Eileen Blaney talks to her son on the phone, just as she does almost every day. It is the only way she can communicate with him while he is in prison.
"Alexander has days of feeling helpless," she said.
Alexander Stolte is accused of murdering his girlfriend's 1-year-old daughter, Kylie, while babysitting. Stolte says he was upstairs while the baby slept in a crib next to an unlocked door in the basement. He told police when he checked on her she was not breathing. The medical examiner concluded Kylie was beaten to death that night. Since Stolte was the only one home, prosecutors charged him with murder even though they admit there is no physical evidence linking him to the crime.
"My son is innocent," Blaney said.
Now, new DNA evidence indicates the child had also been sexually assaulted. That DNA evidence did not match Stolte. Claiming the prosecution's case is crumbling, Stolte's lawyers asked a judge to release him on bail pending trial, but Judge Harold Eaton wouldn't hear the case.
"If it had been the other side of the coin and it had been to revoke bail because of new DNA evidence, I bet you dollars to doughnuts it would have been heard," Blaney said.
"The law is not entirely clear exactly what the standard ought to be," said Cheryl Hanna of the Vermont Law School.
Judge Eaton based his decision on the fact that the original hold without bail was based on the prosecution's case, which has not changed. The Vermont Supreme Court has agreed to review the bail issue this month.
"It doesn't really surprise me that the court is taking this case because it is a bit of a close call," Hanna said.
Even with the DNA evidence, prosecutors are going forward with the murder case. Along with the DNA evidence, the defense says this was a botched investigation. According to court papers, detectives admit they never did detailed forensic testing outside the house, considered other theories or suspects.
"So now the defense has a whole lot of cross-examination and reasonable doubt that they can raise in the jury's mind," said Robin Adler of Norwich University.
The defense says the DNA evidence is a big break for them, but Adler says that does not necessarily mean Stolte is innocent.
"It is quite common that people do convicted when there is DNA from another person on the body of the deceased," Adler said.
While Stolte's mother fights for her son's freedom, she says that is only her second priority now.
"First for Kylie," Blaney said. "All of us want justice for Kylie first."
The case is scheduled to go to trial next summer.
The mother of the baby declined comment about the new evidence.
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