Murder trial witness says he lied repeatedly to police but should be believed in court

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AUBURN — A witness who said William True was present when 20-year-old Romeo Parent was murdered freely admitted Friday that he lied to police repeatedly and on many occasions, but he insisted he was telling the truth in court.

True, 21, of Lewiston is charged with killing Parent on the night of April 9, 2013, in a wooded area in Greene.

Nathan Morton, 25, of Greene was interviewed by police nine times after Parent was slain. Morton repeatedly denied that True had been involved in Parent’s death, even when directly asked that question by detectives.

Morton said he had kept quiet about True’s participation in deference to True’s girlfriend, Felicia Cadman, who was Morton’s good friend. Morton also said he had been told by his friend and lover, Michael McNaughton, 27, of Lewiston, to omit True from his account of the slaying.

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But Morton said Friday, the third day of True’s murder trial, that his “feelings toward different people” changed over time. His feelings toward True hadn’t changed, Morton said. But his feelings toward Cadman had changed “a little bit,” Morton said in court Friday.

In a June 30 interview with police, Morton implicated True in Parent’s killing. Less than a week later, True was indicted on a murder charge by an Androscoggin County grand jury. 

True’s attorney, James Howaniec, cross-examined Morton on Friday in Androscoggin County Superior Court, asking him whether a “sweetheart deal” offered by prosecutors helped change his mind in reversing his account of events by placing True at the scene of the crime.

If Morton were to testify truthfully in court, a murder charge against him would be dropped, prosecutors told him. He would be given a 20-year sentence, of which half would be suspended, on charges of conspiracy to commit murder and hindering apprehension or prosecution in Parent’s killing. Morton accepted the agreement.

Morton served as the driver to South Mountain Road in Greene the night of April 9, 2013, having already picked the spot where Parent would be killed. He said he drove Parent, McNaughton and True to the wooded trail under the guise of a planned drug theft.

McNaughton, who was convicted of murder in July following a three-week jury trial, stabbed Parent in the base of the skull with a screwdriver and strangled him with a makeshift garrote, fashioned from a bicycle cable and wooden dowels.

Morton testified that True went into the woods with McNaughton and Parent the night Parent was killed. Morton said he was later beckoned to the crime scene by McNaughton, who had dropped his screwdriver and needed the flashlight application on Morton’s cellphone to try to find it. Morton said he saw Parent’s lifeless body on the ground beside the trial. He said True was nearby.

Howaniec led Morton through the initial police interviews, Morton often reading his answers from a transcript. Howaniec periodically stopped Morton to ask whether his answer to police was a lie. Each time, Morton responded: “Yeah.”

“You’ve told many lies to the police?” Howaniec said.

“Yeah,” Morton said.

“You told lies repeatedly to the police?” Howaniec said.

“Yeah,” Morton said.

“You told lies through nine interviews with the police?” Howaniec said.

“Yeah,” Morton said.

“Despite all these lies you’ve told, the jury should believe you?” Howaniec said.

“Yeah,” Morton said.

Morton said he sought to minimize his culpability in Parent’s killing during police questioning. He said he told detectives that he didn’t think McNaughton would kill Parent but merely beat him up for having implicated True in a burglary the previous week.

When a police detective asked Morton who should be held accountable for Parent’s killing, Morton told him that True shouldn’t be held responsible because his only involvement was in helping to move Parent’s body the next day from the woods in Greene to Jug Stream in Monmouth.

Howaniec pointed out to Morton that he had implicated himself and McNaughton in Parent’s murder. “Did it occur to you that you should implicate True?” Howaniec asked.

“Not at first,” Morton said.

Earlier on Friday, Assistant Attorney General John Alsop asked Morton to read aloud in court written Facebook exchanges with one of his friends after Parent was killed. Contrary to what Morton was telling police at that time, he had written to his friend that he, McNaughton and True were the only ones involved in Parent’s murder.

Morton said he was “weirded out” by the plan to kill Parent but didn’t take any action to foil that plan. Morton said he did as McNaughton had told him to do.

cwilliams@sunjournal.com

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