But inmate Wilson Arroyo said he did not tell state police officials what he saw until he received assurances that he would be transferred to another prison, preferably in Massachusetts.
Arroyo testified Wednesday, the second day of the trial against Higgins who is charged with aggravated attempted murder in connection with the May 2011 attack on Millett. Millett died two weeks later at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor.
Arroyo, who is serving a sentence for burglary, said he was working in the woodshop when he saw Higgins standing next to Millett and then swing something that might have been a pipe clamp. Millett then stood there for a second or two and fell to the floor.
Arroyo acknowledged he initially told investigators within the prison and later Maine State Police Detective Abbe Chabot that he had not seen any assault. He did not say anything more until Chabot met with him on Aug. 31, 2011.
At that time, Arroyo said he would testify about what he saw if he was given assurances that he would be moved out of the Maine State Prison and preferably to Massachusetts. He said he was transferred to the Maine Correctional Center in Windham immediately after he testified before the Knox County Grand Jury in October 2011, although he said he did not know he was being transferred until after he testified.
Arroyo said he feared for his life and did not want to testify previously because of his fear of a gang that had been led by Millett and another prisoner Brad Chesnel. He said Chesnel, who the defense unsuccessfully tried to offer to jurors as an alternate suspect in the beating death, and Millett had beaten him prior to the May 2011 incident.
“I’m going deaf in my left ear because of it,” Arroyo said about the beating he took at the hands of Millett and Chesnel.
He said Chesnel also sent people to his cell to threaten him. He said Chesnel had told him that he or his people could get to Arroyo anywhere in the state prison system.
Arroyo said after the death of Millett, he received threats from other prisoners who were soldiers of Chesnel, warning him not to talk.
Arroyo acknowledged on Wednesday that he had offered different versions of what happened in interviews on the day after the incident, in an interview on Aug. 31, and in testimony to the grand jury.
He testified Wednesday that after he witnessed Higgins striking Millett, Higgins simply walked away. He said he did not see Millett threaten Higgins prior to the incident.
Arroyo said he immediately went over to where Chesnel was working in the workshop and told him what happened. He said Chesnel warned him not to say that he had spoken to Chesnel.
The industry area is about the size of two football fields and had about 85 prisoners and two guards in it at the time. Arroyo said a prison guard walked by shortly after the attack and found Millett on the floor.
Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea told Justice Joyce Wheeler that she expects the prosecution will complete its case Thursday. Defense attorney Philip Cohen said he expects the defense will be done by noon on Friday.
Millett, 51, was serving a life sentence for murdering two young women in Maine in 1995.
Chesnel is serving a life sentence for beating a man to death in a 1997 robbery at a Lewiston motel.
Higgins is serving a 45-year prison sentence for the 1999 killing of Katherine Poor inside her Kenduskeag home.