two which bore his name. Mathematicians in the University of Maine system tell us the odds of that happening are: <1.6 in 10,000.

The State contends Dechaine’s truck was locked, and it might have been—but it wasn’t locked tight.  Trooper Thomas Bureau has no difficulty opening the sliding rear window, reaching into the cab to lace the seatbelt through the steering wheel prior to towing.  In addition, a report submitted by Detective Hendsbee a few days before the trial stated that the truck’s doors could be locked without a key.

Dennis and Sarah had never met, never knew each other, and the State has never established or even suggested they were previously acquainted.  Thus Dechaine’s knowledge of her whereabouts was,.zero.

Now faced with Dennis Dechaine’s attempted April, 2010, suicide, another set of questions is being raised by those who would like to know:

  1. How often does the State prosecute a person for attempting to end his/her own life?
  2. How frequently does the State prosecute prisoners, especially those serving a life sentence, for drug possession?
  3. How often does the State prosecute prisoners for other criminal acts inside the prison: rape, drug use, destruction of property, inflicting bodily harm, etc.
  4.  From whom did Dennis Dechaine obtain those drugs:  from another inmate, from a doctor, a visitor, a guard or other prison personnel?

Given the number of unresolved serious issues in this case, we believe in would be in the public interest if the Attorney General asked the court to grant a new trial where jurors would hear all the evidence and the above questions could be answered publicly once and for all.

We will be pleased to share your response with our audience if you so desire.

Thank you for your consideration.


Dennis Curley, President
News Director

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