SKOWHEGAN — Rose Gray said she looked over at Luc Tieman at the defendant’s table as the jury entered the courtroom April 9, ready to deliver its verdict on whether the 34-year-old had murdered his wife intentionally.
Tieman – accused of shooting Valerie Tieman and burying her in a grave filled with love notes, a wedding ring, perfume and a bag of potato chips – just stood there, stoic.
For several days she heard him change his story, contradicting himself about his wife’s disappearance and death. She said she saw through the lies: professing love for Valerie Tieman even as he got confused by his own stories that were undercut by a mountain of evidence.
Deliberations took less than an hour. The verdict was guilty on a charge of intentional or knowing murder.
Gray, who was appointed jury forewoman, had been watching Tieman for the entire five-day trial, measuring every move, listening to every word. She didn’t believe him.
Gray, 60, a medical assistant for HealthReach Community Health Centers, said Tieman appeared to show no emotion the entire time, even after he was convicted of murder in the shooting death of his wife in 2016. He claimed no responsibility for her death until the very end.
“He was consistently dishonest with law enforcement,” Gray said of Tieman. “He changed his story too many times. He showed no emotion. Even when the verdict was read, he showed no emotion. He just looked straight ahead.”
‘RUNNING OUT OF STORIES TO USE’
The Tieman murder case grabbed statewide attention in August 2016 as the story of a wounded Army veteran and his wife unfolded, initially as a concocted story of Valerie having left him for another man. The story then shifted to the shocking and bizarre discovery of Valerie’s remains behind his parents’ home in Fairfield, found buried with the personal items and love notes to “Joy Joy,” from “Luc-e Bear” – their nicknames for each other.
Gray was one of about 200 people who were interviewed over two days March 29-30 to seat a 14-member panel, including two alternates. In the end, seven men and five women would determine Tieman’s fate.
The Morning Sentinel attempted to contact all 12 jurors, based on a list provided by the court, seeking comment on the verdict and their deliberations. Only two responded: Gray and Tasha Raymond, of Norridgewock. Gray said the jury was made up of a cross-section of the Somerset County community – some retirees, a woman who works at New Balance, a pellet stove mechanic, a housewife.
Both Gray and Raymond said in interviews that they were influenced profoundly by the fact that Tieman – who testified on the stand against his attorney’s advice and also gave his own closing argument – changed his stories too often.
Valerie Tieman, who was 34, died from two gunshot wounds to the head and neck. Police and prosecutors say Tieman killed his wife on Aug. 25, 2016, less than a full day after he had sex with another woman he had just met at a pool party in Waterville.
Another woman had sent Valerie messages after the pool party, telling her that her husband was cheating on her. The next day Valerie was dead.
Tieman buried his wife’s body, fully clothed and wrapped in a blanket, in a shallow grave behind his parents’ house on Norridgewock Road in Fairfield.
“I started feeling intuitively that he was guilty when the (state police) officers explained to him that they had found her body,” said Raymond, 33, a school teacher and current stay-at-home mother.
She said Tieman’s “constant focus” leading investigators to various locations he said he had visited with Valerie, seemingly making up stories as he went, made her feel as though “there was something else he wasn’t being 100 percent truthful about.”
The stories of her leaving him from the Skowhegan Walmart parking lot and of her dying from a heroin overdose were not believable, she said.
“The clincher was when, the next day, Tieman was told his wife died from two bullet wounds, not an overdose, and Tieman seemed to freeze,” Raymond continued. “Hearing the audio and Tieman’s attempt to create another story, yet fail miserably, had me convinced that he killed his wife and was running out of stories to use.”
She said the rest of the evidence produced by the prosecution – cellphone records, notes found in Valerie’s grave and in her personal effects, the gun and the paternal DNA on the gun handle left no doubt in her mind that he was guilty.
Raymond added that having the case over the weekend of April 7 and 8 gave jurors time to consider the evidence and return Monday with a verdict in about 45 minutes.
Gray said when the jury was sent in for deliberations on April 9, there was a flurry of talk now that jurors finally were able to speak to each other about the case.
“Because we couldn’t discuss (the case) at all during the whole trial, when we went into deliberations a lot of people were talking at once,” said Gray, who is the wife of Randall Gray, Skowhegan’s code enforcement officer. “When we got settled down … within probably 10 or 15 minutes we kind of did a mock vote and everyone voted guilty; but some people (voted) guilty with questions, so we discussed the questions.
“Why did it take about 45 minutes? He was just so unbelievable. Everybody got done looking at the evidence, and I said, ‘Why don’t we have a real vote?’ Everyone raised their hand.”
Gray said that right after she circled “guilty” on the verdict form and was signing it, Superior Court Justice Robert Mullen, who presided over the trial, sent in a note asking the panel if they wanted lunch or if they wanted to wait.
“I checked off ‘wait’ – we have a verdict,” she said.
After the verdict was read, Gray hugged Valerie Tieman’s parents, Allen and Sarajean Harmon, as Allen wept.
“I hugged her parents when I left,” Gray said. “Her dad looked at me when I sat back down after the verdict and he smiled at me. It made me feel good that I got justice for them — or we got justice for them.”
Tieman, a disabled Army veteran who served in Iraq and reportedly suffers from severe post-traumatic stress disorder, faces 25 years to life in prison for the murder of his wife. A sentencing date will be scheduled for sometime next month.
During the trial, he professed his undying love for Valerie.
Authorities said they found, buried with her body, a note to “Joy Joy,” Tieman’s affectionate nickname for his wife and signed by him using his own nickname “Luc-e Bear.” Other notes found in Valerie’s possessions also were signed “Luc-e Bear.”
Gray said the jury had the original notes to examine in the jury room, and she compared the handwriting. They appeared to have been written by the same man – Luc Tieman.
The evidence against Tieman, who maintained his innocence right to the end, was too much, Gray said, resulting in the jury reaching a verdict so quickly.
“One thing that kind of got to me and the other jurors, mostly women, was when he was talking to the police officers before they found her body. He was talking about being with Billi-Jo,” she said. “He said that women were just attracted to him. He didn’t know why. That kind of didn’t set well with some of the women.”
Tieman had told police that Billi-Jo Hawes was his “rebound girl” after Valerie had left him for another man. He moved in with her two days after he killed his wife, police said.
Gray said the fact that Tieman had taken the stand against his lawyer’s advice, appearing confused by his own tangled web of stories, and even had delivered closing remarks himself, did not convince the jury of his innocence.
Quite the contrary.
The murder took place 15 days before Valerie Tieman’s parents reported her missing on Sept. 9, 2016, and five days before Tieman claimed his wife disappeared from the Walmart parking lot in Skowhegan.
Video footage from surveillance cameras at Walmart did not show Tieman’s truck at the store on any day from Aug. 21, 2016, to Aug. 31, 2016.
He did not report her missing.
Luc Tieman later said she died of a heroin overdose.
According to the autopsy report, Valerie Tieman’s cause of death was gunshot wounds to head and neck inflicted by someone else, meaning it was not a suicide. There was no heroin in Valerie’s system.
“I listened to every word,” Gray said. “He was always changing his story. He was very unbelievable. Everybody on the jury felt like he knew what was in the burial site before it came out what was in the burial site. He knew what was there. Only the person that did that would know what was buried with her body. All of the jurors agreed on that.”
Gray said serving on a jury with 11 other people she had never met before was an experience of a lifetime and a powerful glimpse into the workings of the criminal justice system.
“It wasn’t something I had on my bucket list, but I’ll put it on my bucket list and cross it off,” she said. “I always said that I would not want to be on a murder trial, but it was very interesting. I learned a lot. I learned how the process is.
“I learned how much evidence they actually have to do and how much investigating and how well the police officers and law enforcement did. I think they did an excellent job of figuring this out.”
Did any of the jurors feel bad about sending Tieman to prison for what could be the rest of his life?
“No,” she said with emphasis. “No one felt bad for him at all.
“I don’t think he knows what love is. I don’t think he’s ever loved anyone.”
Jury forewoman Rose Gray, at her Skowhegan home April 11, says the panel was in deliberations less than an hour after Luc Tieman’s five-day murder trial before they declared him guilty. (Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel)