AUBURN — A judge on Thursday sentenced Michael McNaughton to life in prison for the 2013 murder of 20-year-old Romeo Parent of Lewiston.

McNaughton, 29, of Lewiston showed no reaction to the judge’s order.

Androscoggin County Superior Court Justice MaryGay Kennedy imposed the most severe penalty allowed by Maine law, after finding that Parent’s slaying was premeditated and “tantamount to torture.”

She said: “It’s difficult to imagine a more heinous way to die.”

Parent was beaten, stabbed and strangled by McNaughton who used “brutal and vicious methods,” she said.

Kennedy said there was a “high probability” McNaughton would re-offend if released from prison.

McNaughton’s wife, Danielle, mother of their three children, sobbed audibly at the pronouncement and collapsed into the lap of McNaughton’s mother, Karen, who also was in the courtroom. She had told the judge earlier that McNaughton is an innocent man whose persona as a murderer is a “vicious lie. One day the truth will come out.”

His conviction had torn their family apart; he’s never met their 2-year-old daughter, she said.

Parent’s mother, Rita Hamel, said her son suffered from behavioral issues but knew the difference between right and wrong. He would get into trouble when he fell in with the wrong crowd, she said.

Less than a week before Parent’s murder, he and William True, 23, of Lewiston, had committed a burglary together. Parent had told police about True’s involvement. Police arrested True and put him in jail over the weekend of April 6 and 7, 2013, while Parent remained free.

Parent was branded a “snitch” and the rumor circulated that “snitches need stitches,” according to trial testimony. A short time after True was released, Parent was dead. He was killed the night of April 8, 2013, but his body wasn’t discovered until days later, after it was stripped and moved to Jug Stream in Monmouth.

Investigators said revenge was the apparent motive for the crime.

“I will never understand why this young man decided to commit murder over such petty things,” Hamel said of McNaughton.

“There’s a great emptiness that will never be filled in my heart,” she said. “My hopes and my dreams for my son are now destroyed.”

Prosecutors had argued for a life sentence; defense attorney Verne Paradie argued that McNaughton’s sentence should match that of his co-defendant, True, who was sentenced to 25 years in prison in an agreement struck with prosecutors after his conviction at trial.

But Assistant Attorney General John Alsop told Kennedy that investigators always believed McNaughton had been the one to “hatch the idea” of killing Parent and was clearly the “instigator.”

It was his homemade weapons that were used to stab and strangle Parent, Alsop said.

“The two cases are simply not the same,” Alsop said of the murder convictions of True and McNaughton.

Paradie read sections of prosecutors’opening statements and closing arguments at True’s trial that suggested True was as culpable as McNaughton.

But Kennedy appeared unswayed by that argument.

The circumstances that led to the “somewhat unusual deal” for True are “neither identical nor present in this case,” Kennedy said.

Referring to McNaughton by his nickname, “No One,” Kennedy said he had determined after Romeo had “snitched,” that “a beat-down wasn’t sufficient, he decided Romeo Parent should be killed.”

She said McNaughton had no direct involvement in the burglary and had no “skin in the game,” and yet, he, No One, “decided Romeo Parent should die.”

It was McNaughton’s screwdriver, which he had named “Pokie,” that was used to stab Parent at the base of his skull and the homemade garrote, named “Chokie,” that was used to strangle Parent.

“There was evidence that he suffered excruciating pain,” Kennedy said. “He fought back, knowing all along he was going to die.”

She said Parent “was subjected to extreme cruelty and substantial suffering.”

The act was “senseless, unprovoked violence,” she said.

Parent had been lured to a wooded area in Greene that night by the promise of burglarizing a camp for drugs.

The next day, Nathan Morton, 27, of Greene drove True and McNaughton back to the crime scene where they stripped Parent’s body of all clothing but his boxer shorts, bound his wrists and ankles and stuffed his body in the trunk of Morton’s 2007 black Volkswagen Passat, according to prosecutors. He drove to Jug Stream in Monmouth, where True and McNaughton dumped Parent’s body in the stream near a dam where it was found April 11, 2013.

McNaughton’s lack of a criminal record, his family ties and support, as well as his military service “pale by comparison” to the aggravating factors in the case, Kennedy concluded.

McNaughton has never taken responsibility for his crime nor shown any remorse, Kennedy said. Rather, she said, he has shown he lacks empathy and compassion.

Kennedy said the impact of his “cruel and wanton behavior” on Parent’s family also elevated his sentence.

“Make no mistake, Mr. McNaughton, you are responsible for their anguish and despair. The crime you covered up, your lack of humanity for the victim and his family is chilling,” she said. “I have no confidence you will ever come to understand the full extent of your actions.”

Alsop applauded Kennedy’s reasoning in arriving at a life sentence for McNaughton.

Paradie, who said his client would be appealing his conviction and sentence, didn’t think a life sentence was justified.

True’s attorney, James Howaniec, argued Tuesday before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court that his client should get a new trial.

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