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December 14, 2013

Court appearance pushed back in '96 rape, murder case

TRAVERSE CITY — The man accused of a 1996 rape and murder in Kalkaska won’t appear in court until January.

Jason Anthony Ryan, 35, was charged in the death of Geraldine Montgomery, 68, of Kalkaska, after tests indicated his DNA matched evidence found at the crime scene.

Ryan was arraigned in Kalkaska on Dec. 3. His preliminary hearing originally was scheduled for Friday, but was pushed back to Jan. 27.

Preliminary hearings, or exams, only occur in felony cases.

“The preliminary hearing is a presentation of evidence by the prosecution to the district court judge to establish probable cause that the defendant committed the crime with which he or she is charged,” said 86th District Court Judge Michael Stepka, who is not involved in the case.

Preliminary hearings can be pushed back for a number of reasons, Stepka said. Lawyers could want more time for investigation, the defendant could need a competency evaluation, or a key witness or police officer might be unavailable on the scheduled date.

Police found Montgomery dead in the trunk of her car in 1996. She appeared to have died of asphyxiation after her car was left running. She had been sexually assaulted.

At the time, police arrested Jamie Lee Peterson, then 23, for the crime. Peterson was convicted, though his DNA did not match a sample found at the scene.

The Innocence Project, an organization that tries to exonerate convicted criminals based on DNA evidence, took an interest in Peterson’s case this year. The DNA was retested at their request, and Ryan was a match.

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