FARMINGTON — A retired rural mail carrier testified Wednesday about her close encounter with a driver prosecutors believe was fleeing a murder scene more than 26 years ago.

Eloise Ault, of Wayne, delivered mail on Jan. 6, 1983, along Watson Heights Road in Fayette, where Judith L. Flagg, 23, was found dead by her husband late that night.

Just before noon, on the crest of a hill and in a snow squall, Ault narrowly avoided a head-on collision with an unfamiliar, two-door vehicle. Authorities say that driver was Thomas H. Mitchell Jr., 52, who is on trial for murder in Franklin County Superior Court.

Ault reported the encounter the day after the homicide and worked with Richard Reitchel, who was a detective with the Maine State Police at the time, to prepare a composite sketch of the driver. Reitchel testified after Ault.

On the stand Wednesday she described for Deputy Attorney General William Stokes the near-accident and the driver who sped off.

“The driver was a young man, extremely neat, light brown hair in a boy cut,” Ault said. “He had on a tan jacket, a gray wool scarf wrapped around his neck, crossed with the ends of scarf going into the lapel.”

She told James Strong, one of Mitchell’s defense attorneys, she could pinpoint neither the driver nor the car among photo lineups presented by police weeks after the murder.

Strong said both Mitchell and his car were pictured in those lineups.

Flagg, a young mother, died of multiple stab wounds with hemorrhaging, according to the state’s Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Margaret Greenwald, who testified on Tuesday.

Authorities say Flagg was orally raped and had defensive wounds. Her 13-month-old son was found covered in his mother’s blood but unharmed.

Stokes told jurors on Tuesday that DNA testing on evidence collected 26 years ago placed Mitchell at the crime scene. The Flaggs’ home had once been owned by Mitchell’s father and the younger Mitchell had been in the home at least once in 1982.

Mitchell was indicted on the murder charge in September 2006 while he was in prison serving a sentence for kidnapping, gross sexual assault and attempted murder. He has been held in custody since then.

More than two dozen people, including Flagg’s parents and siblings, watched the testimony on Wednesday.

The jury trial is expected to continue through next week.


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