DA Dismisses Murder Charge In 1979 Killing

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Prosecutors on Tuesday dropped a murder charge against a man who has already spent more than 35 years in prison.

The murder charge against Gary Cifizzari was dropped "in the interest of justice" after the office of Worcester District Attorney Joseph Early Jr. received the results of additional DNA testing in the case on Monday.

Cifizzari and his now-deceased brother had been charged with the 1979 murder of their great aunt, Concetta Schiappa, in Milford. They were convicted in 1984 and Gary Cifizzari's conviction was upheld by the state's highest court in 1986.

"Exonerations are always bittersweet," said Radha Natarajan, Cifizzari's lawyer and the executive director of the New England Innocence Project. "During 35 years of wrongful imprisonment, Gary Cifizzari endured so much and lost so much. But today, he finally receives the justice he deserves and can celebrate the freedom he has again."

The New England Innocence Project in 2017 filed a motion for post-conviction DNA testing. At the time, the victim's nightgown was the only piece of evidence tested and the results excluded Cifizzari. The DNA on the nightgown was uploaded into a national database and was found to be a match for another man, who has since died.

The conviction was obtained using bite mark evidence and one of the experts who testified at trial has since recanted his testimony, Early said.

"This is no longer a viable case to prosecute," Early said. "Our interest is and always will be in fair trials and the proper administration of justice."

Cifizzari was freed by a judge in July.

This article was originally published on December 10, 2019.