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Man Charged with 23 Year Old Murder of West Roxbury Woman

Michael Coker, 48, was arraigned this afternoon on Massachusetts Murder Charges in connection with the death of Janet A. Phinney, whose body was found in a wooded section of West Roxbury 23 years ago.

Coker was indicted by a Suffolk County Grand Jury and brought before the Suffolk Superior Court this afternoon for his arraignment on the charge of First Degree Murder.

According to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office and Boston Police Department, Janet A. Phinney was reported missing on March 18, 1988, after last being seen by her sister in her family’s West Roxbury home. Her body was discovered three days later, partially clothed, by a neighbor.

At the time, the Massachusetts Medical Examiner’s Office concluded that Phinney had been strangled to death, but Boston Police did not have enough evidence to charge anyone.

The Boston Police Department reviewing the case used advances in DNA technology to allegedly link biological evidence to Michael Coker. Coker was reportedly Phinney’s ex-boyfriend.

It’s unclear, however, what ‘biological evidence’ was relied upon to believe that Michael Coker was responsible for this murder. Even if such biological evidence was found on Phinney’s body linking her to Coker, that still does not necessarily demonstrate that he was responsible for her death. It could very well be that she may have had contact with him a short time prior to her disappearance, as some members of her family also did.

Consequently, the DNA link to Coker may be nothing more than circumstance, falling well short of the ‘proof beyond a reasonable doubt’ for a conviction of First Degree Murder.

Boston Criminal Lawyer Lefteris K. Travayiakis is available 24/7 for consultation on all Massachusetts Crimes of Violence, including Murder and Manslaughter.

Click Here to Schedule a Free Consultation with a Boston Murder Lawyer or call 617-325-9500.