The first thing I did after stumbling out of bed on Sunday, Aug. 7, was to read a fresh Maine Sunday Telegram story about the Dennis Dechaine murder case. 

That was a mistake. 

For the rest of the day, when I should have been thinking about the heat, the sunshine and all the good stuff that late summer has to offer, I was thinking about Dechaine. Sarah Cherry. All the key players and alternate suspects who have populated this grisly and mysterious plot since the horrible drama unfolded more than three decades ago. 

David Guffey. Douglas Senecal. And now Richard Marc Evonitz, a new name offered up by the Telegram to add to an already overcrowded list of people who could have committed the crime for which Dechaine has already served 33 long, hard years. 

On Sunday, I thought about this case a lot, and not for the first time. I’d ride my bike into the woods thinking: They got the right man. Sure they did. There was plenty of evidence linking Dechaine to the crime, don’t forget that, Bub. 

But then I’d start considering the various things the investigative team appears to have done wrong. The alternate suspects they may have overlooked. I’d start mulling the accusations of prosecutorial shenanigans and those old names would clang in my head again. Senecal … Guffey … Evonitz …  


By the time I was out of the woods, I was convinced once again that Dechaine is an innocent man; a dupe railroaded to take the blame for a hideous crime that demanded fast justice.  

Honestly, my opinions on this case can change just that fast. My opinions on this case have ping-ponged back and forth so many times over the years, it makes me dizzy. Ask me on any given day what I think about Dechaine’s guilt or innocence, chances are good I’ll give you two opposing answers back to back. 

Believing that Dechaine committed the crime is the safe way to go because the alternative is just too chilling to consider. The idea of an innocent man spending 30 plus years in prison, reviled by his fellow man, is a very uncomfortable notion. You want to believe he did it. You NEED to believe it. 

But if the thought of an innocent man serving time is unsavory, so is the idea of a child rapist and killer running free, linked to the crime only in unsubstantiated whispers and speculation. Everything about this case sits awkwardly in the mind, roiling your thoughts the way a piece of bad meat will roil your guts. 

Your sympathies go to the friends and family of the victim, of course, and that’s the way it ought to be. But now, if you believe even just some of the evidence that keeps coming down the line, you are forced to reserve some potential sympathy for the man in the orange jumpsuit, as well. 

Being wrongfully accused of a heinous crime against a child is pretty much the worst thing that can befall a man. There’s no gray area here. Either Dennis Dechaine is a monster who deserves every bit of the suffering he’s endured, or he’s a man in Hell, tied to one of the region’s worst atrocities when all he’s guilty of is smoking dope, wandering in a daze and ending up the central character in a perfect storm of suspicion. 


In a case of this magnitude, there’s no room for error. It needs to be prosecuted correctly, for the sake of public trust and for the emotional well-being of the community. 

But did they get it right?  

If you’d asked me back in the 90s when I started working at the newspaper, I would have answered you without equivocation. Hell yes, they got it right. Why, I’ve talked to folks who were involved in the prosecution of the case and they assured me. They ASSURED me. 

I put Dennis Dechaine and Sarah Cherry out of mind for at least a decade, right until around the time that a book was published on the case. “Human Sacrifice: On the Altar of Injustice,” the book was called, and from it came spilling an unsettling array of reasonable doubts. 

Suddenly, for me, the case against Dennis Dechaine didn’t seem like such a slam dunk at all. I didn’t want to have doubts about his guilt, but I had them anyway. I read the books, I watched the documentaries, I talked to many who had followed the case with careful scrutiny when the grim drama first unfolded. 

Talking about it to others is of little help. By now, people have formed hard opinions one way or another and, by and large, people don’t like to change their minds about matters they believe are settled.


“He’s guilty,” one will tell you, “and all his claims of innocence are just further torment for the family of Sarah Cherry.” 

“Never believed he did it,” insists the next guy. “It was a rush to judgment and nobody wants to admit they put the wrong man in prison.” 

Ping and pong. Just when you think you can put the whole sordid affair behind you, new information comes tumbling across the years. “Could a Notorious Serial Killer have Murdered Sarah Cherry?” goes the headline on the latest potential crack to appear in the case against Dennis Dechaine. 

I read it almost against my will. 

“Some think the real perpetrator might be Richard Marc Evonitz,” the story author told me, “a notorious serial killer of children who was in Maine at the time and whose modus operandi fits closely with the horrific events that occurred in the wooded back roads of Bowdoin on July 6 and 7, 1988.” 

Another name, another set of facts to ponder and yet another reason to wonder if the truth about Sarah Cherry’s killer will be ever be known in any substantial way. The case has tormented the community for 33 years now and the number of ghosts that haunt the story line only keeps growing. 


Today, I can’t look you in the eye and say with any conviction whether I believe Dennis Dechaine is guilty or innocent. On this matter, my mind embraces both possibilities and will absolutely refuse to let either of them go for good. Not without more conclusive evidence one way or another. 

“On July 22,” the Telegram story informs me, “Knox County Superior Court Justice Bruce Mallonee granted Dechaine’s request to test crime scene items using new DNA collection techniques that have been shown to collect several times more material from many surfaces as conventional swabs.” 

Will the latest in DNA technology put an end to this madness at last? Will we ever see a new trial to put the state’s original case against Dechaine to the test? 

Lord, I hope so. Everybody involved in this case, directly or peripherally, deserves the peace that only the truth can offer — although if Dechaine were to be proven irrefutably innocent after 30 plus years, imagine the soul searching that would be required by those who left him to rot.

On the other hand, if the man is guilty — truly and provably guilty — then damn him for prolonging this nightmare for so long.

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