BRIDGTON – A self-employed mason from Bridgton was charged Thursday with the May 12, 1994 slaying of 30-year-old Crystal Perry.
Police said DNA evidence helped link Michael K. Hutchinson, 31, to the stabbing death of Perry in her home.
Hutchinson was indicted by a Cumberland County grand jury on a charge of murder.
Hutchinson, who lived near Perry at the time of the killing, was being held Thursday night at the Cumberland County Jail in Portland.
Perry’s family members, who once offered a $10,000 reward for information about the case, were just learning Thursday afternoon that a local man had been charged.
“There were a lot of rumors going around and we were expecting something to happen,” said Carol Noyes, Perry’s older sister. “But we didn’t find out that someone had been charged until around 4 o’clock this afternoon.”
The arrest marked a major development in the 12-year-old case, but police said the motive for the early morning attack at Perry’s Route 93 home remained unclear.
“There was no formal relationship between the two of them,” said Maine State Police Lt. Brian McDonough.
Noyes, who lives in West Peru, said she was not familiar with Hutchinson and did not know if Crystal Perry had been, either.
“I have no idea who that is,” Noyes said.
Hutchinson, 19 years old in 1994, was working in construction at the time Perry was killed. Police said there was no sign that he ever left the area after the killing, and he does not have an extensive criminal record.
However, in recent weeks, around the same time police were developing new leads in the slaying, Hutchinson was arrested on an unrelated charge of violating probation, a charge that stemmed from a 2003 assault on his wife.
When police presented their case to a grand jury on Thursday, Hutchinson was already in jail on that probation-violation charge.
Hutchinson’s name was known to police investigating the Perry slaying, but he had never been conclusively connected to the crime.
After he became a solid suspect two weeks ago, police got a court order to collect DNA samples from Hutchinson. Investigators said those samples proved crucial in getting the indictment.
“That information was immediately followed up on and compared to the physical evidence,” McDonough said. “We’re very confident with the evidence we have.”
Perry, a single mother who worked in a shoe shop, was killed in the early morning hours as her 12-year-old daughter, Sarah Perry, listened to the attack from her bedroom.
The girl later told police she heard the attacker rummaging around in a drawer, presumably searching for a knife. After discovering that her mother was dead, the girl ran barefoot for a mile to knock on three doors before getting help at an Italian restaurant.
Police said there was no sign that Perry’s ranch-style home had been broken into. She was stabbed several times in the attack that killed her.
Sarah Perry has since moved to another state and has only commented on the case once, in a television interview about cold cases.
For a dozen years, Perry’s killing has remained among the state’s most compelling cold cases. The slaying appeared to be completely random and, although police followed up on hundreds of leads, strong suspects were never uncovered.
For investigators who have worked on the case for more than a decade, the charges brought a sense of finality.
“This doesn’t change things, but at least we have some answers,” said State Police Sgt. Walter Grzyb, who was the primary investigator on the case before it was handed over to Trooper Christopher Harriman.
“I don’t think it was every treated in this unit as a cold case file. It was never back-burnered,” McDonough said. “We always kind of knew it would be solved. When it happens, there is a sense of relief and a bit of humility.”
In what the family described as a sad twist, Crystal Perry’s mother died just a week ago after a long illness.
“It would have been nice to have the case solved while she was still alive,” Noyes said.
Hutchinson is expected to remain jailed at least until he is arraigned on Monday. Perry’s family said they expect to follow the case as it progresses through the justice system.
“It’s a relief that they charged someone,” Noyes said. “But it’s far from over.”