Portland man on trial in shooting death of friend

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PORTLAND (AP) – A Portland man charged in the murder of a friend after a night out on the town enlisted his father and brother to help get rid of the body and then told them to not tell police, a prosecutor told jurors as the trial got under way Monday.

Steven Clark, 29, claims that last February’s fatal shooting of Robert Wagner, 28, of Gray, was an accident.

In her opening statement to a Cumberland County Superior Court jury, Assistant Attorney General Lisa Marchese said that Clark got his brother and father to help bury Wagner’s body in a shallow grave on property owned by his father in Baldwin.

Clark also told them to stay quiet about what had happened, she said. Combined, those things show the shooting was more than just an accident, Marchese said.

Clark’s attorney, Joel Vincent, told jurors in a short opening statement that the case is about fear – Clark’s fear of Wagner and his fear of Portland police.

Clark, Wagner and some friends spent time the night of Feb. 14, 2006, at the Platinum Plus strip club before going to Clark’s house in the early morning hours.

There, Wagner and Clark were passing a loaded gun back and forth when the gun went off and a bullet struck Wagner in the head, according to prosecutors.

Clark later told his father that Wagner was suffering, so he shot him again to put him out of his misery, wrapped the body in a blanket, hid it behind a couch and washed the floors with bleach to clean up the blood, according to an affidavit.

Clark also told his father that he would kill himself if the father ever told police about their conversation. Clark’s father and brother have not been charged.

Clark was known among his friends as a partyer who liked to drive his Hummer, drink alcohol and take drugs, and get into scuffles in the Old Port. He was facing mounting debts and had recently shut down his mortgage business, Sebago Lake Mortgage Co.

The day after Clark’s arrest, the state issued an order that barred him from re-entering the mortgage profession without state permission, saying he did not possess the “necessary financial responsibility, character or fitness” to own or operate a lending business.

The order said Clark owed nearly $15,000 in fines and payments to former employees and customers.

The trial is expected to last through the end of the week.

AP-ES-01-22-07 1258EST

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