Friends of slain man dispute killer’s motivation

Posted Feb. 27, 2009, at 9:58 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 13, 2011, at 10:43 a.m.

CALAIS, Maine — Friends of a murdered Eastport man are outraged that he has been portrayed as having had something other than a platonic relationship with Katie Cabana — the woman who was slain near him last winter by convicted murderer Richard Widdecombe Jr.

The friends maintain that Widdecombe told authorities he was a spurned boyfriend of Cabana’s acting in a jealous rage when he killed Aaron Settipani, 41, of Eastport and Cabana, 29, of Marshfield. The friends believe Widdecomb fabricated the relationship between his victims in an attempt to secure a lesser sentence.

Widdecombe, who pleaded guilty to the two murder charges in Washington County Superior Court on Feb. 9, was sentenced Friday to life in prison.

No one will ever know for sure what happened during the early morning hours of Jan. 23, 2008, when the 27-year-old Widdecombe killed Settipani and Cabana. The only version in the police report is from the killer.

“You have to keep in mind that all of the information, unfortunately, that we have to go on, on what happened there that night, you have to believe a man that killed two people,” Chris Gardner, a friend of Settipani, said earlier this month. “His motivation [is] to say whatever he can say to lessen his guilt.”

Gardner said he knew Settipani and knew that he and Cabana were only friends. The only reason Settipani was there that night was to help her, he said. “She was going through a terrible breakup with this individual,” he said. “It appears that Aaron went over there on very short notice to help her out.”

Another friend of Settipani’s, David Claroni of Calais, said earlier this month that the slain man’s friends still were having a hard time dealing with his death. “It has been a year,” he said. “Something will still remind me of him. I don’t focus too much on Widdecombe, the convicted murderer, now.”

Claroni said that Settipani had a girlfriend.

“I try to think more on how Aaron would want to be remembered and that type of thing. I know the love of his life was his girlfriend in Saint John [New Brunswick]. My thought is he was there to help out a friend,” Claroni said. “I know Aaron and I know he was very much in love with [his girlfriend] Elaine, and I think Katie called him because she knew he had a Jeep that could pull a truck out. I don’t know what happened after that. I am going with that he went over there to help a friend, and that is how I am choosing to remember him and that is the way it should be.”

Although friends are characterizing the relationship as platonic, Widdecombe apparently believed otherwise.

According to an affidavit on file with the Washington County Superior Court, around 11:30 the night before the shooting, Widdecombe approached Sgt. Jeff Ingemi of the Maine State Police who was on routine patrol in the area.

“Widdecombe told him that, a little while earlier, he had an argument with his girlfriend Katie Cabana during which he made some threats. Ingemi asked Widdecombe what threats he had made, and Widdecombe said Katie Cabana had been hanging around with Aaron [Settipani] and Widdecombe had threatened to beat Aaron up,” the affidavit said. “Widdecombe inquired if the threats were reported to police. Ingemi checked and told Widdecombe that they were not.”

In court Feb. 9, Leane Zainea of the Attorney General’s Office said Widdecombe and Cabana had broken up five months earlier and he would not leave Cabana alone. She said he would sit outside her house in his car and watch it for hours. He even on occasion had looked at her cell phone records to see who she was communicating with and text messaging. Some of those calls and messages were between Cabana and Settipani, she said.

“There were a lot of text messages going back and forth,” Widdecombe’s attorney Jeffrey Davidson of East Machias said earlier this month. “We tracked down quite a few of them on that day and previous days. The exact number I couldn’t tell you without actually looking at it, but … there were text messages going back and forth between Aaron and Katie.”

When Widdecombe appeared in court Feb. 9 to enter his guilty plea, Cabana’s cell phone records and the fact that Widdecombe had seen them was addressed by the state.

On the day of the shooting, Cabana told Widdecombe her van was stuck and when he offered to help she told him she had called Settipani.

Widdecombe became upset, Zainea told the court.

Widdecombe went to Cabana’s residence and, according to the affidavit, saw that her van was not stuck. There was a Jeep in the driveway. Settipani drove a Jeep.

“Richard entered the residence with a Savage .30-06 rifle with four cartridges in the rifle and six cartridges in his pocket,” the affidavit said. “Richard states that he heard what he thought was Katie and Aaron having sex upstairs [in her bedroom],” the affidavit said. “Richard said he heard them getting dressed and [he] hid next to a closet.”

When the couple came downstairs, Cabana saw Widdecombe. He pointed the rifle over Settipani’s head and told him to leave, the affidavit said.

Settipani left and Widdecombe followed him outside and shot the back window out of Settipani’s Jeep, the affidavit said.

Settipani called 911 at 1:40 a.m. The dispatcher could hear Settipani saying, “Everyone makes mistakes … we can work this out … I am stuck. … I am leaving,” the affidavit said.

Widdecombe then went inside where Cabana also was calling 911.

It was 1:41 a.m. when Widdecombe shot Cabana in the back. “Katie went down and Richard went back outside,” the affidavit said. It was then that he killed Settipani.

He then went back inside and shot Cabana a second time, the affidavit said. The shooting took place in front of Cabana’s three children. One of the bullets struck her daughter’s foot.

Gardner said he didn’t buy Widdecombe’s explanation that he stood downstairs and listened to the couple making noises in Cabana’s bedroom.

“His statement was that was what enraged him so much. Then he must have very controlled rage,” he said. “So he waited for them to what? Finish? He didn’t go up over the stairs. He didn’t barge into the room. … So the fact that he was waiting downstairs until they were finished that in itself seems a little foolish to me.”

Nor did Gardner buy Widdecombe’s defense. “The fact is he showed up with a gun,” Gardner said. “He wasn’t just some poor shmuck who happened to stand at the bottom of the steps and heard something that upset him and he shot two people,” Gardner said. “He evidently had some intentions in his mind when he showed up. You don’t bring a gun to a picnic. When he is in court and wants to play the pity card — I am sorry I have no pity for this young man.”

But Davidson, Widdecombe’s attorney, said earlier that Widdecombe knew there was a relationship between Cabana and Settipani because Cabana had discussed it with him.

“From my perspective, it doesn’t matter if there was,” Davidson said. “It was Widdecombe’s perspective.”

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