First day of murder trial brings back memories

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AUBURN — The murder trial of a Lewiston man charged in the April 2013 slaying of 20-year-old Romeo Parent of Lewiston got underway in Androscoggin County Superior Court on Wednesday.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because Michael McNaughton, 27, also of Lewiston, was convicted of murdering Parent at trial in July.

This time, it’s William True, 21, who is defending himself against charges of murder and murder conspiracy in Parent’s killing.

Prosecutors told a jury of 11 men and four women Wednesday that True not only had the motive and means, but the victim’s blood was found on his pants and he also confessed his crime to a friend.

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True’s attorney, James Howaniec, said in his opening statement Wednesday that the state’s star witness was one of three men charged in Parent’s murder. Nathan Morton, 25, of Greene landed a deal of 20 years in prison with half of that term suspended shortly before McNaughton went to trial, Howaniec said. That’s when the charge against True was elevated from hindering apprehension or prosecution, a Class B crime, to murder. Morton, who is an admitted liar, told police yet another of many stories, Howaniec said.

“Ask yourself whether that type of deal raises doubts about what you’re going to hear from the state’s star witness tomorrow,” Howaniec said.

The day a grand jury handed up a murder indictment against True in July marked the first day of testimony in McNaughton’s trial, more than a year after Parent’s body was found floating in Jug Stream in Monmouth, his body stripped of clothing and bound at ankles and wrists.

At his trial, McNaughton pointed a finger at True as an alternative suspect in the crime. True, it appears, will point right back.

Assistant Attorney General John Alsop said Wednesday that True, McNaughton and Morton lured Parent to a wooded area in Greene on the night of April 9, 2013, on the promise of stealing drugs at a camp there.

Instead, Morton drove the trio and parked while True and McNaughton took Parent into the woods and returned without him. The next day, the three returned to the spot and moved Parent’s lifeless body to the stream in Monmouth.

Parent had died of strangulation, but also had been stabbed in the back of the neck and beaten on the head, shoulder and torso, according to reports.

“It was a horrible, violent and painful death,” Alsop said.

Five days before he was killed, Parent confessed to police that he had participated in a burglary at an apartment on Pierce Street in Lewiston. He told police that True had been an accomplice and blew the whistle on those who bought the stolen goods. Police tracked down True at New Beginnings, a teen drop-in center on Lisbon Street, and arrested him and took him to jail.

Alsop said that was why Parent was killed.

“Romeo had done something which could not be tolerated in the world in which he lived,” Alsop said. “As a result of all of this, Romeo had become in the eyes of the community in which he lived, a snitch, a rat, whose conduct imperiled the criminal enterprises underway” by his friends and associates. “He had to be beaten down as a warning … that snitches get stitches.”

That’s when the plan to kill Parent was hatched, Alsop said.

After Parent was killed, True confessed to a longtime friend, Eric Leighton of Auburn, that he killed Parent. Leighton called police despite True’s warning to “shut up about it,” Alsop said.

Howaniec told the jury that much of Alsop’s account of the crime is “absolutely inaccurate.” The rest of the story will come out in testimony drawn out of the witnesses by the defense, Howaniec said.

True and Parent had mended their friendship after True was released from jail for the burglary, Howaniec said. Leighton will tell that to the jury, Howaniec promised.

“Everything was fine,” he said. “Just another day in downtown Lewiston.”

What the two sides in the case agree on is that McNaughton used a screwdriver he nicknamed “Pokie” and a makeshift garrote he nicknamed “Chokie” as his “tools of death” when he “violently and viciously” killed Parent, Howaniec said. A jury convicted McNaughton of murder after a three-week trial.

Howaniec characterized McNaughton as a “psychopathic killer,” but not the type you see in horror movies.

“If this guy is not a serial killer, it’s only because he hasn’t had the opportunity,” Howaniec said. “This guy’s a maniac.”

He said there would be no evidence presented at trial that True had anything to do with any weapons that caused Parent’s death.

Morton also was a “psychopath,” who was infatuated with McNaughton and would do anything to please him, Howaniec said.

Morton, a drug addict and drug dealer, was interviewed by police nine times and told more than 100 lies, Howaniec said. Getting Morton to reveal each of those lies under cross examination will be a “tedious and painful” process, Howaniec said, apologizing in advance.

In testimony Wednesday, a Lewiston police officer said he talked to Parent and True about the Pierce Street burglary and both men wrote statements admitting involvement.

A worker at New Beginnings said Parent had been asked to leave the center for making “the space unsafe” after police arrested True at the center.

A game warden described the recovery of Parent’s body at Jug Stream and the state’s chief medical examiner took jurors through his autopsy of Parent. Although Parent died from strangulation, other injuries included a small puncture at the base of his skull and contusions around his left eye, his scalp, the crest of his left shoulder and torso. He also suffered what could be considered a defensive wound on the back of his right hand, Dr. Mark Flomenbaum said.

cwilliams@sunjournal.com

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