Traverse City Record-Eagle

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March 19, 2014

Suspect in Kalkaska murder headed to circuit court

TRAVERSE CITY — A suspect in the 1996 slaying of a Kalkaska woman was ordered to stand trial in 46th Circuit Court.

Jason Anthony Ryan, 35, of Davison, will stand trial for the rape and killing of Geraldine Montgomery, 68, a Kalkaska resident who’d been sexually assaulted and left in the trunk of her car, where she died, a judge determined this week.

Ryan was free for about 17 years until DNA discovered at the crime scene was retested and matched his.

“Mr. Ryan is certainly at a disadvantage having to gather evidence in his defense 18 years after the fact,” said his attorney, Jodi Hemingway. “Eighteen years is a long time after which to track down witnesses who may be missing, or things like the crime scene, which don’t exist anymore that we would typically have the opportunity to investigate ourselves.”

Ryan, who lived in Kalkaska at the time of Montgomery’s death, is charged with murder and criminal sexual conduct. His next court date hasn’t been set.

While Ryan was free, another man served time for the crime.

Jamie Lee Peterson, 39, was convicted after he offered several varied confessions to the crime. But DNA found at the scene did not match Peterson. Authorities always contended Peterson committed the crime with another, unknown suspect.

Members of the Michigan Innocence Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at the Northwestern School of Law took up Peterson’s case in the last year and said he has mental disabilities that caused him to offer false confessions.

The DNA found at the scene was retested at the behest of Peterson’s new defense team.

Hemingway said she’s not aware of any connection between the two men.

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