reports that John Grega of Long Island, New York, died in a tragic car accident on Friday evening. Grega had been wrongly convicted in 1995 for the 1994 rape and murder of his wife, but was released in 2012 after DNA proved that he wasn’t the perpetrator. He was just blocks away from his Lake Ronkonkoma home at 5:00 p.m. on Friday when he lost control of his van and crashed into a tree.
More than 20 years ago, Grega was vacationing with his wife and young son in West Dover, Vermont, when his wife was found strangled and sexually assaulted. With a lack of physical evidence linking Grega to the murder, prosecutors at the original trial relied on circumstantial evidence and his own conflicting statements that some of his wife’s injuries were caused by rough sex they had before her death. He was convicted within a year and served 18 years behind bars.
In 2012, Grega was released from prison and in August 2013 prosecutors dismissed his aggravated murder charge after DNA testing revealed cells from an unknown male and not Grega.
after he was released: “I’m blown away… . Imagine, after 20 years, seeing them dismiss a case against you for a crime you didn’t commit. I don’t even know how to feel… . I went through hell… . To get them to admit it was a mistake. It feels fabulous.”
Although Grega continued to be haunted by his wife’s murder, he was making the most out of his life since his release from prison. Grega’s mother, Marion Grega, 74, said, “He was so happy… . He always wanted to be on a boat, or on the beach, or by water.”
His family and friends say that they are devastated to learn about Grega’s sudden and tragic passing.
Ian Carleton, the attorney who represented Grega since 2004, said about Grega’s death: “I’m heartbroken … Here is a man who had the rarest of opportunities — a second chance at freedom and a second chance at life. He seemed to be making the most of that.”
“He was so wonderful,” said Grega’s mother, according to
. “I don’t know how I’m going to live without him.”