AUBURN — Testimony in the murder trial of William True concluded Monday without the defendant taking the witness stand.
True, 21, of Lewiston stood and told Androscoggin County Superior Court Justice MaryGay Kennedy on Monday morning, “I wish not to testify.”
True is charged in the April 9, 2013, slaying of Romeo Parent, 20, of Lewiston.
Prosecutors rested their case Monday after more than eight days of presenting witnesses. The defense also rested Monday, having offered no witnesses.
Closing arguments are scheduled for Tuesday morning. Afterward, Kennedy is expected to instruct the jury on the law and explain what jurors may and may not consider during their deliberations.
The state presented nearly two dozen witnesses ranging from acquaintances of True to crime laboratory scientists aimed at bolstering its case against him.
Prosecutors told the jury at the outset that Parent had been beaten, stabbed with a screwdriver at the base of his skull and strangled with a makeshift garrote fashioned from wire and wooden dowels.
He had been lured into a wooded area in Greene the night of April 9, 2013, by Michael McNaughton, 27, of Lewiston, Nathan Morton, 25, of Greene and True on the promise of a drug theft.
All of the men were known to each other and had been involved in illegal drug trade in the Twin Cities. Morton had done the driving in his 2007 Volkswagen Passat sedan.
McNaughton was convicted of murder in July following a three-week trial.
Prosecutors had offered Morton a 20-year sentence of which 10 years would be suspended if he were to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit murder and hindering apprehension or prosecution in exchange for his trial testimony. A murder charge would be dropped.
Prosecutors had believed that True had participated in the stripping and moving of Parent’s body to Jug Stream in Monmouth on April 10, 2013, the day after Parent’s killing. True had been charged with hindering and had been scheduled to go to trial with McNaughton in July. But, a week after Morton signed a statement implicating True in Parent’s killing, True was indicted on a murder charge and McNaughton’s trial was underway, without True as a co-defendant.
One of the state’s final witnesses, Kathryn Boverman of South Mountain Road in Greene, testified Monday morning that she remembered seeing a shiny, dark-colored sedan parked at the entrance to a wooded trail on that road. She had been taking a mid-morning walk, she said. The man in the car was white, freckled with reddish brown hair and eyeglasses.
She asked him what he was doing. He told her that one of his “buddies” had lost his cellphone along the trail the night before while four-wheeling. She testified that she hadn’t remembered hearing any noise of that kind coming from that area the night before. She said she told the man that all-terrain vehicles weren’t allowed on the trails. A couple of minutes later, she said she encountered a second young man who “literally jumped out of the forest.”
She asked whether he had found his cellphone. He answered that he hadn’t, but would, she said.
The state’s last witness to testify before it wrapped up its case Monday was Cynthia Homer, a forensic scientist at the Maine State Police Lab in Augusta. She said the tires belonging to Morton’s car that had been impounded by police could not be eliminated as those that had left tracks found at the end of the path that led to the crime scene.
She also had analyzed plastic trash bags found in Jug Stream along with Parent’s body and concluded they had been connected at one time to a trash bag from the James Street, Auburn, apartment where Eric Leighton lived on April 10, 2013. Leighton had testified earlier at trial that True had entered his apartment on that day seeking a duffel bag and confessing to having killed Parent. Leighton said he gave True two of the trash bags instead.
Homer also testified Monday that strips of cloth that had bound Parent’s ankles and one wrist had once been attached to a sheet found balled in a ditch along Route 202. Another witness testified that sheet had been taken from a Blake Street apartment for the purpose of disposing of Parent’s body.
Prosecutors contend True had a motive to kill Parent: he had implicated True in a burglary the week before Parent was killed. True had gone to jail; Parent had not.
Parent’s blood was found on True’s pant leg, a piece of physical evidence that ties him to the victim. And True offered no alibi for his whereabouts at the time Parent was killed. Even his girlfriend was looking for him.
The defense focused on the fact that True was not charged with Parent’s murder until more than a year after the crime when Morton swore out a statement that put True at the scene. Morton, who admitted lying repeatedly, got a “sweetheart” deal in the process, the defense said. There was no evidence offered by the state that True had anything to do with the instruments of Parent’s killing, defense attorney James Howaniec said at the start of the trial.