BANGOR, Maine — Two mothers who sat across the aisle from each other hoping for opposite outcomes burst into tears Friday afternoon when the guilty verdict was announced.
One woman wept for joy, the other sobbed with sorrow as the forewoman said the jury had found Colin Koehler guilty of murder for stabbing 19-year-old Holly Boutilier to death on Aug. 8, 2009, in a cluttered shack on the Bangor waterfront.
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“Justice was brought to Holly,” her mother, Kathy Ingraham, 44, of Old Town said at an impromptu press conference outside the Penobscot Judicial Center, where the five-day trial was held. “There was never any doubt in my mind” that the verdict would be guilty, she said.
Vicki Koehler, 59, of Carmel did not speak to reporters as she left the building after her son’s conviction. She and others described the defendant as calm, gentle and artistic. Koehler’s mother, a horse breeder and trainer, was not allowed to sit in on most of the trial because she was a witness, testifying for her only child, who will spend at least 25 years and possibly the rest of his life in prison.
Koehler’s father, Gerd Koehler, was able to remain in the courtroom throughout the trial.
The defendant’s reaction to the verdict was barely visible — he dropped his chin slightly and shook his head from side to side.
Superior Court Justice William Anderson, who presided over the trial, ordered that Koehler, 35, continue to be held without bail at the Penobscot County Jail. He has been incarcerated there since his arrest on Aug. 11, 2009. A sentencing date has not been set.
Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber echoed Boutilier’s mother.
“Justice was done,” he said.
Defense attorney Richard Hartley of Bangor said his client was disappointed in the outcome of the trial.
“The jury worked very hard,” he said after the verdict. “It certainly wanted to see the video, but it’s hard to tell just what they were focusing on.”
The jury of five men and seven women deliberated for about 2½ hours. About 20 minutes before reaching their verdict, the jurors asked to see the video from a Bangor police station surveillance camera for a third time. They also asked that the recording — which showed three figures walking along Cedar Street near the police station about 1:15 p.m. the day Boutilier died — be paused and zoomed in on.
Koehler and Justin Ptaszynski, 28, of Bangor gave conflicting testimony about the video and the events that followed.
Ptaszynski, who told the jury he witnessed the murder, identified the people in the video as Koehler, Boutilier and himself. Koehler testified that he could not be in the video because he did not walk past the police station with Ptaszynski that day. The defendant also said the last time he saw Boutilier was when she left his apartment with Ptaszynski and Dustin Bayrd, 26, of Bangor, about 1 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 8.
Koehler and Ptaszynski went for a walk along the Penobscot River with Boutilier — who was from Old Town and Oakfield — the day she died, Ptaszynski testified Tuesday. He said that when they came upon the cluttered “bum hut,” Boutilier went inside and began going through the clothes, toiletries and other items inside. Koehler followed her, Ptaszynski said.
“I saw his arm make a swinging motion,” Ptaszynski 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.”
Ptaszynski also identified the knife prosecutors have said is the murder weapon as the one Koehler, of Bangor, wielded that afternoon.
Koehler denied killing Boutilier. He said that he was never at the shack where Boutilier’s bloody body was found in the early afternoon on Sunday, Aug. 9, 2009. Koehler said he was at the 3 on 3 Charity Basketball Jam that was held Saturday, Aug. 8, in the public parking lot on the Bangor waterfront.
He said that he met up with Ptaszynski along the riverfront and the two walked south on the railroad tracks, smoking marijuana. The two men agreed that they walked up Dutton Street past Hollywood Slots, then went to Shaw’s Supermarket to return a video about 2:15 p.m. Both men said they were in videos retrieved from those businesses by police.
Closing arguments and instructions to the jury took up Friday morning.
Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson, who prosecuted the case with Macomber, told the jury Friday that the “mountain of evidence” against Koehler was “overwhelming.” The prosecutor said that evidence included Ptaszynski’s eyewitness account of the crime and at least four other people who testified that Koehler had confessed to them.
Boutilier’s blood was found on pants recovered from Koehler’s apartment and his DNA was found inside them, the prosecutor said. Benson also pointed to text messages sent to Jessica Palmer, 23, of Bangor and Ken Creamer, 21, the man she said she left Koehler for. The messages were sent — before Boutilier’s body was discovered — from a cell phone number Koehler admitted was his. The messages essentially contained admissions to the murder.
“The evidence in this case is simply overwhelming,” Benson told the jury.
Hartley argued that because no human blood was found on the knife or its sheath and because Ptaszynski disposed of his shoes, there should be reasonable doubt in jurors’ minds. In addition, the defense attorney told the jury that Ptaszynski or someone else could have killed Boutilier since the medical examiner’s time frame for the killing was 24 hours. He also said that police did not search the apartment where Ptaszynski was staying.
“The oath you took as jurors demands that you look at the evidence critically,” the defense attorney said. “If Justin Ptaszynski or someone else got away with murder, then your oath demands that Colin Koehler not be scapegoated on this evidence.”
Hartley’s co-counsel, Peter Cyr of Portland, said the verdict would be appealed.