High court upholds murder, rape convictions and sentence

Accused of the March 2007 slaying of Christina Simonin, Ashton Moores listens during the opening of his trial in Penobscot County Superior Court in Bangor on Monday.
BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY KATE COLLINS
Accused of the March 2007 slaying of Christina Simonin, Ashton Moores listens during the opening of his trial in Penobscot County Superior Court in Bangor on Monday.
Posted Oct. 06, 2009, at 12:09 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — The Maine Supreme Judicial Court on Tuesday unanimously upheld the murder and rape convictions and life sentence of a former Bangor man.

Ashton Moores, 62, was convicted in November 2008 of the gross sexual assault and murder of Christina Simonin, 43, of Bangor in a jury-waived trial presided over by Justice William Anderson. The next January, Anderson sentenced Moores, who had spent much of his life behind bars for arson convictions, to life in prison.

Simonin’s body, bundled in a comforter and blue tarplike material, was found on March 3, 2007, behind a Union Street apartment building near Shaw House, a shelter for homeless teens. The medical examiner concluded that the woman, who had been staying with Moores, had been raped with an object and died of multiple traumatic injuries, including blows to the head and strangulation with some sort of ligature, according to court documents. She also suffered severe rib fractures.

“Because the evidence described is sufficient for the trial court to rationally find beyond a reasonable doubt that Moores committed both crimes,” Justice Donald Alexander wrote in the five-page opinion, “we affirm Moores’ convictions for murder and gross assault pursuant to [Maine law].”

The justices heard arguments in the case on Sept. 16 in Cumberland County Courthouse in Portland.

Moores’ attorneys, Seth Harrow and Terence Harrigan, both of Bangor, argued in their brief filed in the appeal that the evidence presented at the trial was circumstantial and insufficient for Anderson to conclude that Moores killed Simonin.

The court disagreed.

“A criminal conviction may be based solely on circumstantial evidence,” Alexander wrote, “even if inferences made from such evidence are contradicted by direct evidence, as long as the evidence supports a finding that each element of the crime at issue is proved beyond a reasonable doubt.”

In his brief, Harrow identified two men, including Simonin’s former boyfriend, as alternative suspects. The attorney criticized the investigation by the Bangor police, stating that investigators did not gather DNA evidence from the men or from their apartments.

Harrow argued that Moores’ conviction should be overturned and he should be granted a new trial.

The Attorney General’s Office, which prosecuted the case, disagreed.

Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber argued in his brief that Moores’ convictions should stand because the defendant shared information with police about the victim’s injuries that were not public at the time of his interview.

“We are pleased that the Law Court agreed with us that the evidence was overwhelming in this case,” Macomber said in an e-mail Tuesday. “While nothing can bring Christina Simonin back from the dead, and our thoughts are with her family, justice has been done.”

Efforts to reach the defense team were unsuccessful Tuesday.

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