Raymond Lester enters the courtroom in Hancock County Superior Court in Ellsworth for the start of his trial last week. Lester was convicted on Monday of killing Nicole Mokeme in Acadia National Park in 2022. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

ELLSWORTH — A Hancock County jury found a Portland man guilty of murder on Monday for intentionally driving over his girlfriend at Acadia National Park last summer and leaving her body to be discovered the next morning as he fled the country.

Raymond Lester, 37, was convicted of knowing or intentional murder in the death of 35-year-old Nicole Mokeme on June 18, 2022.

Nicole Mokeme Courtesy of Stephanie Kornegay

Lester stared ahead in silence in the Hancock County Superior courtroom as a clerk read the verdict.

It was a vindicating moment for Mokeme’s family members, who were in the gallery every day.

“I’ve known this whole time that it was him who was driving that vehicle, and I’ve known this whole time that he intentionally killed my daughter,” Mokeme’s mother, Stephanie Kornegay, said Monday afternoon. “It’s not enough, because I still don’t have my daughter. But it’s something, and I know the right decision was made today.”

Lester was taken back to the Hancock County Jail where he will stay until sentencing. He faces anywhere from 25 years to life in prison.


Jurors deliberated for a little less than two hours Monday after several days of testimony and evidence. They visited the crime scene at Acadia National Park. They heard from other people who attended the retreat who were concerned by Lester’s dangerous behavior and his fights with Mokeme. They heard from law enforcement officers who spent almost a month looking for Lester after charging him with murder.

The state rested its case Friday. Lester called no witnesses and declined to take the stand Monday. His attorney said Monday that they were disappointed in the verdict and are considering an appeal.


Mokeme’s parents and her two aunts stood tall as Superior Justice Robert Murray polled the jurors, each affirming their guilty vote.

They embraced after the jury was excused.

“I don’t know what kind of healing will take place, but I think we are prepared,” said her father, Oscar Mokeme. Her parents and two aunts visiting from California and Pennsylvania spoke to reporters from the courthouse steps as prosecutors and a detective talked behind them.


Mokeme’s parents spoke of their daughter’s drive to empower others.

For Mokeme, nature was healing. The South Portland woman oversaw several groups and events focused on supporting Maine’s Black community and connecting with the Earth. That included the Rise and Shine Youth Retreat in Bowdoin, which started with weekend getaways for young teens of color and later expanded to a farm and retreat in Bowdoin.

Mokeme grew up in New Jersey. She moved to Maine in 2008 and had one daughter, who still lives in Maine with her father, Kornegay said.

“I raised all my children to help others, ‘Don’t be judgmental,’ ” she said. “I kind of kick myself for that a little because she really loved Ray. And she really thought that she could help him in some way. Some people, you’ve got to walk away.”

Kornegay said that she didn’t know Lester well, and that was somewhat by choice. She remembered once hearing about Lester throwing a “temper tantrum” on a long drive with Mokeme and her brother.

It wasn’t until after her daughter died that she learned about his history of violence against other women. Two women who dated Lester more than 10 years ago told the Portland Press Herald last year about his history of abuse


Kornegay told reporters on Monday that she hopes her daughter’s story will reach others dealing with domestic violence.

“If this situation can help anybody out there, I hope that it does,” she said.


Lester and Mokeme were in Acadia for a weeklong Black Excellence 2022 retreat that Mokeme had helped organize. It was an opportunity for Black, brown and Indigenous people to relax in one of the most beautiful places in Maine, among friends they had known for years and their families.

But some attendees who testified Thursday said that Lester had made them uncomfortable. Mokeme and Lester had gotten into a fight on a kayaking trip earlier in the retreat. Hours before Mokeme died, Lester was driving around the park in his black BMW SUV, blaring the same loud song on repeat and drinking vodka.

Prosecutors said Lester hit Mokeme sometime between her last phone call to him at 11:41 p.m. and midnight. He immediately fled the park, they said, leaving her body to be found early the next morning as their friends and his family tried desperately to reach him by phone and text.


They were still trying to find out where Lester was when he left his cellphone at a Walmart in Warwick, Rhode Island, the following afternoon, police said.

Police agencies from other states sent Maine State Police pictures of Lester’s car in Georgia, Louisiana and Texas on June 20 and June 21, 2022. They last saw the vehicle in Sierra Blanca, Texas, about 16 miles from the U.S. border with Mexico.

Lester was arrested in Cancun, Mexico, about a month later, but police never found his car. He wrote a letter to the dealership that sold him the car that September saying the car had been stolen.

Lead detective Dana Austin testified that he considered Lester a suspect from the first day of his investigation after learning about Lester’s disturbing behavior at the retreat.

Lester’s attorney, William Ashe, said police narrowed their sights too soon. There were several people at the retreat who failed to speak with police, Ashe said, and images of Lester’s car driving south showed no damage to the front, even though police believed Lester had driven it into the woods the night before.

“We thought there were significant problems with the investigation and that there were a lot of reasonable doubts in this case,” Ashe said Monday afternoon.

But Lester was the only viable suspect, Assistant Attorney General Bud Ellis said, citing Lester’s “many, many incredibly suspect actions” before and after Mokeme’s death.

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.