FARMINGTON, Maine — A Massachusetts man being held on a charge of murder waived his right to a jury trial Tuesday in Franklin County Superior Court.
Juan Contreras, 28, of Waltham, Mass., pleaded not guilty earlier this year to killing Grace Burton, an 81-year-old Farmington woman, in June 2011.
Appearing before Justice Michaela Murphy, Contreras agreed that he understood his rights to a trial before 12 jurors from Franklin County.
“The jury would have to be unanimous to convict you,” Murphy said.
With a jury trial, the state would have the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to 12 people instead of one person, she explained.
Sitting quietly with his attorney, David Sanders, Contreras voiced his understanding and his intent to continue with the waiver of a jury trial.
Murphy accepted the waiver and set aside five days for the trial scheduled for the week of Nov. 5.
Murphy also set an Oct. 26 date for Sanders to review and submit materials to Maine Assistant Attorney General Lisa Marchese regarding reports in his defense, a defense of involuntary intoxication.
Contreras continues to be held without bail in Somerset County Jail in Madison.
He is accused of stabbing Grace Burton 35 times after climbing through a window in her first-floor apartment in the early hours of June 21, according to a police affidavit.
She was taken to a hospital and was able to give police a description of her attacker before she died there.
At the time of the murder Contreras was living at 114 Pillsbury Lane, less than a quarter mile from the Margaret Chase Smith apartments on Fairbanks Road where Burton lived.
In July 2011, Farmington police Sgt. Michael Adcock assisted an ambulance crew when Contreras crashed his bicycle in Farmington. Talking with Contreras, Adcock learned that he had moved here from Massachusetts and had lived near the Burton residence but was soon returning to Massachusetts.
The case went unsolved for months and created fear in the community.
On a hunch, Adcock told Maine State Police detectives about the encounter that fall.
They found Contreras in Massachusetts and obtained a DNA sample in November. The sample matched DNA taken from the scene. Police arrested Contreras on a charge of murder.