Convicted Murderer Accused of Raping Missing Girl in 1996 Entitled to New Trial

A Connecticut court has overturned the conviction of a man serving life in prison for the 1996 rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl whose body was never found.

The state Appellate Court on Monday ordered a new trial for George Leniart, saying the trial judge improperly excluded key evidence including a videotaped interview of a prosecution witness and expert testimony on the reliability of jailhouse informants.

Police said Leniart sexually assaulted and killed April Dawn Pennington, of Montville, in May 1996. Authorities said the girl snuck out of her house to meet with another teenager, Patrick "PJ" Allain and Leniart, who was 30 at the time.

They drove to a secluded area in Ledyard to drink alcohol and smoke marijuana when Leniart grew paranoid.

"He said he needed a body. He said he was in a cult and wanted a body for the altar," Allain testifed, according to the Norwich Bulletin. "I know if I didn't cooperate he was going to hurt me and hurt April. 

Pennington's body was never found after that night. 

Leniart was arrested in 2008 while serving a prison sentence for raping a 13-year-old girl. Authorities said he told other inmates he reaped and killed Pennington.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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