Prentiss man found guilty of murder

Posted May 01, 2009, at 9:49 a.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Jason Litterio spent the week in a Penobscot County courtroom, hoping to hear an explanation of why Joseph Dumas shot his father five times in the back and the head with two guns.

The 20-year-old did not hear one.

Finally, on Friday morning, he heard a jury foreman announce the verdict — guilty of murder.

“I still don’t understand his motive for shooting him five times,” Litterio said after the verdict was announced at about 10:45 a.m. “He still hasn’t answered that and he’s the only person who knows. But I’m happy it turned out the way it did.”

A jury of five women and seven men found Dumas, 49, guilty of intentional and knowing murder after a 4½-day trial and deliberating for about four hours over two days. Dumas admitted that after bingeing for much of the day on cocaine he killed his “best friend” Mario “Sonny” Litterio, 70, of Prentiss on Nov. 8, 2007. It occurred near a camp on Tar Ridge Road in Prentiss where Dumas was working.

Dumas did not react to the verdict. His wife, Cheryl Dumas, wept silently behind him as the jury filed out of the courtroom. She left without talking to reporters outside the courthouse.

Defense attorney Richard Hartley had argued Thursday that Dumas was guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter because he committed the crime while in a cocaine-induced psychosis. Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson told the jury in his closing argument that even if Dumas was under the influence of cocaine, he still was capable of goal-oriented behavior.

A member of the jury, who asked that his name not be used, explained Friday afternoon why he found Dumas guilty of murder instead of manslaughter.

“The decision came down to that moment that [Dumas] actually pulled the trigger on the first gun, then set it down and picked up the second gun,” he said. “There was just overwhelming evidence that he knew what he was doing when he put the [second] gun to the back of the man’s head and pulled the trigger.

“That’s what it came down to in my mind — the fact that he put down one gun, picked up the other and placed it directly against the man’s head,” the juror said. “I couldn’t see any way it could be anything other than intentional.”

Dumas told police two days after he killed Litterio that while working on renovations to a camp, he snorted cocaine. He said that at one point when he was outside, he saw a deer in the woods behind the cabin. Dumas shot at it with his black powder rifle and thought that by the way it acted, he had wounded it. He told investigators that he drove the short distance to the victim’s home, which is located on the same road, and asked Litterio to help him look for the deer.

After Litterio got a revolver from a kitchen drawer, the men went back to the camp in Litterio’s pickup. Dumas told police that he and his friend went down a tote road toward where he said he had seen the deer.

Litterio said he had to urinate and handed his gun to Dumas to hold. As the victim walked toward a tree, Dumas shot him with the .38-caliber revolver — twice in the shoulder and twice in the head, Dumas told police. He said he again shot Litterio with his own .50-caliber black powder rifle, which he at some point had reloaded.

Outside the courthouse Friday, Hartley said that his client and his family were “understandably upset by the verdict.” In spite of the outcome, Hartley praised the jury for “listening very carefully to the evidence.”

Assistant Attorneys General Donald Macomber and Benson, who prosecuted the case, left the courthouse without speaking to reporters.

“Obviously, we’re very pleased that the jury found that this was murder,” Deputy Attorney General William Stokes, who heads the criminal division of the Maine Attorney General’s Office, said of the verdict in a phone interview Friday. “Whenever an intoxication defense is raised, that’s a decision for a jury to decide.”

Jason Litterio, who was a student at Kennebec Valley Community College in Fairfield when his father was murdered, now lives with and works for an uncle in Scituate, R.I. He said that he will be back in late June when Dumas, who faces 25 years to life in prison, is expected to be sentenced.

The graduate of Lincoln Academy said he wants to tell Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy the kind of man his father was.

“He was the hardest-working person I’ve ever known in my life,” he said. “He was very caring, even though he didn’t have that many friends.”

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