A 31-year-old murder case has finally gotten a break due to the help of DNA evidence from a discarded cigarette.
The accused, Jay Mercier, agreed to an interview with police outside of his home regarding the murder.
He casually smoked a cigarette during the interview and threw the butt aside. Little did he know that 31 years later he would be facing charges for the murder.
The Associated Press reports that the victim, St. Pierre, was killed after leaving a bar in 1980. She was 20-years-old at the time.
It is unknown whether she intended to walk or hitchhike. According to a police affidavit, her body was discovered partially nude near a road in Anson, Maine after being bludgeoned and run over by a vehicle.
Mercier, now 56, was interviewed after witnesses told investigators they saw him sitting alone in his truck near the bar when the woman left.
Police searched Mercier’s truck and took fingerprints off of tire treads but did not uncover enough evidence to arrest Mercier, the affidavit said.
But during a January 2010 interview with a detective outside his house in Industry, Maine, Mercier smoked cigarettes, and denied meeting or having sex with St. Pierre.
Police Detective Bryant Jacques collected one of the cigarettes and it became evidence when the DNA from the butt and sperm found on St. Pierre’s body matched. Police were then able to get a warrant to swab Mercier's mouth for additional DNA testing.
He was arrested in September and is in jail without bail.
Mercier pleaded not guilty in a Somerset County, Maine state court Monday.
"He has been confronted by the police literally from day one," his court appointed lawyer John Alsop said.
Mercier’s lawyer wants to see his client released until trial, which is likely to be scheduled for some time in the middle of next year.