AUBURN — A Greene man told a jury Thursday that he assisted in the murder of 20-year-old Romeo Parent of Lewiston by driving the victim and his killers to the crime scene one night in April 2013.
Nathan Morton, 25, was the only witness to take the stand in Androscoggin County Superior Court on the second day of the murder trial of William True, 21, of Lewiston.
Morton also told the jury he was promised by prosecutors that he would spend only 10 years of a 20-year sentence in prison if he were to tell the truth at trial.
Prosecutors hope the jury believes Morton’s testimony; the defense will be seeking to diminish Morton’s credibility with the jury.
Morton, the state’s star witness in the case, has placed True at the scene of the crime in a wooded area in Greene at the time Parent was beaten, stabbed and strangled.
Morton had been charged with murder, conspiracy to commit murder and hindering apprehension or prosecution. Prosecutors dropped the murder charge when Morton agreed to testify against two other defendants, including True, also charged with murder in Parent’s slaying.
Morton said Thursday he hadn’t told police about True’s involvement in Parent’s killing because Morton had been a good friend of True’s girlfriend, Felicia Cadman.
“I was trying to protect him because I was friends with his girlfriend and didn’t want her boyfriend to go to prison,” Morton said.
Morton also gave a second reason for keeping True’s name under wraps until he finally came clean with police on June 30 that True had, in fact, been in the woods off South Mountain Road in Greene on the night of April 9, 2013.
That reason had to do with Michael McNaughton, 27, of Lewiston, the other man charged with Parent’s murder, and who was convicted by a jury in July following a three-week trial. Morton, who had been infatuated with McNaughton, had been rewarded with sex with him the night he had murdered Parent, Morton told the jury Thursday. McNaughton had told Morton not to tell anyone that True had been with them that night. McNaughton told Morton he hoped eventually to pin Parent’s murder on True.
It turned out all three were charged with Parent’s murder.
Under direct examination by prosecutors on Thursday, Morton said he had driven Parent, McNaughton and True to the trail head in Greene, where the three had exited Morton’s Volkswagen Passat sedan and headed into the woods. They had lured Parent there on the promise of a prospective drug theft.
Morton sat in his car waiting, high on illegal drugs, listening to music and texting friends when he heard a scream come from the direction the three men had traveled on foot, he said. Later, McNaughton returned to the car in need of a flashlight. He solicited Morton’s help in searching for a dropped screwdriver that prosecutors say McNaughton used to stab Parent in the base of his skull while he strangled Parent with a makeshift garrote.
Morton described for the jury how he entered the woods unsteadily that night, walking with assistance from leg braces and the flashlight application on his smartphone. He saw Parent lying on the ground at the side of the trail and saw True standing nearby, but he couldn’t find the missing screwdriver.
He drove McNaughton and True back to Lewiston that night, telling no one — not even Cadman, True’s girlfriend — that True had been with them.
The next day, Morton drove McNaughton back to the crime scene, where Morton was spotted by two women parked at the entrance to the trail. McNaughton had searched again for his screwdriver but had failed a second time. He told Morton they had to go to Lewiston to recruit True to help move Parent’s body to a different location.
When Morton and McNaughton picked up True at an apartment at Pleasant View Acres in Lewiston, True was wearing shorts and a T-shirt, Morton said.
That description of clothing will take on added importance later because Parent’s blood was found on True’s pant leg. If the blood transfer happened when True made contact with Parent’s body, either Morton was mistaken and True had been wearing pants that day after Parent was killed, or True was at the crime scene the night Parent was killed.
Morton said he drove McNaughton and True back to the crime scene where they wrapped Parent’s lifeless body in trash bags and loaded it into the trunk of his car. He drove to the dam at Jug Stream in Monmouth, where McNaughton and True hauled Parent’s body to the river to dispose of it.
Defense attorney James Howaniec told the jury Wednesday during opening statements at the start of the trial that Morton’s testimony shouldn’t be believed, that he was interviewed by police nine times and told more than 100 lies. Morton has admitted lying to police during pretrial interviews.
The defense is expected to cross-examine Morton on Friday as True’s trial continues.