Not Guilty? Could new DNA test exonerate Robert Breest after 45 years behind bars
CONCORD - After spending 45 years behind bars, a convicted murderer maintains his innocence and has done so ever since his trial back in 1973.
From all accounts, Robert Breest was a good man, a loving husband and a doting father of five.
But in an instant, his family would be torn apart.
He married his wife Carol a year before the crime.
When NH1 asked her if her husband was essentially ripped out of her life, she said, "Yes."
When asked how she dealt with it, Carol Breest answered, "I think the one thing that kept me going is that I had a young child, a 9-month-old child."
It was 1971 and Carol not only had their 9-month-old child to take care but four other children from previous relationships.
"I never believed he would be found guilty because he wasn't," she said.
Her husband was found guilty of the 1971 murder of Susan Randall, 18, of Manchester.
Her body was discovered on the frozen Merrimack River in Concord. She had been badly beaten and was naked from the waist down.
It was a crime that Breest, to this day, claims he didn't commit.
Even today, his wife says she has no reason to doubt him.
When asked since he's maintained his innocence to the court all of these years, if he's maintained his innocence to her, as well, Carol was quick to say, "Of course," adding, "the night that this girl was killed, he was out moving furniture for his family. Now that does not compute with someone going out and killing somebody."
At the trial, prosecutors presented physical evidence which was hair from the victim's coat found in Breest's car as well as testimony from a man who claimed that Breest had confided in him while the two were in prison that he did indeed commit the crime.
NH1 asked Breest's attorney, UNH Professor of Law and well-known attorney Buzz Scheer how he would categorize the state's evidence back then?
"It sure looked strong," Scheer said.
Scheer says the evidence as well as the testimony from who he calls a jailhouse rat wouldn't hold up in court today.
One reason why, he says, is that the latest DNA test, for the first time, shows something different.
"There is DNA present from two different males under her fingernails," Scheer said.
DNA from another man and not just Breest.
And that means whoever that man is, Scheer says, could have committed the crime.
"But what we know from that is that she was involved in a violent struggle with two males," Scheer said.
NH1 asked Scheer if this could be Breest's ticket to freedom.
"Yes," Scheer said. "Yes. It could be."
Scheer has now asked the N.H. Supreme Court for a hearing to see if his client could get a new trial.
He claims that the state botched the case and convicted the wrong man.
"He didn't get a fair trial based on the newly discovered evidence," said Scheer. "Based on the new DNA evidence, the state's theory of the case at the trial was wrong."
And in yet another twist, Breest's attorney says his client could be free right now but since he proclaims his innocence to this day he remains behind bars since he's never taken the opportunity to go before the parole board.
"He's arguably, for a number of years, had the key to his cell, if he was willing to admit he did it," said Scheer.
It could be and even if it's not, his wife says, her faith in him will never waiver.
NH1 asked Breest's wife, Carol, if she ever had at least the slightest doubt in her mind about her husband's claims of innocence, she quickly answered, "No." When asked, "Never?" She said, "No. Why? No."
Right now, Breest is waiting for a date for a hearing and during that hearing, a judge will decided whether Breest will get a new trial.
There's always a possibility, especially with the new DNA test, that the original verdict could be overturned.
Meantime, Breest is now serving life in prison in Massachusetts without the possibility of parole.
The N.H. Attorney General's Office says it can't comment because it's an active case.