Noah Gaston has admitted that he shot and killed his wife in the stairwell of their Windham home nearly four years ago.

Now a jury will decide if he committed a crime.

Gaston is charged with murder and manslaughter, and his trial began last week at the Cumberland County Courthouse. The jurors began deliberations Wednesday but did not reach a verdict in four hours, so they will continue their work Thursday.

Noah Gaston leaves the courtroom after closing arguments by his attorney, Jim Andrews, and Assistant Attorney General Meg Elam on Wednesday. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Both sides delivered their closing arguments Wednesday morning. The defense attorneys said Gaston acted in self-defense in the predawn darkness because he believed the person on the stairs was an intruder. The prosecutor, however, said he intended to kill Alicia Gaston, or he at least recognized his target.

Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy then instructed the jury on the legal elements of manslaughter and murder, as well as the definition of self-defense. He could be found guilty of either crime, or neither.

“There is rarely direct evidence of the operation of the human mind, but you may infer a person’s state of mind by the surrounding circumstances,” Murphy said.

Noah Gaston shot his 34-year-old wife on Jan. 14, 2016. His first trial took place in February but lasted just one day. On the day the state’s chief medical examiner was scheduled to testify, he said that he needed to change a phrase in his report, prompting the judge to declare a mistrial. However, that confusion barely factored into the second trial.

The jury – eight men and four women – spent five days listening to evidence in the case. Gaston did not testify. During their closing arguments, the attorneys asked the jury to interpret the case differently.

Assistant Attorney General Meg Elam asked the jurors to find that a crime had taken place. She said Gaston could see his wife on the stairs and did not have reasonable grounds to act in self-defense.

Alicia Gaston Press Herald file photo

“Alicia Gaston should not have died because of the selfish, lethal and unreasonable behavior of the defendant,” Elam said. “She bled to death on the floor of her own home, at the hands of a man who at a minimum didn’t bother to turn his head or extend his hand to see if she was in bed, but almost certainly knew that she was out of bed when she was walking up the staircase.”

She also referred to a statement Gaston made to two friends who picked him up from the Windham police station that day. They both testified that he recounted the shooting to them, and then said, “That’s the only story I can tell if I want to see my kids.”

“His friend then asked him, ‘Is there another story?’ ” Elam said to the jury. “And perhaps you yourselves have been wondering the same thing.”

Defense attorney Rob Andrews said the disputes over evidence during the trial amounted to reasonable doubt, and they showed that investigators were predisposed to dismiss Gaston’s version of events.

“It’s not disputed that Noah Gaston was holding the shotgun that killed Alicia Gaston when he pulled the trigger,” Andrews said. “What we’re here to dispute is two things. We’re here to dispute whether Noah Gaston had the appropriate culpable state of mind for murder, or whether his actions in the context of self-defense were a gross deviation for someone else in his situation.”

Justice Michaela Murphy gives instructions to  jurors in Cumberland County Superior Court on Wednesday before they begin deliberations in Noah Gaston’s trial. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

He asked the jurors to think about how they would act in a similar circumstance.

“If you wake up in the early morning hours in your home, hearing noises that you believe are someone else downstairs and they don’t belong there, and you think that your wife is next to you in bed, and your son is next to you, and you get up and you investigate, and you find out, ‘Hey, I have something to be worried about here,’ is it a gross deviation to go arm yourself?” Andrews said. “Certainly not, certainly not.”

The judge instructed that a person who is guilty of murder knowingly or intentionally caused a person’s death, while the offense of manslaughter means that a person who is guilty acted with recklessness or criminal negligence to cause that death.

She also explained that Maine law allows a person to use deadly force in self-defense when they reasonably believe the other person is about to use deadly force themselves.

“We will await your verdict,” she said.

The state built a replica of the top half of the stairwell in the Gastons’ home to use at trial, and it remained in the courtroom Wednesday.

As the jurors left to begin their deliberations, a blue replica of the Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun used to kill Alicia Gaston rested on the model staircase in the courtroom.

A string representing the path of the fatal shot trailed from the fake muzzle down the stairs, dropping over each edge, falling to the floor.

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