When a second trial begins for a Limington man whose murder conviction was overturned last fall, prosecutors must present enough evidence to convict him of killing his neighbor without relying on a confession that was ruled inadmissible by the state’s highest court.

During Bruce Akers’ first trial on the murder charge, prosecutors relied heavily on that confession, which the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled unconstitutional in September because authorities found and questioned him after conducting an illegal, warrantless search of his property.

Bruce Akers appears in York County Superior Court in Alfred at the start of his sentencing hearing in November 2020. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Bruce Akers was charged with killing Douglas Flint, 55, with a machete during an argument over stolen alcohol in June 2016. Akers was convicted on the murder charge in January 2020 and sentenced to 38 years in prison that November.

Before his first trial, Akers filed a motion to suppress his statements to the officers that night. He argued the search was illegal, so the jury should not be allowed to hear that evidence. York County Superior Court Justice Wayne Douglas denied that motion, writing that the searches were reasonable because the officers were looking for a missing person.

The Supreme Judicial Court ruled last September that the motion should have been granted, and Akers’ conviction was vacated.

Flint’s family had called police in June 2016 to report him missing. After visiting both Flint’s property and then Akers’ next door several times in hopes of talking with Akers about his neighbor, officers found Akers after midnight in a sleeping bag on the floor of his camper. Officers had lifted a window cover on the camper to shine a light inside.


During their conversation, Akers told them Flint was no longer alive and made other statements that investigators used to get a search warrant for the property. They eventually found Flint’s body under a pile of deer hides and debris.

On Tuesday, Assistant Attorney General Bud Ellis called several witnesses with backgrounds in law enforcement to testify about what would have happened that day had officers had not found Akers. Most testimony focused on the use of police K-9 teams, which police say helped locate Flint’s body the morning after officers first talked to Akers.

Steven Thistlewood, a retired sergeant from the York County Sheriff’s Office, said he would have contacted Maine State Police, who would have brought search dogs.

Thistlewood, who retired last summer, was one of two officers who visited Flint’s home that day. He said Tuesday that he originally didn’t suspect that Flint had been slain after visiting his home that day and being told by Flint’s family that he might be suicidal.

Flint had left behind his cell phone and cigarettes. A container of fresh meat was still on the counter, and the television was on with nothing playing.

“I think at that point, I felt that Mr. Flint might’ve harmed himself,” said Thistlewood.


Whether he had located Akers or not, Thistlewood said, with the information he had at the time, the sheriff’s office still would have contacted the state police and others the following day for help finding both Flint and Akers. Notifying the state police would have opened up more resources, including K-9 units.

Abbe Chabot, who also testified Tuesday, was one of the state police K-9 handlers who found Flint’s body the following morning – June 11, 2016. Her dog, Pivot, was trained to locate cadavers. Another dog, from Maine Warden Services, was trained to locate cadavers and missing people.

Starting on Flint’s property and then going onto Akers’ land, Chabot said, the dogs were able to conduct a free-range search without being guided to any particular spot. Some time after entering Akers’ property, Chabot noticed a change in Pivot’s behavior, indicating the dog detected something.

“At that moment, I don’t know if it’s the deer hides, I don’t know if it’s a barbeque next door,” Chabot said. “I don’t know what it is.”

Following the dog to one mound of deer hides, Chabot said she saw a hand sticking up from the ground.

“And did that turn out to be the remains of Douglas Flint?” Ellis asked.


“I believe so,” Chabot said. “Yes.”

Andy Falco-Jiminez, an expert witness called by the defense for his experience training police dogs, told defense attorney Kristine Hanly it would be impossible to say whether the dogs would have found Flint’s body had officers not obtained that first illegal search warrant.

A K-9’s success can depend on a number of environmental conditions, including which way the wind is blowing and whether there are other distracting scents in the area, Falco-Jiminez said. There were a number of deer parts on Akers property, including the hides covering Flint’s body. Akers also had his own dogs on the property.

The Tuesday hearing came weeks after York County Superior Court Justice Wayne Douglas set Akers’ bail at $200,000. Akers has been incarcerated for nearly six years, and for most of that time, there was no bail set.

Hanly had filed motions to toss much of the testimony presented Tuesday from the upcoming trial, most denied by Douglas during a hearing in March.

During his five-day trial in 2020, numerous mental health experts testified on Akers’ state of mind at the time of Flint’s death. His attorneys at the time argued Akers was not responsible for the death, citing testimony that he had experienced a “break from reality” that made him unable to act intentionally or knowingly cause Flint’s death.

Ultimately, the jury found Akers had killed Flint intentionally. It’s likely his mental health will play a similarly large role in a new trial.

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