AUGUSTA — It is now up to a jury to decide if Dylan Ketcham killed his former friend, Jordan Johnson, in an act of pre-planned murder or to defend himself from an ambush by two young men who planned to harm him.

The 12-person group must also decide whether Ketcham’s machete attack on another friend, Caleb Trudeau, was a deliberate attempt to kill the lone witness.

The fourth day of Ketcham’s trial at the Capital Judicial Center in Augusta wrapped up Thursday with no verdict reached. The 23-year-old from Gardiner is facing charges of murder, attempted murder and elevated aggravated assault for the January 2020 incident.

Prosecutor Leanne Robbin said, in her closing arguments Thursday, Ketcham prepared for days to kill Johnson, stealing his sister’s handgun, using her credit card to purchase a box of bullets and fashioning a sheath he used to conceal a machete inside his coat. And he prepared to make his escape from the resulting crime scene, by taping over the treads of his boots with duct tape in hopes he could make a clean getaway and not be tracked by law enforcement.

She said Ketcham pulled out that gun and pointed it at the forehead of Johnson before any punches were thrown in the confrontation, which took place in a neighborhood adjacent to Gardiner’s Quimby Field. That prompted Trudeau to run at Ketcham in an unsuccessful effort to prevent him from shooting Johnson. Before Trudeau tackled Ketcham and the two fought over control of the gun, Robbin said, Ketcham fired two shots, with one hitting Johnson in the head, entering his skull and tearing through his brain, killing him.

Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin shows the jury the machete Dylan Ketcham reportedly used in a 2020 incident in which one man was killed and another man was injured. Robbin displayed the machete during closing arguments in Ketcham’s murder trial Thursday at the Capital Judicial Center in Augusta. The jury began deliberating the case Thursday afternoon. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Robbin said Ketcham would have used the gun against Trudeau, too, but it had jammed. The gun landed in the snow during the struggle, but Robbin said, Ketcham was prepared, like a soldier might be, with a second weapon — the concealed “Carnivore X” machete he pulled from his coat. Trudeau, seeing the blade, ran, but, he testified during the trial, he fell into the street, where he said Ketcham attacked him, striking him with the machete, nearly severing his wrists, and striking him in the head so hard it cut through the bone of his skull.


“He had to have intended to kill Caleb,” Robbin told the jury. “He intended to eliminate Caleb, and there was only one reason. He wanted no witnesses to his murder of Jordan Johnson.”

Stephen Smith, Ketcham’s lead attorney, said Ketcham acted in self-defense when Trudeau and Johnson ambushed him, after the pair had talked about beating him up, and cited rap lyrics to each other that referenced having “murder on my mind,” the night before the incident that took place in the early morning hours of Jan. 25, 2020. He said Ketcham knew Johnson was mad at him, including for allegedly stealing his mother’s bike, and he came prepared to defend himself.

He said testimony, including some from Trudeau, indicated the gunshots took place while Ketcham and Trudeau fought for control of the gun, and that Trudeau had provoked the attack by running at and tackling Ketcham. He said Ketcham initially tried to run away from Trudeau, but was caught by him. He said Ketcham’s actions against the pair were justified because he was defending himself, and trying to prevent Trudeau from gaining control of the weapons. And he noted Trudeau and Johnson had used heroin and/or cocaine shortly before their confrontation with Ketcham.

Defense attorney Stephen Smith gives closing arguments in Dylan Ketcham’s murder trial Thursday at the Capital Judicial Center in Augusta. The jury began deliberating the case Thursday afternoon but did not reach a verdict. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“Nobody would have gotten shot at all if they hadn’t ambushed (Ketcham) and Caleb chased him through the snow,” Smith told told the jury. “These three gentlemen came together in a chaotic mess. There was a struggle over the gun. The gun goes off. And Jordan is in the path of the bullet and dies. That is not murder.”

The nearly two-week trial was beset with two cancelled days due to snowstorms and another plagued by technical problems with the courthouse video and testimony recording system. It was the second jury to be seated to hear the trial, after the first trial was declared a mistrial.

Testimony included presentations of text messages between Ketcham and Johnson, and Facebook messages between Johnson and Trudeau, the day and night leading up to the early morning confrontation.


Johnson and Trudeau, in messages state prosecutors noted Ketcham never saw, communicated with each other about Johnson’s plans to beat up Ketcham, with Johnson at one point writing “I’ve got murder on my mind,” reciting lyrics to a rap song by YNM Melly. Trudeau, who said on the witness stand he went along with Johnson that night to act as a sort of mediator between the two young men whom he said were his friends initially messaged Johnson back that he would also take part in the plan to beat up Ketcham, and possibly also rob him of any drugs he might have on him. However Robbin noted Trudeau’s messages later changed, and he said he couldn’t participate because he had a young child and was about to inherit his late father’s home, and he didn’t want to mess those things up.

Both Trudeau and Johnson were unarmed the night of the confrontation with Ketcham.

Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy told jurors they could find Ketcham guilty of manslaughter, instead of murder, if they found the elements of that crime had been met, but those for murder had not.

The jury got the case and began deliberations around 2:30 p.m. Thursday but did not reach a verdict Thursday. They are expected to reconvene Friday.

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