DNA evidence still under review in murder case

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BENNINGTON — Forensic evidence in the case of a Sunderland man charged with the death of an elderly Arlington woman is still being reviewed.

Timothy Butler, 32, has been held since being arraigned in March on charges in connection with the death of 81-year-old Helen Jones. The case should be ready for trial by August. The trial is estimated to run for eight days.

"The DNA testing we had discussed earlier, that actually took place a couple weeks ago," Bennington County State's Attorney Erica Marthage said during a hearing on the case in Bennington criminal court Friday. "I wouldn't expect we would receive anything on that before January or early February."

Defense attorney Brian Marsicovetere, with the Serious Felony Unit of the Office of the Defender General, said he would like "to speed that up as quickly as they can."

"That's an aspect of the case I'd like to see in terms of developing the discovery," he said.

Marthage said her office "doesn't have any say. It's a private, outside company that the state police employs for this kind of further testing."

Vermont Superior Court Judge David A. Howard approved a trial schedule on Oct. 30.

Jones' body was found Jan. 4 in her Buck Hill Road home in Arlington, where she lived alone. Her stabbing death touched off an intense investigation, with detectives from the Major Crime Unit of Vermont State Police and other VSP personnel from around the state participating.

According to a court affidavit, in an interview on Jan. 6, Butler told police he used to mow Jones' lawn, but had not for several years. He also said he was at Jones' home a couple weeks prior when he and a relative stopped to ask if she needed work done.

A detective returned to Butler's residence on North Road in Sunderland about six times over several weeks to collect a DNA sample. According to the affidavit, Butler never contacted the detective. Investigators were granted a wire warrant and recorded conversations between Butler and a woman who knew him. Butler was arrested on March 8.

Marsicovetere's office is in White River Junction and he participated in Friday's status conference by telephone. Butler did not appear.

Howard said that, as long as the defense confirms with prosecutors, the defense can continue to participate by phone.

A conference is scheduled for Jan. 12.

Butler has pleaded not guilty to a felony count of first degree murder and a felony count of burglary into an occupied dwelling armed with a dangerous or deadly weapon. The charges could bring a prison term of 35 years to life.

Ed Damon can be reached at edamon@benningtonbanner.com, at @edamon_banner on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 111.


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