AUBURN — A witness testified in court Tuesday that murder defendant William True told him the victim “had been taken care of” the night he was killed.
Theodore Gagnon said in Androscoggin County Superior Court that True, 21, of Lewiston had spoken that phrase the night 20-year-old Romeo Parent was killed in a wooded area in Greene.
True had been seeking a place to stay and something to eat shortly before midnight on April 9, 2013. Police said Parent was killed at about 9 p.m. that night.
Gagnon, who lived in a Lewiston apartment, said True showed up at his door and “appeared to be distressed about something.”
True had asked to stay that night at Gagnon’s apartment. Gagnon, who had allowed his friend to stay with him four or five times before, turned him down that night. True asked if he could eat something; Gagnon gave True some packages of Ramen noodles and sent him on his way.
Gagnon said he became upset after True’s declaration about his friend and slammed the door behind True, who said he planned to sleep under a bridge. Gagnon, who said he knew Parent “very well” and loved him, said he had cried after his encounter with True.
Earlier that night, Gagnon had spoken briefly to Parent before he watched him drive off from a local drugstore with two other men who were later charged with murder in Parent’s slaying. True’s murder charge came more than a year later, in July.
Gagnon said he had been riding with a friend who stopped her car when she saw Parent walking along the street on the evening of April 9, 2013. Gagnon said the driver talked on her phone, telling someone that she had found Parent. She got out of her car and stayed with Parent at a CVS pharmacy on Union Street Bypass. About 20 minutes later, when Gagnon returned, he watched a black Volkswagen Passat pull into the CVS parking lot to get Parent.
Gagnon said Tuesday that he had asked Parent at the CVS whether he had “harsh feelings” because Gagnon had declined to let him continue to stay at his apartment several days earlier. According to Gagnon, Parent told him he didn’t bear a grudge. Gagnon told Parent to be careful before the black car left with him in the back seat.
Asked why he had told Parent to exercise caution, Gagnon said it was “out of natural concern for my friend” and added, “something didn’t seem right.”
It was later that night, after Parent had been killed, that True appeared at Gagnon’s apartment.
Gagnon had heard that Parent had implicated True in a burglary they’d committed together a week earlier. Gagnon said he’d heard that Parent was killed for having told police about True’s involvement in the burglary, for which True had spent a weekend in jail. Gagnon said Tuesday he was fearful about disclosing True’s statement to police or his friends because word was out that bad things happened to informants.
In fact, it wasn’t until the day before jury selection for True’s trial last week that Gagnon told prosecutors what True had said to him on the night Parent was killed after having kept it from them for more than a year and a half.
Defense attorney James Howaniec asked Gagnon during cross-examination on Tuesday: “Weren’t you concerned that Will True was going to get away with murder?”
Gagnon answered: “Yes.”
Gagnon said he shared other details with police about the events of that night, including True’s plea for food and shelter but was reluctant to reveal True’s statement out of fear for his physical safety.
Another witness at True’s murder trial said Tuesday that True and Michael McNaughton, 27, of Lewiston had been seeking Parent’s whereabouts earlier in the day before he was killed.
Christopher Belanger, 30, said he had been staying with his sister at her Lewiston apartment when True and McNaughton came by on April 9, 2013, looking for Parent. The two told Belanger that Parent had “snitched” on True.
Belanger, who said he had been friends with Parent, told the two men not to do anything stupid when they found Parent.
Later that night, McNaughton returned with scratches on his neck and blood on his shirt. He confessed to having killed Parent and “told me exactly how he did it” by stabbing, punching and strangling his victim, Belanger testified Tuesday.
He took a shower and had Belanger’s sister shave his head.
Belanger said he was “very upset” and started crying at the news of his friend’s slaying. “After that I didn’t want anything to do with him.”
McNaughton was convicted of murder in July after a three-week jury trial.
Nathan Morton, 25, of Greene testified earlier at True’s trial that he drove the car that picked up Parent at the CVS and delivered True, McNaughton and Parent to the path in the woods in Greene where Parent was killed on April 9, 2013. Morton said True and McNaughton lured Parent there on the promise that they would be stealing drugs.
On the fifth day of True’s trial, Justice MaryGay Kennedy sent the jury home after lunch because of inclement weather.