FARMINGTON — A jury deliberated more than four hours Friday before recessing for the weekend without a verdict in the Timothy Danforth murder trial. Jurors will reconvene Monday morning.
Danforth, 25, of Farmington, formerly of Wilton, is accused of shooting Michael Reis, 24, of New Sharon three times with a shotgun on June 1, 2016. The third shot was fatal.
Lawyers for the defense and prosecution presented closing arguments Friday in the trial that began Monday.
Both sides agreed that the death was a “tragic, senseless incident,” as Assistant Attorney General Robert “Bud” Ellis called it.
“It was a fight over a $200 bag of marijuana that got out of control,” he said.
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 Danforth. Problems arose after a couple of months when Uhlman did not pay him back.
Considering the 140 pieces of evidence presented, Ellis told the jury it was like a jigsaw puzzle and they would have to try to fit the pieces together to determine what happened at 259 Weld Road.
According to witnesses, Reis, Uhlman and four others attempted to meet the Danforths at a golf course near their home to settle the conflict over the debt. When the Danforths didn’t show up, one of the six approached the home and the others heard a gunshot.
Reis then approached the home and was shot, according to witnesses.
Ellis said in his closing statement that through a barrage of texts and phone calls, back and forth throughout the day and evening, Uhlman had sought a “hand-to-hand, man-to-man with no weapons” confrontation.
Ellis recounted text messages from Timothy Danforth to a female during the evening in which he wrote he was probably going to jail soon. “Got gun ready, carload coming,” he wrote. He had three guns, two bats and five knives, according to the texts.
Andrew Goding of Wilton had testified that when he went to the Weld Road house trailer June 1, Timothy Goding said, “If any anything happened and I killed someone, I don’t think a jury of my peers would convict me.”
“Doesn’t that sound like he’s already thinking?” Ellis said.
He said there was no evidence that Reis or Matthew Kerr, who had approached the home to try to mediate the situation, had a weapon.
The defense claimed the shooting was in self-defense, but Ellis disputed that.
All of the witnesses said they heard Timothy Danforth shout, “The next person on my property gets shot,” Ellis said. “Does it sound like someone in fear, needing to defend himself or someone living up to his words?”
Defense lawyer Jeffrey Wilson said in his closing statement that the state had not “come close to meeting the burden of proving (Timothy Danforth) guilty.”
After Danforth’s warning, Reis ignored it and went up onto the porch in black clothing on a black night. “That’s defending yourself, your father, your fiancee inside and defense of your castle,” Wilson said.
He reminded the jury to think of the inconsistencies.
Phone logs show Robert Danforth was called 67 times within a few hours; witnesses said three to four times.
Kerr was the only eyewitness to the shooting. He changed his testimony regarding where Timothy and Robert were standing on the porch when Reis approached. Kerr also said the shooting started when Reis was at the bottom step. That doesn’t agree with the state’s expert witness who reconstructed the scene with a dummy and measured, according to Reis’ wounds, Wilson said.
Reis was on the porch and may have made it up to four feet from the steps, according to the expert witness.
Robert Danforth said he pushed this unknown person off the steps two or three times, but he kept coming back.
Wilson urged the jury to imagine the panic of threatening calls all day. A car pulls up in the dark and parks down behind trees where the Danforths couldn’t see them. Kerr comes out of the dark. There is a warning shot. Kerr says there are people up there who want to fight. There were six in the car including Kerr, Reis, Uhlman, Gary Brosius, Qaim Malik and Kayla Gordon, who drove.