A man who spent nearly two decades on New Jersey's death row for a 1985 killing is set for a new trial.

Nathaniel Harvey has been convicted twice for the bludgeoning death of Irene Schnaps, 37, in her Plainsboro apartment.

But courts have thrown out both convictions, and in September the state Supreme Court declined to hear the prosecution's latest appeal. That sets the stage for a third trial.

Defense attorneys say DNA evidence casts doubt on Harvey's guilt. They also claim prosecutors ignored clues that pointed toward a different suspect.

Irene Schnaps was 37 when she was killed in her Plainsboro home.
Irene Schnaps was 37 when she was killed in her Plainsboro home.

In a dissenting opinion written in 1997, a state Supreme Court justice called blood evidence used to convict Harvey "grossly unreliable."

Harvey has been in prison since 1986. New Jersey abolished the death penalty in 2007.

Police arrested Harvey after a series of burglaries and an attempted kidnapping of a 13-year-old girl. Harvey, who had a criminal record that included a sexual assault, admitted to the thefts but denied involvement in the slaying of Schnaps.

Harvey confessed after three days of interrogation.

A 2005 article in the New York Times said police also suspected a neighbor of Schnaps who had a history of stalking. Investigators found a quilt with bloodstains in Peter Stohwasser's apartment and a metal strip and white gloves with reddish spots.

"I was the A-number-one suspect," Stohwasser told the New York Times reporter in 2005. "And then one day I heard they arrested this guy, and it was over."

The report noted that Stohwasser's story had changed from the one he had given police 20 years earlier.

"The only reason they came after me — and I don't know why I failed the polygraph, probably because I was nervous — was that I said I was probably the last person who saw her alive."

After the Times report, Stohwasser denied killing Schnaps. He died in 2011.

Schnaps's naked body was found in her bloodied bedroom, her face and skull battered. Authorities say she had also been strangled. There was no sign of forced entry and valuables had been left behind.

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