Fayette murder case moving forward

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FAYETTE – A state-ordered diagnostic evaluation of a now 15-year-old boy accused of murdering a fellow teenager Thanksgiving weekend is complete, and the results are being reviewed, a state prosecutor said Friday.

Like the other documents in Patrick Armstrong’s case, including a Maine State Police affidavit, it is impounded by the court from the public’s eye, Deputy Attorney General Bill Stokes said Friday.

The next step would either be a bindover hearing if the state attempts to try Armstrong as an adult and, if not, then it would be a juvenile trial, Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson said Thursday. Regardless, the next court appearance for Armstrong most likely won’t be until mid- to late-summer, Benson said.

Armstrong was 14 when he was arrested by state police on Nov. 29 and charged with the murder of Marlee Johnston, 14, on Nov. 26.

Both teens lived in the same Lovejoy Pond Road neighborhood in Fayette. Armstrong was home-schooled and known as a quiet, polite boy.

Johnston, known for her outgoing nature and “can-do attitude,” was an eighth-grader at Winthrop Middle School. Her body was found in Lovejoy Pond by family members about one-third of mile from her home, roughly 30 minutes after she went out to walk the family’s dogs that Saturday.

Attempts by her father, Ted Johnston, to revive her, were unsuccessful.

“There can be no justice. My daughter is dead,” Ted Johnston said Thursday, regardless of how long the judicial system takes and what the outcome is. “We miss her every day and it’s very difficult without her. The legal process is going to go forward. We have no interest in anything but making sure people remember Marlee for what she was about and the positive things she did.”

So far, more than $30,000 has been donated or raised for the Marlee Johnston Memorial Scholarship and books for students at Winthrop Middle School where Marlee was an eighth-grader. A reading area has been set up as Marlee’s Corner at the school.

More kids are reading, he said.

The family also thinks about their son, Alec, 18, a senior at Kents Hill, who just received a scholarship of upward of $100,000 to attend Rochester Institute of Technology, he said.

“We our blessed to have our son,” Johnston said.

Armstrong has been in state custody at a Charleston youth development center since his arrest nearly six months ago. His attorney, Walt McKee, said in an e-mail Friday that Armstrong is doing “as well as can be expected under these circumstances.”

One reason the case is taking longer, McKee said, is that the State Forensic Service evaluation took a long time to do.

Both state prosecutors and McKee agreed in court in December that details on the murder and documents in the case be sealed until further notice.

Having the file closed six months or more, Stokes said, is not unusual and is not really a long time in a homicide case of this magnitude, complexity and involving a juvenile.

Sometimes information collected may be impounded so that a jury wouldn’t learn about a case before it went to trial or there may be some suppression issues, Stokes said, speaking in general on homicide cases.

Sometimes affidavits and investigative details remain impounded in some homicide cases until they’re resolved, he said, and in other cases they are not.

“It really depends on the nature of the case,” Stokes said.

He mentioned several cases, including the Amy St. Laurent murder case and arsenic poisoning case in New Sweden, where affidavits and information were sealed a long time. Some of the latter case’s information is still sealed, he added.

Once state prosecutors ask for information to be impounded, and it is granted, it becomes a court order, he said.

“We cannot just ask for it to be unimpounded,” Stokes said.

Stokes said in his opinion, prosecutors in his office tend to be closed-mouthed about cases more than in other states.

His philosophy, the chief of the criminal division said, is, “We should really do the talking in court.”

Investigative details are generally kept under wraps, he added, until it is resolved. The state and defense cases could be endangered by releasing investigative details, Stokes said.

“The system takes time,” he said. “We have a very young victim. We have a very young person accused.”

Ted Johnston said people he knows and those he and his wife, Marlene Thibodeau, don’t know continue to be generous in supporting Marlee’s ways.

A golf tournament is scheduled in July to raise more money for the scholarship.

People say “we will get closure” once the judicial system concludes, Johnston said.

“Believe me, it’s not going to happen,” Johnston said through choked voice and tears. “We think about Marlee. We don’t think about a trial or anything. We think about our daughter I miss my daughter.”

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