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New York's highest court to hear arguments for new trial in Heidi Allen case

Payne Horning
WRVO News (file photo)
A missing persons poster for Heidi Allen still hangs in the Oswego County Sheriff's Office, 24 years after she went missing.

New York state's highest court will hear arguments today about whether the man convicted of kidnapping Heidi Allen from a New Haven convenience store in 1994 should get a new trial. It could be the last shot Gary Thibodeau has to overturn his 25 years-to-life sentence.

It was 24 years ago this month that Heidi Allen disappeared on Easter morning. Her body was never found, but a jury did find Thibodeau guilty of the kidnapping. Today, Thibodeau's attorney Lisa Peebles, a federal public defender, will get 10 minutes before the New York State Court of Appeals to make her case that new evidence has surfaced exonerating her client and pointing to other suspects. Several people have come forward to claim another man, James Steen, admitted to murdering Allen and that he was seen at the convenience store that morning.

Credit Payne Horning / WRVO News
Oswego County District Attorney Greg Oakes

But Oswego County District Attorney Greg Oakes maintains that those claims are hearsay and inadmissible, an argument that two courts have already upheld.

"There’s a reason why it’s inadmissible," Oakes said. "Because it’s unreliable, because it’s speculative and the concern that it distracts from the main issue and basically could cause a jury to reach an erroneous decision."

This will be Thibodeau's last chance to appeal for a new trial in New York state. He could take his case to federal court, but he's currently suffering from a lung disease. It was seven months ago that the medical staff at the Coxsackie Correctional Facility estimated Thibodeau had only six months to live.