BANGOR, Maine — The Prentiss man who in November 2007 shot his “best friend” five times in the back and the head after a cocaine binge was sentenced Tuesday to 30 years in prison.
Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy in prepared remarks explained why she imposed a 30-year sentence.
She said that because Joseph Dumas, 50, was “extraordinarily cooperative” with authorities, had close ties with his community and was under the influence of cocaine when he killed Mario “Sonny” Litterio, 70, of Prentiss, she would not impose a longer sentence.
The defense and prosecution presented their sentencing memorandums to Murphy last month during a hearing. The judge said she also considered letters from the friends and families of the victim and the defendant.
Dumas faced a maximum sentence of life in prison, and a mandatory minimum of 25 years.
The shackled defendant wept silently throughout much of the sentencing.
The victim’s son, Jason Litterio, 20, of Scituate, R.I., asked the judge to impose the maximum penalty.
“I was never able to say goodbye to my father,” he said. “I will be scarred for the rest of my life. I just want to ask for the biggest punishment possible.”
A jury of five women and seven men found Dumas guilty of intentional and knowing murder on May 1 after a 4½-day trial. The jury deliberated for about four hours over two days.
Dumas admitted that after bingeing on cocaine for much of the day on Nov. 8, 2007, he killed Litterio. The shooting occurred near a camp on Tar Ridge Road in Prentiss where Dumas was working.
He 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 his 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.
Litterio’s brother-in-law Ray D’Andrea, of Chepachet, R.I., asked Murphy to set aside any claims that Dumas was essentially a good man who made a terrible mistake.
“Sonny was my brother-in-law. I miss him very much. His murderer should spend the rest of his life in jail,” he said. “Just because [Dumas] was good does not make him a good man anymore.”
Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson, who prosecuted the case, said it was difficult to recommend a sentence for Dumas.
“What do you do with Joseph Dumas? What do you do with a man who, for completely unfathomable reasons, gets unbelievably coked up and kills his best friend?” he asked.
Benson recommended a sentence of 40 years. He told the judge it was Dumas’ decision to snort as much cocaine as he did. He said the impact of the motiveless killing on Litterio’s friends and family was another factor he considered in his recommendation.
Defense attorney Peter Cyr of Portland argued that 25 years was an adequate punishment for Dumas, who he said came from a “very broken home.”
“Mr. Dumas had a very difficult childhood. He was abused by his stepfather. His mother [had issues with] substance abuse,” he said.
Dumas was treated in his early 20s for alcohol and drug abuse, he said.
Cyr argued that Dumas suffered from cocaine-induced psychosis when he killed Litterio.
“When he fell off the wagon again, he fell hard,” Cyr said. “He saw bright lights, felt invincible. He thought he was a gunslinger and that he was going to be great.”
A tearful Dumas quietly read a statement to the court.
“Words cannot express how awful I feel about the loss of my dear friend Sonny,” he said. “I truly wish I could give them the answers they’re looking for. I wish I could give myself the answers.
“I know that God has forgiven me. I ask the court for mercy,” Dumas said.
Outside the courtroom, Jason Litterio seemed calm and accepting of Murphy’s decision.
“Life [in prison] would have been a better choice, but she decided on 30 years, so 30 years is what he’s going to get,” he said.
Cyr said Tuesday he was pleased with the “very reasonable and thought-out sentence.”
The attorney said the defense team plans to appeal the conviction.
Dumas has been held without bail at the Penobscot County Jail since his arrest in November 2007. That time will count toward his sentence.
Although defendants convicted of murder are not eligible for probation, according to Benson, Dumas will be able to earn good time, which amounts to about 15 percent of his sentence. Dumas could cut six years off his sentence by being a model prisoner.
Bangor Daily News writer Judy Harrison contributed to this report.