Deng Malual pleaded not guilty to a murder charge Wednesday in Cumberland County Superior Court. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

A Portland man is accused of killing his friend by strangling him and stabbing him with a broken champagne bottle several days after they argued about money, according to a court affidavit unsealed Thursday.

Deng Malual, 36, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to a murder charge in the death of 61-year-old Clarence James Pearson, who was found dead in his apartment on Mechanic Street in Westbrook on Nov. 28.

The affidavit contains the first details about the killing since Malual was charged on Dec. 4, including how Pearson died.

A medical examiner ruled Pearson’s death a homicide and said he died from strangulation and blunt and sharp force injuries. He was stabbed in the buttocks with the broken bottle, according to the affidavit. He also had cuts all over his face and the back of his head, and his left arm was fractured.

Pearson’s body was discovered around 1:30 a.m. by a friend, Akwero Vincent, who went to his apartment and found him lying on his back on the floor. Vincent assumed Pearson had passed out because he had a substance abuse problem and tried to wake him, Maine State Police Detective Michael Chavez wrote in the affidavit. When Vincent realized Pearson was cold to the touch, she called 911.

The first detective to arrive said he found blood throughout the apartment, footprints in what appeared to be blood near the body and fragments of a green glass bottle scattered across the floor. The neck of the bottle was found on a bed, the affidavit states.


As detectives began piecing together a timeline of Pearson’s last days, they confirmed he spent three days out of state for Thanksgiving with his mother and son, then returned to Maine on Nov. 25. His mother had not heard from him since, Chavez said.

Before he left for Thanksgiving, Pearson celebrated his birthday on Nov. 21 with friends, including Vincent. She told investigators she and Pearson had consumed crack cocaine, then went out with friends, according to the affidavit. When they returned to Pearson’s apartment early the next morning, they found Malual and his girlfriend, Molly Giusti, inside, the affidavit states. The group smoked crack cocaine and drank alcohol, witnesses told police.

At some point, a fight broke out between Malual and another man, who were both owed money by Pearson, according to the affidavit. They argued over who would get paid first and how Pearson would get the money until someone stepped in to intervene. Malual and Guisti then left the apartment and Pearson went to visit his mother a few days later.

It’s not clear what happened after Pearson got back to town.

The document does not say exactly when police believe Pearson was killed, but his neighbor told police he was awakened around 7 a.m. on Nov. 26 by what sounded like an argument inside Pearson’s apartment. He said he didn’t pay much attention to it because it had happened frequently. Pearson’s body was found two days later.

Two of Pearson’s friends had asked Westbrook police to conduct a welfare check on Nov. 26. The officers who responded saw nothing suspicious when they looked into what they thought was Pearson’s window – but according to the affidavit they were at the wrong apartment. The document doesn’t say what prompted the friends’ request.

In interviews with police on Nov. 29, Giusti said Malual had told her three or four days earlier that there had been a “big fight” at Pearson’s house and that he “stabbed a guy in the butt” several times. She said he thought he stabbed another man, Ernest Jones, but when Guisti confronted him about the stabbing after she heard Pearson had died, she said Malual “became quiet and said ‘I don’t know what happened, I blacked out,’ ” Chavez wrote in the affidavit.

When detectives served a search warrant to collect oral swabs, fingernail clippings and other physical evidence from Malual, he told the detectives, “I hope you guys get who did this,” and described Pearson as a “good friend,” according to the affidavit.

Malual was arrested and charged with murder on Dec. 4. He is being held without bail at the Cumberland County Jail. Malual has a lengthy criminal history going back more than a decade, including obstructing government administration, criminal mischief, disorderly conduct, carrying a concealed weapon, theft by unauthorized taking, criminal threatening and assault. He served jail time for the offenses, but never longer than a few months.

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