AUBURN – The two men pointed fingers at each other right to the end.
The end came Thursday when the judge pointed a finger at each of them.
Thomas Dyer was sentenced to 47 years in prison and Gary Gauthier Jr., 60 years for the murders of James Vining and John Graffam.
The defendants, both from Auburn, tried to pin the blame on each other. Dyer, 21, had testified at trial, detailing the killings. He said he went along because he was afraid Gauthier might do the same to him. He apologized to the victims’ families shortly before he was sentenced.
“I still don’t know why it happened,” he said Thursday. “I’m sorry I put this pain on everybody. Nobody deserved it.”
Gauthier, 26, who said nothing during the weeklong trial in October, on Thursday gave a markedly different account of events, differing even from the evidence-based defense his attorney argued during the trial.
For nearly a half-hour, Gauthier talked about his family life, his innocence and his betrayal at the hands of Dyer, a former friend. To his lawyer’s apparent chagrin, Gauthier offered his version of the murders, in which Dyer played a major role and Gauthier almost no role.
The four men were drinking in a remote location by railroad tracks when Gauthier saw Dyer stomping on 30-year-old Graffam, Gauthier said. Then, “for no reason,” Vining, 43, charged at him. He punched Vining in the jaw; Vining passed out.
Back at Gauthier’s car, Dyer grabbed something out of the trunk and went back to the site while Gauthier stayed behind, he said.
“This is the true events of what happened,” he said, adding that he was willing to take a lie-detector test. He was guilty only of cowardice, he said.
“I made a poor choice and I obeyed Mr. Dyer’s wishes” by leaving the two men to die, he said.
If the judge believes he killed the two men, Gauthier said he should be put to death.
“I deserve capital punishment,” he said.
Maine does not have a death penalty statute.
Androscoggin County Superior Court Justice Thomas Delahanty II reminded both men that a jury had convicted them of committing murder in a “cruel and vicious manner” that September 2005 night. After drinking heavily, the victims were lured into Lewiston woods where they were beaten to death with a baseball bat. Their bodies were hidden in shallow graves; their wallets taken to hide their identities.
Dyer and Gauthier, wearing bright orange jail uniforms, each stood as Delahanty explained their sentences. He started with a base sentence of 50 years, then added or subtracted, depending on other factors.
He told Dyer his mental health problems, growing up in foster care and substance abuse played a part in reducing his sentence. He has a medium to high risk of reoffending, according to pre-sentencing reports, Delahanty said. Although Dyer minimized his role in the murders in his confession to police and during the trial, he has shown remorse.
Dyer squeezed his eyes shut when Delahanty imposed his sentence.
Then Delahanty asked Gauthier to stand.
“You have shown no remorse or even empathy that James Vining and John Graffam are dead,” Delahanty said. “You have not accepted any share of responsibility.”
In a letter to a Sun Journal reporter, Gauthier was “blaming everybody else” and denigrating the victims as bums, Delahanty said.
“That’s not the point, Mr. Gauthier,” Delahanty said. “They were human beings … and they did not deserve to die.”
He referred to a 2001 incident involving a baseball bat in which Gauthier assaulted a handicapped person.
Lianne Micks, Graffam’s mother, clutched a framed photograph of her son and grandson while she addressed Dyer and Gauthier.
“Look at this picture,” she said. “They didn’t deserve what happened to them.”
She asked Dyer why he allowed Graffam to die. Her son had allowed Dyer to stay at his apartment.
“He was nice to you,” she said. “I hope you have nightmares.”
Later, Micks said she was satisfied with the sentences.
“I’m happy,” she said.
Elizabeth Fogg, Vining’s one-time fiancee and mother of their 22-year-old daughter, Amanda, said she would have liked to see them serve more time. She said she believed “not a word” of either of their stories.
Dyer’s attorney, Peter Rodway, asked for a sentence of no more than 25 years. Robert Ruffner, Gauthier’s attorney, was seeking a maximum of 35 years for his client. Both lawyers said they expected to appeal the convictions and sentences.
Both said they planned to argue that the grand jury indictment was defective, because it carried a single count for the murder of both victims. For that reason, the jury should have been instructed to determine whether each defendant was guilty of murdering each of the victims before returning a guilty verdict.