Trial and Error

The Outcry for Justice in the Dennis Dechaine Case

Maine Voices: The state can resolve the Sarah Cherry murder case once and for all

May 18, 2011

The only fair answer to all of the questions about this crime is a new trial for Dennis Dechaine.


BRUNSWICK — This controversy over the Sarah Cherry murder has gone on for 22 years. Enough is enough!

trial and error


James P. Moore of Brunswick is a retired federal agent and the author of “Human Sacrifice,” a book that argues Dennis Dechaine is innocent.

Prosecutors used circumstantial evidence to convince a 1989 jury that Dennis Dechaine was guilty. Regarding hard evidence that would have been present if Dechaine was guilty — any trace of him on Sarah; any trace of her on him or in his truck — prosecutor Eric Wright told jurors, “The point as we tried to make to you with regard to this kind of evidence, whether it be fingerprints or fibers or hairs or what have you, sometimes you have it and sometimes you don’t. I can give you no better answer than to say that’s the way God made it.”

So God intervened to remove the evidence that would have proved a bestial killer’s guilt? That doesn’t work for me.

If Sarah came in contact with Dechaine or his truck, something would have been found. State lab technicians tried everything possible to find something, and came up empty.

Prior to trial, Dechaine requested (and offered to pay for) DNA testing. Ever hear of a guilty man wanting DNA testing before his trial? Prosecutor Wright prevented that.

Since the blood under Sarah’s nails wasn’t even Dechaine’s blood type, DNA couldn’t help Wright’s case. And he obfuscated time-of-death evidence.

Two nationally recognized forensic pathologists state that Sarah couldn’t have been murdered until hours after police began interrogating Dechaine about a missing girl. The state medical examiner said nothing beyond a vague possibility to dispute that conclusion.

Dechaine was with the cops for many hours before and after the crime was committed. Being with the cops when a crime is committed is usually considered an airtight alibi.

Wright presented testimony by two detectives that’s proved false by their own handwritten notes. Those notes were also concealed at Dechaine’s trial. It took three lawsuits to pry them loose from the state, and prosecutors still won’t talk about them.

Wright told jurors there were no other suspects. Untrue! One was already under indictment for sexually molesting his stepdaughter; the other, a neighbor to whose door detectives were literally led, was already under investigation for (and later convicted of) having sex with a 12-year-old girl.

Wright told legislators and others that Dechaine confessed, “and we have it on videotape.”

Untrue! Look at that tape yourself — anyone can see it since the Legislature forced the AG to open his secret file on this case. Fingerprints (not Dechaine’s) from the crime scene have been “lost.”

Wright guessed the blood under Sarah’s nails was her own. Deputy AG William Stokes guessed it was from the infant girl Sarah was babysitting. But later tests proved it’s male DNA. Stokes then guessed it came from one of Sarah’s relatives. They were tested and eliminated.

Then Stokes guessed it was from a cop or medical examiner who handled the body. They were tested and excluded.

Now Stokes guesses it’s possible the DNA was contaminated during the autopsy.

Possible? Do we convict people because they might be guilty? It’s possible that Jimmy Hoffa is alive and well, raising goats in Oxford County, but I don’t think so. Do you?

Shortly after Dechaine filed an appeal, the AG’s men incinerated evidence they had that most likely contained DNA — vaginal swabs, more bloody fingernails and the never-identified hairs found on Sarah’s body.

Now our new AG’s personal plea has killed LD 824, a bill that would have given hope for justice to any Mainer in this predicament, including Dechaine. The AG men’s position: The bill would have created a “flood of appeals.” Where do they find these people?

The only thing Dechaine’s supporters ask for is a trial where jurors hear all the evidence. Is that too much to ask?

It’s too much for the AG’s men. The idea of letting a jury hear all the evidence scares them silly.

It’s time we halt this never-ending debate that keeps reminding Sarah’s family of their tragedy — as if they’ll ever forget, anyway. End it! Give Dechaine a trial where a jury of honest Mainers hears all the evidence and, win or lose, it’ll be over.

Until then, no matter how many lies, technicalities and phony arguments anybody comes up with, this case will never die. Never!

Read the Book


Human Sacrifice: On the Altar of Injustice

High-quality soft-cover edition, 418 pages, 

is exclusively available from Trial & Error for $25, with free shipping.

Click here to order!