Man Accused Of Brutally Murdering Elderly Farmington Woman Blames Bath Salts

Rob Poindexter

Updated 1 year ago

The trial of a man accused of brutally murdering an elderly woman in Farmington last year is underway. 27-year-old Juan Contreras showed little emotion in court while wearing a bullet proof vest for the first day of his murder trial. His fate now lies in the hands of Judge Michaela Murphy. Contreras is charged with fatally stabbing 81-year-old Grace Burton 35 times in her apartment last June and has waived his right to a jury trial.Police say the killer cut his hand during the murder and DNA from blood found at the crime scene matched Contreras. “There is no question here the defendant is responsible for Grace Burton’s death. The only question for you is whether he acted intentionally or knowingly,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Marchese told the judge Monday during opening statements.Defense attorneys admit Contreras killed Burton, but they say he was under the influence of the synthetic drug bath salts at the time and didn’t know right from wrong.During his opening statement, defense attorney Chris Berryment said Contreras visited two local bars the night of the murder and smoked marijuana with a stranger “who looked like Jesus” at one point during the night. Berryment said Contreras didn’t know the marijuana was laced with bath salts and plans to call a witness that will testify to Contreras’ erratic behavior the night of the murder. “He was acting paranoid. He was acting concerned with his surroundings. He was looking around constantly,” Berryment said. “He will testify Mr. Contreras’ pupils were fully dilated. He will testify to the fact that the next day when he heard Grace Burton had been killed, he immediately thought of Mr. Contreras.” Prosecutors are rejecting the bath salts defense, arguing Contreras’ actions were calculated that night proving he knew exactly what he was doing. “He went into Grace Burton’s apartment, unlocked the backside. He sees her through a window and rather than kicking in the door, rather than knocking down the door, he takes a knife he’s carrying and goes in the window. And he goes back out that window because it’s the safe way that he wasn’t caught going in,” Marchese argued. “He knew how to get in and out of that apartment. He knew to lie to his wife about what he had been doing that night and how he cut his hand. The defendant made conscious decisions that night that illustrate that he’s guilty of intentional or knowing murder.” Prosecutors have their own theory on what set Contreras off. After his arrest he told police his life had spiraled out of control and he just snapped. “What will be supported factually in this case is that the marriage between the defendant and his wife was failing. He thought she was cheating on him. He had been fired by Reny’s department store. He had little money. He disliked living in the Farmington area. He complained about being a minority living here. And everything came to a head for him that night,” Marchese said. The prosecution’s first witness was Wayne Drake, an officer with the University of Maine at Farmington police. UMF Public Safety officers routinely assist Farmington police and respond to calls when other officers are tied up on other cases.Drake testified that he found Grace Burton lying in a pool of blood in her apartment and talked to her while waiting for paramedics to arrive. “She was slipping in and out of consciousness. The first thing I asked her was did she know the attacker and she said no. I asked her if she knew what he looked like. She indicated he had a small mustache and a baseball cap,” Drake testified. “I told her you’re not dying and she said ‘yes I am’.” Burton later died from her wounds at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston.Maine’s Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Margaret Greenwald also took the stand Monday. She outlined each one of the 35 stab wounds Burton suffered during the fatal attack.The trial resumes Tuesday and could wrap up this week.


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