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John Grega

Other Exonerees Sentenced to Life without Parole Before Exonerations by DNA
On September 12, 1994, 32-year-old John Grega asked a neighbor at the Timber Creek condominiums in West Dover, Vermont to summon police after finding his 31-year-old wife, Christine, dead in the bathtub of the condominium where they were vacationing with their 2½-year-old son.

An autopsy determined that Christine had been raped and choked to death. In December 1994, Grega was arrested and charged with aggravated murder and aggravated sexual assault. Authorities said they did not believe Grega’s claim that he had taken the couple’s son to a playground during the evening after a day at “Santa’s Land.”

Grega said that he discovered his wife in the bathtub and attempted to revive her, but failed. Police said that Grega said he returned from the playground at dusk—which authorities determined was shortly after 7 p.m., but did not seek help until 8:32 p.m.

Grega went on trial in Windham County Superior Court in July 1995. The prosecution presented a circumstantial case without any physical evidence. The prosecution presented evidence that Grega and his wife and child, who lived on Long Island, New York, had gone to the condominium for a get-away to attempt to smooth out a marriage troubled by Grega’s use of cocaine and alcohol. Jurors were told that Grega stood to receive more than $250,000 in life insurance proceeds.

Grega’s defense lawyers attempted to point the blame for the crime on two men who were working as painters at the complex at the time of the crime.

On August 4, 1995, the jury convicted Grega of aggravated murder and aggravated sexual assault. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

After Vermont passed a DNA testing law in 2008, Grega sought testing of the evidence in the case, including the rape kit. In May 2012, DNA tests on semen removed from the victim identified the DNA profile of an unknown male. Grega’s DNA was not found.

In July 2012, Grega’s lawyers filed a motion to set aside the conviction and in August 2012, the prosecution joined in the motion and Grega’s conviction was vacated. He was released on bond on August 22, 2012.

On August 21, 2013, the prosecution dismissed charges. In July 2014, Grega filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Dover and the troopers involved in his case seeking compensation for his wrongful conviction.

In January 2015, Grega died in a traffic accident in his hometown of Lake Ronkonkoma, New York. In April 2016, the state of Vermont agreed to pay Grega's estate $1.55 million under the Vermont Innocence Protection Act. The federal lawsuit was dismissed by agreement.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 8/22/2013
Last Updated: 4/25/2016
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:Rape
Reported Crime Date:1994
Sentence:Life without parole
Age at the date of reported crime:32
Contributing Factors:
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:Yes*