Star witness testifies: ‘That’s when I saw the knife’

Posted Sept. 28, 2010, at 11:14 a.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:32 a.m.
(BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY BRIDGET BROWN)



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Colin Koehler, 34, of Bangor is escorted to Penobscot County Superior Court in Bangor on Thursday, August 13, 2009 for his first appearance for the murder of Holly Boutilier. (Bangor Daily News/Bridget Brown)
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(BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY BRIDGET BROWN) CAPTION Colin Koehler, 34, of Bangor is escorted to Penobscot County Superior Court in Bangor on Thursday, August 13, 2009 for his first appearance for the murder of Holly Boutilier. (Bangor Daily News/Bridget Brown)
(BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY JOHN CLARKE RUSS)

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Delivering opening arguments Monday, Sept. 27 at Colin Koehler's jury trial at Penobscot Judicial Center, Assistant Attorney General Donald McComber shows state's evidence photos of a cell phone text that defendant Colin Koehler allegedly sent to a key witness around the time of Holly Boutilier's murder in August 2009.The text reads &quotIve done nothn but adore u every monment i will kill [sic]."  (Bangor Daily News/John Clarke Russ)
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(BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY JOHN CLARKE RUSS) CAPTION Delivering opening arguments Monday, Sept. 27 at Colin Koehler's jury trial at Penobscot Judicial Center, Assistant Attorney General Donald McComber shows state's evidence photos of a cell phone text that defendant Colin Koehler allegedly sent to a key witness around the time of Holly Boutilier's murder in August 2009.The text reads "Ive done nothn but adore u every monment i will kill [sic]." (Bangor Daily News/John Clarke Russ)
Colin Koehler, left,  of Bangor looks towards seated members of the  prosecution team during the opening arguments 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. Seated next to him is one of his lawyers, Portland attorney Peter Cyr. (Bangor Daily News/John Clarke Russ)
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Colin Koehler, left, of Bangor looks towards seated members of the prosecution team during the opening arguments 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. Seated next to him is one of his lawyers, Portland attorney Peter Cyr. (Bangor Daily News/John Clarke Russ)
(BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY JOHN CLARKE RUSS)



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Delivering opening arguments Monday , Sept. 27 at Colin Koehler's jury trial at Penobscot Judicial Center, Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber shows state's evidence photos of a cell phone text that defendant Colin Koehler allegedly sent to a key witness around the time of Holly Boutilier's murder in August 2009. The text reads &quotR u goin to the cops on me."  (Bangor Daily News/John Clarke Russ)
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(BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY JOHN CLARKE RUSS) CAPTION Delivering opening arguments Monday , Sept. 27 at Colin Koehler's jury trial at Penobscot Judicial Center, Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber shows state's evidence photos of a cell phone text that defendant Colin Koehler allegedly sent to a key witness around the time of Holly Boutilier's murder in August 2009. The text reads "R u goin to the cops on me." (Bangor Daily News/John Clarke Russ)
(BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY JOHN CLARKE RUSS)



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Delivering opening arguments Monday , Sept. 27 at Colin Koehler's jury trial at Penobscot Judicial Center, Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber shows state's evidence photos of a cell phone text that defendant Colin Koehler allegedly sent to a key witness around the time of Holly Boutilier's murder in August 2009.The text reads" &quotToo bad Holy [sic] didn't know that lol."  (Bangor Daily News/John Clarke Russ)
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(BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY JOHN CLARKE RUSS) CAPTION Delivering opening arguments Monday , Sept. 27 at Colin Koehler's jury trial at Penobscot Judicial Center, Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber shows state's evidence photos of a cell phone text that defendant Colin Koehler allegedly sent to a key witness around the time of Holly Boutilier's murder in August 2009.The text reads" "Too bad Holy [sic] didn't know that lol." (Bangor Daily News/John Clarke Russ)
Justin Ptaszynski (right) is escorted from Penobscot County Superio9r Court after making his initial appearance there Thursday afternoon. Police arrested him Thursday in connection with the death of 19-year-old Holly Boutilier, who was found dead in a shed hidden in trees along the Penobscot River in Bangor on Aug. 9. Escorting him from the courtroom is Penobscot County transport officer Troy DeRoche.   (BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY JOHN CLARKE RUSS)  



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Justin Ptaszynski,right, is escorted from Penobscot County Superior Court after making his initial appearance there Thursday afternoon, September 3, 2009. Police arrested him Thursday in connection with the death of 19-year-old Holly Boutilier who was found dead in a shed hidden in trees along the Penobscot River in Bangor on August 9, 2009. Escorting him from the court room was Penobcot County transport officer Troy DeRoche. (Bangor Daily News/John Clarke Russ)t
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Justin Ptaszynski (right) is escorted from Penobscot County Superio9r Court after making his initial appearance there Thursday afternoon. Police arrested him Thursday in connection with the death of 19-year-old Holly Boutilier, who was found dead in a shed hidden in trees along the Penobscot River in Bangor on Aug. 9. Escorting him from the courtroom is Penobscot County transport officer Troy DeRoche. (BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY JOHN CLARKE RUSS) CAPTION Justin Ptaszynski,right, is escorted from Penobscot County Superior Court after making his initial appearance there Thursday afternoon, September 3, 2009. Police arrested him Thursday in connection with the death of 19-year-old Holly Boutilier who was found dead in a shed hidden in trees along the Penobscot River in Bangor on August 9, 2009. Escorting him from the court room was Penobcot County transport officer Troy DeRoche. (Bangor Daily News/John Clarke Russ)t

BANGOR, Maine — The state’s star witness testified Tuesday that he saw Colin Koehler kill Holly Boutilier on the afternoon of Saturday, Aug. 8, 2009, in a shack on the Bangor Waterfront. Under cross-examination, however, Justin Ptyszynski said the pants prosecutors claim were worn by the 19-year-old victim’s assailant might have been his.

“I saw his arm make a swinging motion,” Ptaszynski, 28, of Bangor told the jury. “Holly said, ‘What the f— ?’ She dropped to her knees and started crying. That’s when I saw the knife. Then he told her to ‘shut the f— up,’ and he stabbed her in the throat.”

In his opening statement Monday, Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber showed the jury a pair of bluejeans he said had Boutilier’s blood on them. The prosecutor told the jury that the pants were recovered from Koehler’s apartment and belonged to him.

Under cross-examination, Ptaszynski said Tuesday that he had not worn Koehler’s clothes when he had stayed at his apartment. But when asked whether the blood-spattered bluejeans were his, the witness said, “They might be.”

In testimony Tuesday morning, Ptaszynski identified the knife prosecutors have said is the murder weapon as the one Koehler, 35, of Bangor wielded that afternoon.

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. Koehler and Ptaszynski went for a walk along the Penobscot River with Boutilier the day she died, according to court documents. Koehler was arrested two days later after a brief standoff with Bangor police outside his Columbia Street apartment.

Koehler has pleaded not guilty to intentional or knowing murder. His attorney told the jury Monday during opening statements that the defendant would testify in his own defense.

While being cross-examined Tuesday by defense attorney Richard Hartley of Bangor, Ptaszynski testified that he destroyed the shoes he wore the day of the murder. The witness said he pulled the soles off them and put them in a Dumpster behind a Court Street apartment house because he was afraid they could be matched to footprints at the murder scene.

He also admitted that he initially was not fully cooperative with investigators because he “wanted to stay out of prison.” In addition, he testified that he did not tell police he had destroyed his shoes until more than a week after Boutilier’s body was found and that by then the Dumpster had been emptied.

Ptaszynski also told the jury that he assumed Boutilier, of Old Town and Oakfield, was dead and, out of fear, ran south along the riverfront toward the Interstate 395 overpass. He said that Koehler caught up with him where a footpath ends under the bridge.

Ptaszynski identified the men depicted in videos taken from surveillance cameras outside the Bangor police station and Hollywood Slots and one taken inside Shaw’s Supermarket the day of the murder as Koehler and himself.

Ptaszynski said he stayed at Koehler’s apartment the night Boutilier was killed.

“He slept in a sleeping bag in front of the door to keep me from leaving,” the witness said of Koehler. “I had to keep the bathroom door open when I went to the bathroom and he took my cell phone while I was in there.”

Outside the courtroom, Hartley has called Ptaszynski an alternative suspect in Boutilier’s murder.

“When the police interviewed you on Aug. 11, they said, ‘You can be a witness or a defendant,’ and you chose to be a witness, isn’t that right?” Hartley asked Ptaszynski on Tuesday. He answered, “Yes.”

Under redirect by Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson, Ptaszynski denied that he had stabbed Boutilier. The witness also said that when he testified he saw Koehler stab Boutilier, he was telling the truth.

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 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.

By pleading guilty, Ptaszynski admitted that he concealed evidence and initially lied to investigators about the chain of events and the location of the murder weapon, described in court documents as a curved, Japanese-style knife.

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 and testified Tuesday wearing prison-issued clothing, including his footwear.

The most emotional testimony in the trial so far came Tuesday afternoon when Koehler’s ex-girlfriend Jessica Palmer, 23, of Bangor took the stand. The redhead cried throughout most of her testimony. The defendant, who has not reacted to other witnesses, appeared moved by seeing Palmer for the first time in more than a year.

Palmer said she was involved with Koehler from January until August 2009. She testified that she left Koehler to resume living with the father of her son, who is now 3½ years old, but remained in contact with the defendant.

She told jurors that the night before Boutilier was killed, she called Koehler and became upset when she learned the teenage girl was there.

“I got upset,” Palmer told the jury as she wiped tears off her face. “I was jealous. I told him to have her leave. I yelled at him and called Holly a ‘whore.’”

Palmer also said that the day after Boutilier’s murder, she received a series of text messages on her cell phone from one that she assumed was Koehler’s. She testified that one of them said, “I’ve done nothing but adore you every moment. I will kill for you.”

That same night, Koehler told her that he had stabbed Boutilier in the stomach, Palmer testified.

“I said I didn’t believe him, that he was not that kind or person,” Palmer said, close to sobs. “Then he said that [Boutilier] said, ‘What the [expletive]’ when he did it. He said it was down at the bum shack place.”

Under cross-examination, Palmer admitted that she had been drunk when she called Koehler the night before Boutilier’s death, as well as when she was at his apartment the Sunday after. She testified that the fact that she had had at least two shots of tequila and six bottles of bottled tea mixed with alcohol had not impaired her memory of Koehler’s confession.

Earlier Tuesday, Dustin Bayrd, 26, also testified that Koehler confessed to him.

“[Koehler] said he took her out,” Bayrd told the jury. “To me that meant make her disappear, kill her.”

Bayrd also testified that the night before Boutilier died, Koehler had made stabbing motions while holding the sheathed knife prosecutors have said is the murder weapon toward the woman’s back.

“He said something like ‘what if’ or ‘just imagine,’” Bayrd said.

Under cross-examination, Bayrd said that police officers woke him and Ptaszynski, who was staying at Bayrd’s apartment, on Sunday morning before Boutilier’s body was discovered. Bayrd also said that he is able to remember events when he is under the influence of marijuana but does not always know “what day it is.”

Boutilier’s bloody body was discovered on Sunday, Aug. 9, 2009, by a transient in a shack among the trees between the end of Dutton Street and the Veterans Remembrance Bridge. 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 with Bangor police outside his Columbia Street apartment.

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 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.

By pleading guilty, Ptaszynski admitted that he concealed evidence and initially lied to investigators about the chain of events and the location of the alleged murder weapon, described in court documents as a curved, Japanese-style knife.

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 State Prison in Warren.

The jury of 15 Penobscot County men and women, including three alternates, was selected last week by Superior Court Justice William Anderson, who is presiding over the trial. The jury, which is made up of 10 women and five men, is expected to begin deliberations Friday after closing statements and instructions from the judge.

CORRECTION: Justin Ptyszynski is serving his sentence at Maine Correctional Center in Windham.

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