Jay Mercier Arrested: Cigarette Butt Leads To Break In 31-Year-Old Maine Murder Case

12/07/2011 07:52 pm ET | Updated Feb 06, 2012

Dec 7 (Reuters) - DNA evidence from a discarded cigarette
butt has led to an arrest in a 31-year-old Maine murder case,
in which a young woman was slain after leaving a bar late at
night, authorities say.

A laboratory matched DNA from one of suspect Jay Mercier's
cigarette butts with sperm found on the body of victim Rita St.
Pierre, Maine Deputy Attorney General William Stokes said.

Mercier smoked the cigarette outside his house during an
interview with police, who picked up the butt and had it
tested, he said.

St. Pierre, 20, was killed after leaving a bar to walk or
hitchhike home late on July 4, 1980.

Her partially nude body was found near a road in the small
town of Anson, Maine. She had been bludgeoned and run over by a
vehicle, according to a state police affidavit.

Mercier, a laborer, was identified as a so-called person of
interest after witnesses told investigators they had seen him
alone in his truck near the bar when St. Pierre left.

During the initial investigation, although police searched
his truck and took prints of its tire treads, they did not find
enough evidence to arrest him, the affidavit said.

However, during an interview with a state police detective
outside his house in Industry, Maine, in January 2010, Mercier
smoked cigarettes, it said. He denied ever meeting St. Pierre
or having sex with her, it said.

Police Detective Bryant Jacques gathered one of Mercier's
cigarette butts, according to the affidavit.

The DNA match enabled police to get a warrant allowing them
to swab Mercier's mouth for more DNA and other tests, Stokes

Mercier, 56, entered a plea of not guilty to murder in
state court in Somerset County, Maine, on Monday. He was
arrested in September and denied bail.

John Alsop, Mercier's court-appointed defense lawyer, has
argued for his client to be released pending trial, which is
likely to be scheduled for the middle of next year.

"He has been confronted by the police literally from Day
One," Alsop said. "He's always denied involvement."

(Reporting by Jacon McLure in Littleton, New Hampshire.
Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Peter Bohan)

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