May 23, 2018
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State rests in Bangor murder trial

By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — The state rested its case Wednesday afternoon in the trial of Colin Koehler, who is accused of killing Holly Boutilier.

Koehler, 35, of Bangor is expected to take the stand in his own defense Thursday at the Penobscot Judicial Center.

The defendant is charged with stabbing to death Boutilier, 19, of Old Town and Oakfield last year in a shack along the Penobscot River in Bangor in front of an eyewitness, Justin Ptaszynski, 28, of Bangor.

Wednesday’s witnesses included analysts from the state crime lab, Bangor police detectives who investigated the case, and a Dexter man who was in the Penobscot County Jail with Koehler. Two videos of the defendant recorded when he was at the Bangor police station also were played.

The defendant and Ptaszynski went for a walk along the Penobscot River with Boutilier on Aug. 8, 2009, according to court documents. Her bloody body was found by a transient the next day in a cluttered shack not far from the end of Dutton Street, which runs from Main Street to the riverfront between Hollywood Slots and Geaghan’s Pub.

Koehler was arrested on Aug. 11, 2009, after a brief standoff with Bangor police outside his Columbia Street apartment.

He has pleaded not guilty to intentional or knowing murder and has been held without bail at the Bangor jail since his arrest.

Bangor police Detective Timothy Cotton testified Wednesday morning that no human blood or DNA was found on the knife identified by prosecutors as the murder weapon.

Cotton also told jurors that no blood was found inside the sheath the knife was in when it was recovered in a chink in a retaining wall in the parking lot across the street from Koehler’s apartment and adjacent to the Columbia Street Baptist Church.

On Wednesday afternoon, Brandi Caron, a forensic chemist at the Maine State Police Crime Lab in Augusta, corroborated Cotton’s testimony but gave a more detailed explanation of tests run on rust and red-brown stains found on the knife and inside its sheath. She said that a test of the swab of that material tested positive for blood.

Jennifer Sabean, a DNA analyst at the lab, told jurors that when she tested the same samples, they did not test positive for human blood and no DNA profile could be obtained from them. She was not asked by prosecutors or defense attorneys whether she had tested the sample to determine what kind of blood it might be.

Sabean also testified that the blood taken from a wall inside the shack where Boutilier’s body was found and blood found on a pair of jeans prosecutors have said belonged to Koehler matched the victim’s DNA profile.

In addition, the witness said that DNA from three different males was found inside the jeans. One matched Koehler’s profile; neither of the other two were a match to Ptazynski but were listed as belonging to unknown males, she said. The analyst testified no other profiles were given to her for testing.

During Cotton’s testimony Wednesday morning, prosecutors played a portion of a video recording of a three-hour police interview with Koehler on Aug. 11, 2009. Koehler was arrested and charged with Boutilier’s murder at the end of the interrogation, Cotton said.

During his interview with Cotton, Koehler said he saw Boutilier with Ptaszynski the night before the slaying but denied being with her on the day of her death. He denied that he walked by the Bangor police station about 1:15 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 8, 2009, but did tell Cotton that he and Ptaszynski returned rented videos to Shaw’s Supermarket about 2:15 p.m. that day.

Videos of the trio walking on Main Street past the police station were played earlier this week.

Recordings from similar surveillance cameras from Hollywood Slots and Shaw’s also have been played.

Cotton said Wednesday under cross-examination that during his interview of Koehler, the defendant never said that he saw Boutilier on Saturday, Aug. 8, 2009. The detective testified that he asked Koehler 16 times if he had been with the victim the day she died and his answer was always the same — no.

On Wednesday, additional testimony was presented about the text messages prosecutors have said Koehler sent to his ex-girlfriend Jessica Palmer, 23, of Bangor and to Ken Creamer, 21, of Hartland. Palmer told jurors Tuesday that she left Koehler for Creamer about a week before Boutilier was killed but had stayed in touch with the defendant.

The prosecution showed a video of Koehler, intermittently writing on paper provided by police and punching the keys on his cell phone between about 11 and 11:15 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 9, 2009.

The defendant told police he came to the station that day to ask that a protection order he had requested about a week earlier be lifted, Cotton testified as the third day of the trial began.



Koehler had asked that the order be put in place after a July 31 incident when Creamer, who has a child with Palmer, allegedly cracked the glass in the door of Koehler’s apartment.

Creamer testified that he received texts between 11:20 a.m. and noon Sunday, Aug. 9, from a phone he believed belonged to Koehler. Palmer testified Tuesday that she also received texts from a phone she believed belonged to the defendant during that same time period.

Creamer described the text messages as threatening. He said that in one of them Koehler asked Creamer to meet him under the Interstate 395 bridge. He told the jury he refused in a return text that said, “Sorry, but I was trained not to meet my enem[ies] on their ground. You’re going to have to do better than that.”

The Hartland man told jurors that he received one more text from the phone he believed was Koehler’s. It said, “Too bad Holly didn’t know that. LOL.”

Creamer said that LOL meant “laughing out loud.”

On Tuesday, a sobbing Palmer testified that Koehler had told her on Aug. 9, 2009, that he had killed Boutilier.

While Wednesday’s proceedings were mostly solemn and serious, the testimony of Willie W. Harper, 42, of Dexter had jurors, investigators, attorneys and spectators fighting back laughter. Harper testified that Koehler told him where he had hidden the murder weapon while the two were being held in the same section of the jail.

Harper, who said he moved to Maine from Chicago in 1999 or 2000, had trouble answering most questions directly. He was very clear, however, about his criminal past.

When asked by Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson if he had a criminal record, Harper quickly answered, “Hell, yeah.” When asked if it was long and filled many pages, he said, “It could fill this whole room.”

He told jurors that he was in jail from April 2009 until March 2010 and sometimes put in the “hole” or locked in his cell because he “had trouble with authority” and did not get along with some of the corrections officers. Why Harper was in jail during that period was not explained in court, but according to previously published reports, he was awaiting trial on a gross sexual assault charge. He was found not guilty in March after a jury-waived trial and released.

Although Harper’s testimony was vague about whether Koehler had confessed to him that Koehler had killed Boutilier, Harper said Wednesday the defendant had told him he had hidden the knife in a wall by a church across from the Columbia Street apartment.

Harper said he could not remember when he spoke with Bangor police detectives about what he heard Koehler say, although Benson asked him if it was in late August or early September 2009.

The jury of 15 Penobscot County residents, 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.

If convicted, Koehler faces a minimum of 25 years in prison and a maximum of life.

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