FROM THE BDN ARCHIVES: Court denies appeal of inmate who pushed wife off cliffs at Acadia National Park

Posted April 15, 2011, at 7:05 p.m.

PUBLISHED ON NOVEMBER 10, 1994

The U.S. Supreme Court has turned down the appeal of a man serving a 50-year prison sentence for pushing his wife off high cliffs in Acadia National Park in October 1987.

Dennis R. Larson, convicted in May 1989 for killing Kathy Frost Larson three weeks after they were married, had filed a petition for the Supreme Court to consider an appeal of his case. The petition for certiorari was turned down in recent days.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court also had declined an appeal of Larson’s case, and an effort to seek a new trial last summer was unsuccessful.

In seeking a new trial, Larson’s attorney, Stephen Schwartz of Portland, argued that his client did not get a fair trial.

Larson, formerly of Great Falls, Mont., was found guilty of murdering the 26-year-old Dexter woman to collect on a $400,000 life insurance policy that was purchased by the couple the day after their marriage. A Superior Court judge in Hancock County found that Larson intentionally pushed his wife off the 81-foot Otter Cliffs.

Larson had challenged his conviction in his appeal to Maine’s highest court by saying the state improperly took statements from him, and that the judge improperly let the state reopen its case after the prosecutor initially rested.

Central to the state’s case was an investigation by a Maine State Police detective whose interview with Larson ended with the man’s admission to pushing his wife during an argument, causing her to fall to her death.

Schwartz said Wednesday that Larson has one final appeal route available to him if he chooses. Larson could decide to petition for federal habeas corpus relief, a post-conviction challenge asking the court to determine whether due process was carried out in his case.

Larson remains incarcerated at the Maine State Prison in Thomaston.

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