June 25, 2018
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Psychiatrist’s testimony limited in trial of man accused of stabbing 81-year-old Farmington woman 35 times

Jose Leiva | Sun Journal
Jose Leiva | Sun Journal
Juan A. Contreras, 27 of Waltham, Mass., listen as his court-appointed attorney, David Sanders (right), talks to him during an initial appearance in Franklin County Superior Court in January 2012.
By Donna M. Perry, Sun Journal

FARMINGTON, Maine — A Franklin County justice granted a motion Friday limiting a psychiatrist’s testimony on whether murder suspect Juan Contreras was under the influence of bath salts the night Grace Burton was stabbed to death.

Burton, 81, was stabbed 35 times in her home at Margaret Chase Smith Apartments on Route 4 in Farmington on June 21, 2011. Burton was able to give police a description of her attacker before she died.

Contreras, 28, of Waltham, Mass., was arrested in November 2011 in Massachusetts after police found him and took a DNA sample, which matched samples from evidence at Burton’s home.

Contreras, who was living in Farmington when Burton was killed, waived his right to a jury trial in early October. His trial is set to be heard by Justice Michaela Murphy the week of Nov. 5.

The state’s motion requested that Dr. William Brennan’s testimony should be excluded because it improperly comments on the character of the defendant, is irrelevant unless the defendant testifies and because Brennan lacks the expert qualifications to declare the defendant ingested bath salts the night of the killing.

The court ruled that if the defense uses Brennan as a witness, he would be allowed to testify only about the use of bath salts.

According to Brennan’s report, he was retained by the defense to evaluate Contreras’ behavior and state of mind at the time of the murder.

Contreras was born and raised in Guatemala until age 8 when he came to the United States to be with his mother in Massachusetts. He moved to Maine after meeting a woman and they married in 2010. Contreras reported he had a history of four head injuries from motor vehicle accidents.

In a description of the evening Contreras is accused of killing Burton, the report states that Contreras said he had gone to the Dugout Sports Bar in Farmington at about 3 p.m. He recalled having a beer or two over about two hours. He walked to the Front Street Tavern, just down the road, and spent the evening drinking beer.

He said he met a stranger with long hair who looked like “Jesus.” The two struck up a conversation and eventually went out to smoke marijuana. When they were finished, the stranger told him it was laced with bath salts, the report states. Contreras said he was angry that the man did not tell him about the bath salts.

Contreras said he became confused and had little recollection of the events after leaving the bar. The next memory he had was that of realizing he had cut his hand after seeing blood.

“He says he felt that he was being attacked and and that he fought back,” the report states. He also reported having bad dreams of something terrible happening, but still had no recollection of his role in the murder.

Defense attorney David Sanders asked Justice Murphy to have Contreras brought to the Franklin County jail from the Somerset County jail the week before the trial so that he could meet with him. Murphy said she would speak to jail administrators.

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