Traverse City Record-Eagle

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December 3, 2013

Police make arrest in 1996 murder

— TRAVERSE CITY — A man is expected to be arraigned today on charges tied to the 1996 rape and murder of a woman in Kalkaska County.

Suspect Jason Ryan is to be arraigned this afternoon, Kalkaska sheriff's officials confirmed. He's a suspect in the 1996 death of Geraldine Montgomery, 68, who was raped and killed in her home in Kalkaska in 1996, her daughter said.

Montgomery died of asphyxiation after at least one attacker stuffed her into the trunk of her car and left the vehicle running.

Montgomery's daughter, Patty Cox, confirmed the arrest.

“Of course I’m relieved, because it’s been quite a few years,” Cox said.

Ryan, who has been held at Kalkaska County’s jail since this morning, is scheduled to be arraigned at 2:30 p.m.

The arrest raises questions over the 1998 conviction of Jamie Lee Peterson. Peterson, then 23, was convicted of first-degree murder and five other charges and sentenced to life in prison, but his defense attorney never gave up on the case.

“I’ve always believed, based on the evidence, that he is actually innocent,” said Robert Carey, who represented Peterson.

Carey stayed in touch with the Peterson family and helped connect them with the Innocence Project, an organization that attempts to exonerate convicted criminals through DNA testing.

Carey said Peterson had brain damage prior to the incident and wrongly confessed to the slaying.

“He also had a fantasy life, a very vivid imagination. And what he did was he gave at least seven different confessions claiming that he did it,” said Carey. “Of course, the law enforcement spoon-fed it to him in the questions, asking leading questions, and Jamie quickly adopted it.”

Carey always believed DNA evidence from the crime scene would exonerate Peterson, he said.

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