BANGOR, Maine — Colin Koehler on Thursday repeatedly denied brutally stabbing to death a 19-year-old woman last year, but he could not explain how Holly Boutilier’s blood got on the bluejeans that police recovered from his bedroom or who sent text messages confessing to the crime from a cell phone number Koehler said was his.
Koehler also testified that the knife prosecutors identified as the murder weapon resembles one stolen from his apartment several months before Boutilier’s death on Aug. 8, 2009. In addition, he denied confessing to the half-dozen witnesses who have testified that Koehler told them he stabbed Boutilier in the abdomen and throat.
The defense rested its case after Koehler spent more than 2½ hours on the stand. The prosecution rested Wednesday.
The jury is expected to begin deliberating today after closing arguments and instructions from the judge.
“I am very eager to explain my side of it and to let the truth be told,” Koehler, 35, said as he took the stand.
Dressed in gray slacks, a dress shirt, blue blazer and tie, Koehler was calm on the witness stand. His demeanor bore a striking resemblance to the words his friends and mother used to describe him Thursday morning — calm, gentle and artistic.
The accused killer’s appearance also bore little resemblance to the mug shot released after his arrest. Since then, he has let his closely cropped brown hair grow long and worn it combed back from his forehead. He has worn a dress shirt, tie, slacks and sports coat to court every day this week.
The victim’s parents and other family members sat directly in front of Koehler while he was on the stand and directly across the aisle from the defendant’s parents. Family members on both sides showed little emotion as he spoke.
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. He has been held without bail at the Penobscot County Jail since his arrest.
The defendant and Justin Ptaszynski, 28, of Bangor went for a walk along the Penobscot River with Boutilier on Aug. 8, 2009, Ptaszynski testified Tuesday. 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.
Outside the courtroom earlier this week, defense attorney Richard Hartley of Bangor described Ptaszynski as an alternative suspect. Originally charged with murder, Ptaszynski pleaded guilty in May in Kennebec County Superior Court to the lesser charge of hindering apprehension or prosecution. He was sentenced to 10 years with all but six suspended and is incarcerated at the Maine State Prison in Warren.
Koehler was adamant Thursday that the last time he saw Boutilier was about 1 a.m. the day she was killed, when she left his apartment with Ptaszynski. Ptaszynski later returned and slept at Koehler’s apartment, both men agreed. The next day, they left the apartment together.
Ptaszynski testified Tuesday they met up with Boutilier and walked south on Main Street past the Bangor police station. Koehler said Thursday that he is not depicted in a surveillance video of two men and a woman walking down Cedar Street past Summer Street near the station about 1:15 p.m. that Saturday. Ptaszynski and investigators testified earlier this week that it was Koehler.
Koehler said Thursday that he left Ptaszynski in Pickering Square and headed toward the Bangor waterfront, where a charity basketball and music event was being held in a parking lot. The defendant testified that he left the record company-sponsored event with Ptaszynski and walked south along the railroad tracks, sharing a marijuana cigarette.
The defendant said that he and Ptaszynski are the two men shown in surveillance videos from cameras outside Hollywood Slots facing Dutton Street. Koehler also said he is the man with Ptaszynski in footage taken at Shaw’s Supermarket, where the two returned a video.
Under direct- and cross-examination, Koehler insisted that on Sunday, Aug. 9, 2009, between 11:20 a.m. and noon he could not have been texting his former girlfriend Jessica Palmer, 23, of Bangor or Ken Creamer, 21, of Hartland, the man Palmer said she left Koehler for. The defendant testified that the phone he had with him when he went to the Bangor police station that day to try to drop charges filed against Creamer on July 31 had run out of minutes.
Koehler said that he was playing a game on his phone and not texting as it appeared in video from cameras at the station. He testified that his only working phone was at his apartment being charged during that time frame. Koehler, however, admitted that the text messages found on cell phones belonging to Palmer and Creamer came from his phone.
Although Koehler said several times that he had a theory about how the evidence gathered by investigators pointed in his direction, he did not elaborate on it.
Before Koehler took the stand, Hartley introduced a letter in which Christopher Goode of Bangor confessed to the crime. Goode, who said he suffers from mental illness and has been in and out of jail often, testified that he wrote the letter under duress and threats from Koehler and another inmate.
Koehler said he had heard that Goode had admitted killing Boutilier. The defendant said another inmate encouraged Goode to write out his confession.
If convicted, Koehler faces a minimum of 25 years in