BANGOR (AP) – New Jersey officials plan to retry Steven Fortin for the killing of a mother of four, but the former Brewer man could end up back in the Maine State Prison if that fails, officials said.

Last month, the New Jersey Supreme Court overturned the conviction of Fortin, who was found guilty of killing Melissa Padilla, 25, of Woodbridge, N.J., as she walked home from a grocery store on Aug. 11, 1994.

The court found several problems with the trial in which Fortin was convicted.

and ultimately sentenced to death.

The ruling threw New Jersey’s prosecution of capital cases into turmoil and raised the possibility that Fortin could be returned to Maine to serve out a 20-year sentence for attacking a state trooper.

“The state of New Jersey plans to retry him,” said Maine Assistant Attorney General William Stokes. “But if that fails, he comes back here.”

Prosecutor Thomas Kaspak of New Jersey said he was extremely disappointed in the ruling. “We are definitely going to retry him,” Kaspak said Tuesday. “But because of the confusion surrounding the ruling, we are going to take our time and re-present it to the grand jury, making sure we comply with whatever they want.”

Fortin was serving a 20-year sentence in a Maine prison when the New Jersey charges were brought against him.

In Maine, he pleaded guilty to several charges stemming from the 1995 beating and rape of State Trooper Vicki Gardner.

Investigators said bite marks on Gardner’s body were identical to those on the New Jersey victim.

When the Padilla case was tried in New Jersey, the prosecution depended on the similarities in the two crimes. A retired FBI expert on violent sexual crimes identified 15 ritualistic similarities in the attacks on Padilla and Gardner.

AP-ES-03-24-04 1430EST



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