FARMINGTON – Jurors convicted Thomas H. Mitchell Jr. of murder Tuesday in the stabbing death of Judith L. Flagg in her Fayette home one winter day 26 years ago.
It was the third time he was convicted of attacking a woman.

Mitchell, 52, formerly of South Portland, had been tried over the past seven days in Franklin County Superior Court. Jurors took about 90 minutes to return a guilty verdict.

More than 100 people filled the upstairs courtroom to hear the closing arguments; most stayed to hear the verdict. When it was announced, the mood in the courtroom was one of quiet elation, with Flagg’s relatives exchanging hugs and smiles.

Mitchell showed little reaction. He wore shackles around his ankles when he was escorted into the courtroom to hear the verdict. It was the first time jurors saw him shackled.

Sentencing is expected to take place in the next month or so in Kennebec County, where the murder occurred.

After the verdict, more than two dozen of Flagg’s family members and supporters greeted the prosecutor, Deputy Attorney General William Stokes, with a hearty round of applause in the first-floor hallway of the courthouse.
Judith Flagg’s mother, Pauline Dion, said she was grateful to everyone for their prayers.

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“The community is safe again,” said Flagg’s widower, Ted Flagg, outside the courthouse.

Flagg’s brother, David Dion of Livermore, said the family was grateful to the investigators and attorneys. “They have never let this go,” he said.

Dion said the family was told long ago that Mitchell was the prime suspect in his sister’s death.

“Mr. Mitchell has been in jail for a number of years, so we know where he’s been,” Dion said. “Now he’s facing much more. This is not so much closure for us. If he were out of jail, it would happen again.”

Mitchell was convicted in 1985 of kidnapping, raping and attempting to kill a 17-year-old girl in Standish. He was sentenced to 35 years in prison, and was indicted in the Flagg murder five months before he was scheduled to be released. He has remained in custody since then.

In 1979, a jury convicted him of kidnapping a 16-year-old girl in Portland. He served four years in prison. The jury did not convict him on a related charge of rape.
The Flagg murder investigation showed the power of DNA profiling to solve old cases. Mitchell was charged in the Flagg murder in September 2006 after DNA testing on clothing and biological materials preserved from the crime scene revealed Mitchell’s DNA.

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Mitchell took the stand Monday and denied being anywhere near Fayette on the morning of Jan. 6, 1983, when Flagg, 23, was orally raped and fatally stabbed in the baby’s room in her home.

She crawled to the phone in the kitchen, but died before she could call for help.

She was found dead on the kitchen floor by her husband, who returned home late after working a double shift at a paper mill. Their 13-month-old son, Chad, was smeared with blood but unharmed.

“That man, this defendant, committed a crime so horrible that it must be every woman’s nightmare,” Deputy Attorney General William Stokes told jurors, urging them to convict Mitchell.

He said Judy Flagg fought for her life as she was repeatedly stabbed in the chest, stomach and back.
“Now, more than 26 years later, the evidence speaks for Judy and Chad Flagg,” Stokes said. “Through the application of modern DNA technology, the evidence speaks for Judy and Chad Flagg, and it speaks to you.”
Defense attorney James Strong told jurors his client was innocent.

“In this case, the long search for truth has simply been subordinated by the pressure to solve this cold case,” Strong said. “The state failed to investigate Tom’s alibi.”

Strong said Mitchell’s aunt could have been interviewed in 1983 about Mitchell’s alibi, and that the stores and restaurants Mitchell patronized that day were still open in the early 1980s, and his whereabouts could have been verified.

Thomas Mitchell Jr. listens to Superior Court Justice Joseph Jabar in Franklin Coutny Superior Court on the first day of Mitchell’s murder trial. At left is one of Mitchell’s attorneys, Greg Dorr.

Pastor Gary Pierson, left, embraces Alex Dion, father of murder victim Judith Flagg, outside Franklin County Superior Court in Farmington on Tuesday. Thomas Mitchell Jr. was found guilty of killing Flagg at her Fayette home in 1983.


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