Opposing lawyers weigh in on death of 19-year-old Holly Boutilier

Colin Koehler of Bangor looks around the courtroom before the start of his jury trial at Penobscot Judicial Center Monday. Koehler is accused of fatally stabbing 19-year-old Holly Boutilier of Old Town on Bangor's riverfront in August 2009. (Bangor Daily News/John Clarke Russ)
BDN
Colin Koehler of Bangor looks around the courtroom before the start of his jury trial at Penobscot Judicial Center Monday. Koehler is accused of fatally stabbing 19-year-old Holly Boutilier of Old Town on Bangor's riverfront in August 2009. (Bangor Daily News/John Clarke Russ)
By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff
Posted Sept. 27, 2010, at 12:05 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Which man do you believe: the one charged with murdering a 19-year-old woman last year in a shack along the Penobscot River or the one who claims to have witnessed the slaying but did nothing to stop it?

That is the question jurors will have to decide this week in the trial of Colin Koehler, opposing lawyers told the jury Monday in their opening statements in a second-floor courtroom at the Penobscot Judicial Center.

Koehler, 35, of Bangor is accused of stabbing Holly Boutilier of Old Town and Oakfield in the abdomen and slitting her throat between 2 and 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 8, 2009. He pleaded not guilty to intentional or knowing murder a year ago.

Justin Ptaszynski, 28, of Bangor, who claims to have seen Koehler deliver the fatal blows, is scheduled to testify Tuesday. Later in the week, Koehler will take the stand, his attorney said.

The jury, which is made up of 10 women and five men, three of whom are alternates, is expected to begin its deliberations Friday after closing statements and instructions from Superior Court Justice William Anderson.

Boutilier’s bloody body was discovered Sunday, Aug. 9, 2009, by a transient in a shack among the trees between the end of Dutton Street and the Veterans Remembrance Bridge in Bangor. Koehler and Ptaszynski went for a walk along the Penobscot River with Boutilier the day she died, according to court documents. Koehler was arrested by Bangor police two days later after a brief standoff outside his Columbia Street apartment.

In testimony Monday, Dr. Margaret Greenwald, the state’s chief medical examiner, said Boutilier died of multiple sharp force injuries. She said the wound to the victim’s abdomen was 5 inches deep and went through the small-framed woman’s liver and aorta.

“There was over a liter of blood in her body from this wound,” Greenwald told the jury.

The wound to Boutilier’s neck was 5½ inches long and severed the left carotid artery and her jugular vein, the medical examiner said.

Greenwald testified that Boutlier’s wounds could have been made by the knife with a curved blade, which the prosecutor told the jury is the murder weapon. The blade of the knife appeared to be about 8 inches long.

Greenwald said Boutilier’s death was “fairly rapid — within seconds to a minute or so.”

Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber said in his opening statement earlier Monday that Koehler practiced stabbing a figure he had drawn on a sheet of plywood with the knives and swords he owned. The defendant pretended to stab Boutilier the night before her death when she and Ptaszynski visited him at his apartment, Macomber told the jury.

“Colin Koehler stood behind Holly, made stabbing motions and said to her, ‘Just imagine,’” the prosecutor said.

The next day, Koehler killed Boutilier in front of Ptaszynski, Macomber said.

Although Ptaszynski initially lied to investigators, he later led police to where Koehler had hidden the murder weapon, described in court documents as a curved, Japanese-style knife, behind a retaining wall at a church near Koehler’s apartment, the prosecutor told the jury.

But in his opening statement, defense attorney Richard Hartley of Bangor said Koehler (pronounced KOE-ler) is innocent and was not even on the riverfront when Boutilier was killed.

“It was not him,” he said, pointing to the defendant. “Colin Koehler did not kill Holly Boutilier. This case will expose the underbelly of the criminal justice system and the world of the criminal informant.”

Hartley told jurors that Ptazsynski (pronounced tuh-ZIN-ski) was the “confidential informant” who told police he saw Koehler stab Boutilier.

“With respect to [the state’s] witnesses,” Hartley said, “everybody is out for themselves and the truth might get in the way of that. Colin Koehler told the police the truth and they didn’t believe him. He will testify and tell you what he told them.”

Ptaszynski originally was charged by the Maine Attorney General’s Office with murder and hindering apprehension or prosecution. He pleaded guilty to the hindering charge in May in Kennebec County Superior Court and was sentenced to 10 years in prison with all but six years suspended.

The hindering apprehension or prosecution charge stemmed from the fact that Ptaszynski witnessed the crime but did nothing to stop it, nor did he contact police, according to the Attorney General’s Office.

In exchange for his guilty plea, the state agreed to drop the murder charge on the grounds that Ptaszynski did not personally kill Boutilier, according to a previously published report. He is serving his sentence at the Maine Correctional Center in Windham.

Other witnesses Monday included the then homeless man who discovered Boutilier’s body in the abandoned and cluttered railroad shack, Bangor police detectives and employees of Hollywood Slots and Shaw’s Supermarket.

The jury viewed three videos. One showed two men and a woman walking about 2:15 p.m. Aug. 8 on a Main Street sidewalk adjacent to the Bangor police station.

Surveillance cameras owned by Hollywood Slots showed two men walking up Dutton Street about 3:15 p.m. the same day from the riverfront, turning right and walking in front of the gambling establishment toward Shaw’s Supermarket.

The Shaw’s video showed what appeared to be the same two men walking into the store a few minutes later and returning a video to the Redbox rental machine near the checkout lanes.

The parents, family and friends of the victim and the defendant sat on opposite sides of the room on the first day of the trial. Parents of both Boutilier and Koehler declined to comment on the trial. Boutilier’s parents are expected to make a statement to the media covering the trial after the verdict is announced.

CORRECTION: Ptaszynski is serving his sentence in Maine Correctional Center in Windham,

http://bangordailynews.com/2010/09/27/news/bangor/opposing-lawyers-weigh-in-on-death-of-19yearold-holly-boutilier/ printed on September 23, 2014