BANGOR — A Superior Court judge on Wednesday denied a new trial to
the man convicted of fatally stabbing a 19-year-old woman on the Bangor waterfront in 2009 after a defense witness recanted his statements.
Justice William Anderson issued his oral ruling late Wednesday afternoon after a 90-minute hearing.
In their motion for a new trial filed last week, attorneys for Colin Koehler, 36, of Bangor said that John Whitney had told their client that he was with the victim, Holly Boutilier, 19, of Old Town shortly before she was killed.
Whitney, 30, of Bangor also told Koehler in a jailhouse conversation that he saw the victim “walking away with two other men, neither of whom were the defendant,” the motion said. “The three were walking toward Sea Dog Microbrewery and Restaurant, which is located near the waterfront trail along which the victim’s body was discovered.”
Whitney was incarcerated at the Penobscot County Jail from March 17 to April 9 on a burglary charge.
His story contradicted the testimony of Justin Ptaszynski, 29, of Bangor, who told the jury at Koehler’s murder trial last fall that he saw the defendant stab Boutilier to death. Ptaszynski, who is serving six years in prison, also identified the murder weapon as the one Koehler wielded the afternoon of the slaying, Saturday, Aug. 8, 2009.
Koehler denied killing Boutilier. He testified that he was never at the shack where Boutilier’s bloody body was found on Sunday, Aug. 9, 2009. Koehler told jurors he was at the 3-on-3 Charity Basketball Jam that was held the day before in the public parking lot on the Bangor waterfront.
Whitney testified Wednesday that he saw Boutilier in Pickering Square on Aug. 8, 2009 — the day she died — between 8 a.m. and noon. He said that she walked away from him alone toward the BAT buses that pick up and let off passengers.
In a taped interview with Bangor police detectives Monday that was played in court, Whitney first said that he had been with Boutilier until 11:30 a.m and saw her leave Pickering Square with two men, neither of whom was Koehler. In the same interview, Whitney recanted that story and told detectives that Koehler had asked him to tell an investigator working for the defense team that Whitney was with Boutilier at 11:30 a.m. the day she died.
The motion for a new trial also argued that Whitney claimed to have spoken with an investigator two days after Boutilier died. The defense team was not informed of the interview, a violation of discovery rules, the motion argued.
In his interview with police, Whitney denied ever talking with a uniformed or plainclothes officer in the days after Boutilier’s murder.
Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson, who prosecuted the case, told the judge Wednesday that the evidence against Koehler was “overwhelming” and the jury had reached the correct conclusion.
Koehler, who faces between 25 years and life in prison, remained Wednesday at the Penobscot County Jail, where he has been held since his arrest Aug. 11, 2009.
He is not expected to be sentenced until mid-June.
Benson said after Wednesday’s hearing that he would recommend Koehler be sentenced to life. Defense attorney Peter Cyr of Portland declined to discuss his sentencing recommendation.