February 22, 2018
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Cookson awaits bail hearing; contents of affidavit kept from public

By Diana Bowley, BDN Staff

BANGOR — A New Gloucester man accused of the Dec. 3 murders of a young woman and a toddler she had been baby-sitting in Dexter will remain in jail until Jan. 4 when a Harnish hearing is held in Newport District Court. A Harnish hearing is used to determine if a person accused of a capital crime should be held without bail.
Jeffrey Cookson, 36, is charged with killing Mindy Gould, 20, and Treven Jacob Cunningham, 21 months, with a 9 mm semiautomatic handgun at a Church Street residence in Dexter. Both victims were shot in the head.
Cookson had little to say Monday during his initial court appearance in Bangor District Court. Dressed in prison orange, his legs shackled, Cookson sat with his hands clasped under his chin throughout the hearing.
An attempt by the state Monday to impound some evidence was denied by Judge Jessie Gunther. Lisa Marchese, an assistant attorney general, filed a motion to impound an affidavit filed by Maine State Police that detailed what led to Cookson’s arrest.
In justifying the motion, Marchese said the move would allow police the opportunity to conduct their interviews “without the taint of information through the media.” She said certain details contained in the affidavit needed to be kept confidential even from Cookson and his attorney, Dale Thistle of Newport.
Thistle urged Gunther not to impound the document. “It seems to me that an accused has the right to all the information that resulted in his or her arrest,” Thistle said. Gunther had provided Thistle with a copy of the affidavit for his review at noon. “The rights of this defendant are significant and they are at stake here,” he said Monday in the courtroom.
Marchese said the state was willing then to allow Thistle and his client to have a copy of the affidavit as long as they did not share the information with the media or anyone else. She originally had requested an impoundment of 60 days and then later suggested that the document be impounded until the 1 p.m. Harnish hearing in Newport District Court.
Gunther denied the motion to impound the affidavit but gave Marchese until 4 p.m. Monday to either file an appeal or provide her with legal documentation about why she should impound the affidavit.
No appeal or documentation had been provided by Marchese to the court before the 4 p.m. deadline when court closed for the day. Court officials said copies of the affidavit and other documents could not obtained by the media until the case was received in Newport District Court later this week.
Based on evidence gathered by police, Cookson was arrested on Dec. 17 at the Guilford home of Melvin and Shirley Judkins, Cookson’s stepfather and mother. Shortly after the arrest, searches were conducted by police at Cookson’s parents’ home and at a Wharff Road home owned by his brother Roland Cookson.
Police said earlier that they were confident that all the evidence pointed to Cookson and that he acted alone.
Gould had obtained a restraining order against Cookson, with whom she had had a relationship in southern Maine. She had claimed Cookson stalked and harassed her.
Although the murder weapon has not been found, police have other evidence. The evidence that prompted Cookson’s arrest this month were shell casings found at the murder scene and those obtained by police from the previous owners of a semiautomatic pistol traced to Cookson. The shell casings found at the scene matched those provided by the previous owners of the gun.
DNA samples and fingerprints taken from the murder scene are being analyzed and tested, according to police.
Thistle said Monday that Cookson maintains his innocence and that he would not seek a change of venue because of the pretrial publicity. He said he would request the court allow him to hire a private investigator to help with Cookson’s case.
“This is a very serious crime,” Marchese said after the hearing. She said Cookson’s arrest for the domestic violence crimes was appropriate. But, she noted, it was a circumstantial case.

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