AUBURN — A judge Monday sentenced a Lewiston man to 19 years in prison for fatally stabbing a Massachusetts man at a local McDonald’s restaurant two years ago.

Trai Larue Androscoggin County Jail photo

Androscoggin County Superior Court Justice Harold Stewart II imposed a 25-year-sentence on Trai Larue, 24, but suspended six years of that sentence. He will be on probation for four years after being released.

Larue was charged with the intentional or knowing murder of Roger Cornell, 21, of New Bedford, Massachusetts for the stabbing in the parking lot outside the Center Street restaurant on the night of July 2, 2020.

Larue pleaded guilty in January to manslaughter with an agreement that he would get a 25-year sentence and serve between 17 and 20 years behind bars.

A charge of manslaughter in Maine is punishable by up to 30 years in prison; murder, 25 years to life.

Family members of Cornell spoke at Monday’s sentencing, urging the judge to impose the maximum penalty under the plea agreement.


Some members expressed anger that others involved in the altercation were not charged in Cornell’s death.

Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea explained to the judge that other people who participated in the incident were likely to be called by prosecutors as witnesses had the case gone to trial.

Zainea said Larue had intended to stab Cornell.

“That’s why he took the knife out,” she said.

And Larue had been motivated by revenge over Cornell’s alleged sexual advance against his girlfriend while she was sleeping, Zainea said.

But, “the issue has been whether he intended to cause Roger’s death and that’s what the state was struggling with based upon the interview that was conducted” by police with Larue after he turned himself in at his mother’s urging, Zainea said.


Trai Larue of Lewiston, right, is sentenced Monday to serve 19 years in prison for manslaughter in the 2020 stabbing at an Auburn McDonald’s restaurant. His attorney, Justin Leary stands with him. Christopher Williams screenshot from video

“He took all of those necessary steps, but did he intend to cause Roger’s death?” Zainea said. “And taking that into consideration, that’s why we’re here today on the plea to manslaughter because that plea is a recognition of his acceptance of responsibility.”

She argued Larue should serve 20 years in prison.

Defense attorney Justin Leary said his client should spend 17 years behind bars, the minimum time under the agreement.

Leary urged Stewart to consider Larue’s age at the time of the stabbing. At 22, Larue’s brain hadn’t fully developed, especially the part of his brain that informs impulse control, Leary said.

His client took responsibility early on for Cornell’s death and was remorseful, even suicidal, Leary said. Larue didn’t blame anyone else and didn’t seek to frame the case as an act of self-defense as other witnesses had suggested.

“Trai made a terrible, tragic decision,” Leary said.


He said his client had suffered from mental illness, had been bullied in school and had engaged in self-harm growing up.

Members of Cornell’s family in the courtroom wore T-shirts emblazoned with his portrait.

His mother and father spoke of their son who, they said, was someone’s son, someone’s grandson, a brother and uncle and a best friend to many. And Cornell’s parents weren’t able to see him for more than a week after he’d died.

“Our kids never got to say goodbye to their brother,” Cornell’s mother, Nicole Conceicao, said. Because of the pandemic, the family wasn’t able to have a wake or funeral for Cornell.

Conceicao thanked the prosecutors in the case as well as first responders at the scene.

“Thank you for keeping our baby alive until he reached the hospital,” she said. “To the hospital staff that fought to try and save our son’s life, we appreciate everything you did for him. Lastly, I want to thank Miss Anna (Pair) from the bottom of our hearts for calling 911 and staying by our son’s side until first responders arrived when no one else did. Also, for accompanying our son in his last moments and not leaving his side, for letting him know he wasn’t alone.”


Police said Pair was a bystander riding her bicycle along Center Street when she witnessed the altercation.

Conceicao said Cornell’s younger brother has lamented the loss of a role model who could teach him and mentor him.

Now that her younger son is entering his teenage years, he “says he needs his brother more than ever. He can’t have him, never will,” Conceicao said.

Cornell’s father, also named Roger, handed his prepared remarks to the victim advocate to read into the court record.

“I’m very upset that the defendants that commit murder legally have to be given the opportunity and a plea deal,” he wrote. “It’s not fair for the victims and their families. My son was murdered with no thought of his rights.”

According to police, Larue said he was mad at Cornell because Larue had been told Cornell had touched Larue’s girlfriend inappropriately the night before while she was asleep.


When Larue spotted Cornell walking along Center Street that day, police said he stopped his car. He and his girlfriend confronted Cornell on the sidewalk on Center Street.

Larue tried to punch Cornell, but missed. A female friend of Larue’s hit Cornell.

Larue’s brother arrived at the scene shortly afterward. A surveillance video from McDonald’s shows the Larue brothers, Cornell and a woman other than Larue’s girlfriend walking behind the restaurant, then walking back toward the sidewalk when a scuffle took place and the stabbing occurred.

Larue told police he hadn’t meant for the confrontation to result in Cornell’s death.

Blood matching Cornell’s was found in the McDonald’s parking lot, on Larue’s car and a folding knife that was recovered by police.

Cornell was taken to a Lewiston hospital for emergency surgery for a single stab wound to his left side of his chest, but died in the operating room.

Leary read a statement written by Larue, saying he was remorseful and sad and had lost a friend, Cornell, because of his actions.

“I was not terribly angry with the victim and I wanted to hear his side of the story,” Larue wrote. “I would like to apologize to the victim’s family. I’m truly sorry for what has happened due to my conduct.”

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