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Maupin’s Conviction Thrown Out Judge’s Error Forces 3rd Trial For Suspected Killer Of Tricna Cloy

FROM FOR THE RECORD (Thursday, Apirl 11, 1996): An April 5 story stated that Mary Fraijo did not return a reporter’s calls seeking comment. Fraijo died last December.

For the second time in four years, an appeals court has ordered a new trial for Thomas Maupin, a drifter twice convicted of killing a Spokane girl.

The Washington Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Maupin deserves a third trial in the 1988 murder of 6-year-old Tricna Cloy.

Prosecutors and police say Maupin snatched Tricna from her Spokane home Jan. 25, 1988, killed her and dumped her 40-pound body in a gravel pit where it was discovered six months later.

The youngster’s body was so decomposed that the cause of her death never was determined.

“We fully recognize the trauma a third trial represents for the family of Tricna Dawn Cloy,” the court wrote in a decision made public Thursday.

“But we are also mindful of the right of Thomas Edward Maupin to a fair trial on this most serious charge. Our system of justice so requires.”

In its decision, the court ruled Spokane Superior Court Judge Marcus Kelly erred in Maupin’s second trial in 1992 when he refused to allow the suspect’s attorneys to call James Brittain to the stand.

Maupin’s lawyers said Brittain would have testified that he had seen Tricna with another man the day after she had disappeared, thus throwing doubt on the prosecution’s case.

Prosecutors argued Brittain’s testimony was irrelevant; the evidence showed Maupin was the killer.

Kelly agreed with prosecutors and ruled that Brittain would not testify.

“The trial court’s exclusion of the testimony of Brittain denied Maupin his federal and state constitutional rights to present witnesses in his own defense,” the Supreme Court decided. “We reverse the conviction, vacate the sentence and remand the case for a new trial.”

Tricna’s mother, Tina Fraijo of the Spokane Valley, declined to comment on the decision. The girl’s grandmother, Mary Fraijo, did not return telephone calls.

Spokane Police Chief Terry Mangan, whose detectives investigated the case, said Thursday he is “disappointed in this decision.”

“We are sorry the survivors now face the prospect of yet another emotional and extended reliving of this heinous crime,” Mangan said.

Spokane County Prosecuting Attorney Jim Sweetser, who said he hadn’t thoroughly reviewed the ruling, said his office will begin gearing up for another trial.

“We’re disappointed, of course, and feel for the family of the victim.”

Maupin first was convicted of Tricna’s murder in January 1990 and was sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Two years later, the state Court of Appeals overturned that jury verdict, ruling there was insufficient evidence to support the first-degree murder conviction.

He was convicted again in December 1992 and again sentenced to 40 years.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo

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