HOULTON, Maine — A jury found Thayne Ormsby guilty on all counts Friday afternoon in the gruesome slayings of two men and a 10-year-old boy nearly two years ago in Amity.
Ormsby, 21, was convicted of three counts of murder and one count of arson. The jury’s verdicts were announced shortly before 3:30 p.m.
After deliberating for nearly two hours Friday, the jurors asked that the medical examiner’s testimony be read back to them. The read-back, which took about 1½ hours, concluded about 2:55 p.m.
The jury began deliberating just before noon Friday.
Ormsby was charged with three counts of intentional or knowing murder and one count of arson.
Ormsby, 21, pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity in the stabbing deaths of Jeffrey Ryan, 55, Ryan’s son Jesse, 10, and Ryan family friend Jason Dehahn, 30, all of Amity, on June 22, 2010. They were found dead about 27 hours after the killings at the Ryans’ home on U.S. Route 1, according to police.
Dr. Marguerite DeWitt testified on Monday, the first day of Ormsby’s trial. She no longer works for the state. DeWitt now teaches criminal justice at the University of Texas in Huntsville.
All three victims died of multiple stab wounds and — from the positions their bodies were found in — each did what little he could to protect himself or escape his attacker, she said.
When shown a knife Monday that prosecutors has said is the murder weapon, DeWitt said its size and shape were consistent with the wounds inflicted on the victims.
Defense attorney James M. Dunleavy admitted into evidence a second large knife found by police in the search of a tan Lincoln owned by Robert Strout. Detective Micah Perkins testified Tuesday that he found the “survival type knife” under the front passenger seat with red-brown stains on it. Under questioning by Dunleavy, the detective said there were red-brown stains on the knife.
Perkins testified that the knife, which, unlike the alleged murder weapon, had a serrated edge, was sent to the Maine State Crime Lab for testing but he did not know the results of those tests.
The defendant grew up in Ellsworth and went to Ellsworth High School until he dropped out his senior year. At the time of the killings, he was living with Robert Strout, 65, and his wife, Joy Strout, 63, in Orient.
Superior Court Justice E. Allen Hunter spent about 25 minutes Friday morning giving instructions to the jury. Lawyers then made their closing arguments.
The fifth day of Ormsby’s trial in Aroostook County Superior Court began Friday with the defense resting its case without calling any witnesses. The state rested its case Thursday afternoon after playing Ormsby’s videotaped confession for the jury.
Deputy Attorney General William Stokes, who prosecuted the case, told jurors in his closing argument that the evidence matched Ormsby’s confession.
“What he told the detectives and what you heard him say is totally consistent with the evidence,” Stokes said. “The defendant thought he had silenced all the victims. But now, almost two years later, the evidence speaks for Jeffrey Ryan, Jesse Ryan and Jason Dehahn.”
The prosecutor described the crime as “so shocking in its violence and brutality that it almost takes your breath away.”
Stokes urged the jury to find Ormsby guilty on all four charges.
Defense attorney Sarah LeClaire of Presque Isle suggested that Robert Strout, who was expected to testify against Ormsby but did not, might have been responsible for the crime.
“You may have cause to question Mr. Robert Strout’s role in this case,” she said.
She reminded the jury that two knives had been admitted into evidence and that one of them was found in Strout’s truck.
LeClaire asked jurors to take “into account what influences and pressure may have been brought to bear on Mr. Ormsby.”
During his final statement to the jury, Stokes held up the second knife.
“They want you to believe this is the knife,” he said. “Don’t you think if Dr. DeWitt had seen something that was a telltale sign of this serrated edge, she would have mentioned it? It’s all a distraction.”
Robert Strout pleaded guilty in October to hindering apprehension and arson in connection with Ormsby’s case. The older man admitted helping Ormsby set fire to Jeffrey Ryan’s pickup truck the day after the slayings to cover up evidence and taking Ormsby to New Hampshire to stay with Strout’s son, Robert Strout II. He is expected to be sentenced after Ormsby’s trial concludes.
Because of his insanity plea, Ormsby is being tried in two phases. In the first and longer phase, the jury was asked to find whether he was guilty of the charges on which he has been indicted. Now that he has been found guilty, the jury will hear evidence as to his state of mind at the time of the crime. Jurors then will be asked to determine whether Ormsby was criminally responsible for his actions.
If the jury finds he was insane when the crimes were committed, Ormsby would not be sent to prison but to the Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta for an undetermined amount of time. If jurors find him guilty and sane, Ormsby would face a sentence of between 25 years and life in prison on each of the murder charges. He would face up to 30 years in prison if convicted of arson.
Judges are allowed to impose life sentences in Maine under specific circumstances. One of them is being convicted of multiple murders.
The trial was scheduled to end April 20. The second phase most likely would begin Tuesday. The court will be closed Monday for Patriot’s Day.
Jurors were not informed at the start of Ormsby’s trial that it would be held in two phases.