FARMINGTON — A bag of marijuana and a “war of texts” began a chain of events that led to the shooting death of a New Sharon man June 1, 2016.
The murder trial of Timothy Danforth, 25, of Farmington, formerly of Wilton, got underway Monday with opening statements to the jury. The jury also visited the home of Robert Danforth, Timothy Danforth’s father, at 259 Weld Road in Wilton where the shooting took place on or near the porch/deck of the mobile home.
Danforth is accused of shooting Michael Reis, 24, of New Sharon three times with a shotgun.
Prior to the 14-member jury, including two alternates, entering the courtroom, Justice William Stokes said the state had made an offer to Danforth for a lesser charge of manslaughter.
Stokes confirmed with Danforth that he was aware of the offer and that he did not accept it. He also confirmed that Danforth did not want to have the trial postponed after new information was introduced.
Danforth pleaded not guilty to the murder charge Aug. 19, 2016. Murder is punishable by a minimum of 25 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison, Stokes said.
Assistant Attorney General Robert “Bud” Ellis, representing the state, told the court the “tragic, senseless incident” was over a $200 bag of marijuana.
Zachary Uhlman, who was 18 and is now believed to be 19, of Wilton was fronted a bag of marijuana by Robert Danforth, the father of Timothy, Ellis said.
Problems arose when Uhlman did not pay him back because he did not have any money, Ellis said.
The jurors will hear that Uhlman and Gary Brosius, 24, of Wilton, who considered himself the big brother and protector of Uhlman, were on their way home May 31 from a short vacation in Pennsylvania, Ellis said.
Uhlman received a text from a teenager notifying him that Timothy Danforth, who had a pistol on his hip, asked the teenager if he knew Zachary Uhlman. The teenager was told that Uhlman owed Danforth’s father $200. Danforth told him that if his father was not paid, he was going to beat up Uhlman as he used to, Ellis said.
Uhlman texted Robert Danforth and told him, “I hope your son’s guns are registered,” Ellis said. Robert Danforth became engaged in a “text battle” with Uhlman and Brosius, Ellis said.
Ellis and defense lawyer Sarah Glynn told jurors they would see a list of texts between the parties.
An attempt was made to set up a meeting at a local golf course between the parties, Ellis said. A group of Uhlman’s friends went, but Robert and Timothy Danforth did not show up.
The group went back to an apartment and then joined Uhlman who decided to go to Robert Danforth’s residence to try to settle the situation.
Matthew Kerr of New Sharon decided he would go with Brosius, Uhlman and Michael Reis, among others, with the intent to act as mediator because he knew both parties, Ellis said.
A female driver parked the car on the street, not too far from Danforth’s driveway where the trailer could be seen in the dark. Kerr got out of car and walked down the road and then down the driveway. He would testify that he heard a shotgun blast, Ellis said.
Then Reis got out of the car and walked down the road. A witness would testify that Reis walked down the driveway slowly with his hands up. Witnesses would say a short time later they heard Timothy Danforth say the next person who steps on the property is going to get shot, Ellis said.
Neither Kerr nor Reis had a weapon, Ellis said.
The shotgun pellets hit Reis’ toe, thigh and the crest of a shoulder and the pellets spread out through his chest, Ellis said. The shots hit an artery in his leg and damage was done to a pulmonary artery, which basically means he bled to death, Ellis said.
In Glynn’s opening statement, she said, “You will be asked to decide if Tim Danforth committed the crime of murder. No, he did not. We will present a case of self-defense,” she said, defense of property and defense of family.
Danforth and his girlfriend were taking over his father’s trailer, Glynn said. There was a “war of words” over the unpaid-for bag of marijuana with Uhlman and Brosius continuously texting Danforth so much so that Robert Danforth shut the phone off for two hours, she said.
At one point, Timothy Danforth called his mother who knew Uhlman’s mother to see if she could get it to stop.
Timothy Danforth told Kerr to leave the property. He also fired a warning shot, Glynn said.
In the pitch dark, a stranger who had been drinking and had glazed eyes came up on the deck and went after Robert Danforth and continued to approach, Glynn said. The person who turned out to be Reis kept coming and did not stop until the third shot, she said.
Friends who were in the vehicle picked up Kerr and Reis after he was shot.
“They did not call 911. They did not call police. The Danforth clan did,” Glynn said.
The jury will have to decide who is credible, who is consistent and who is not, and who outright lied, she said.
Police say that Reis’ friends drove him to a Farmington hospital where he was pronounced dead.
The trial will resume at 9 a.m. Tuesday at Franklin County Superior Court.
Timothy Danforth appears in Franklin County Superior Court during the first day of his murder trial in Farmington on Monday.
Timothy Danforth, left, walks with his attorney, Sarah Glynn, and co-counsel Jeffrey Wilson, during a visit to the scene where Danforth is accused of shooting Michael Reis to death. The jury visited the home of Danforth’s father on Weld Road during the first day of Danforth’s murder trial on Monday.
Justice William Stokes, top right, talks with the defense team, members of the Attorney General’s office and courthouse staff prior to a break for lunch at the Franklin County Superior Court in Farmington on Monday.
Assistant Attorney General Robert “Bud” Ellis glances at informational diagrams during the first day of Timothy Danforth’s murder trial in Farmington on Monday.
Timothy Danforth, left, talks with his co-counsel, Jeffrey Wilson, prior to the start of Danforth’s murder trial in Franklin County Superior Court on Monday.
Justice William Stokes listens to opening statements during the first day of Timothy Danforth’s murder trial in Franklin County Superior Court in Farmington on Monday.
Timothy Danforth walks with his attorney, Sarah Glynn, during a visit to the scene where Danforth is accused of shooting Michael Reis to death. The jury visited the home of Danforth’s father on Weld Road during the first day of Danforth’s murder trial on Monday.