BANGOR, Maine — The prosecutor called it a premeditated “thrill killing” that was tantamount to torture because the young woman’s throat was slit from ear to ear.
A defense attorney countered that any bladed weapon wielded in a such a manner would cause almost instantaneous death, not a slow demise.
The judge, who had the last word, said, “Life.”
Colin Koehler, 36, faced a minimum of 25 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life for stabbing to death 19-year-old Holly Boutilier nearly two years ago in a cluttered shack on the Bangor waterfront.
A Penobscot County jury found him guilty of murder on Oct. 1, 2010, after a five-day trial. On Monday, Superior Court Justice William Anderson sentenced Koehler to spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Koehler did not react to the verdict and did not address the judge before the sentence was imposed.
“It seems from the evidence there was no motive for this crime,” Anderson said. “There are no mental health issues, no substance abuse issues. Nothing like we see in murder after murder after murder. He showed no respect for her as a human being, but treated her like an animal. This was a premeditated execution done in an extremely cruel fashion.”
The judge said the only motive he could glean from the evidence was that Koehler killed Boutilier to impress his former girlfriend.
Anderson said that because of the guilty verdict, he had to conclude that Koehler perjured himself on the witness stand. In addition, the judge said the defendant persuaded at least one fellow inmate at the Penobscot County Jail, where Koehler has been held since his arrest, to lie for the defendant in his effort to obtain a new trial.
Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson, who prosecuted the case, recommended that the judge send Koehler to prison for life. Defense attorney Richard Hartley of Bangor told Anderson that his client should not spend the rest of his life behind bars, but did not recommend a specific sentence.
The victim’s father, Gene Boutilier of Oakfield, had a very specific sentence in mind Monday when he spoke to the judge — death.
“There’s no death sentence in Maine,” he said, “or I would ask for that. That monster killed her so brutally I never want him to experience anything in life anymore.”
“My baby died in a pile of trash,” Holly Boutilier’s mother, Kathy Ingraham of Old Town, told Anderson. “I grew up on a farm and we slaughtered animals more humanely. [Koehler] is a vicious animal who made a conscious decision to end her life.
“Last Monday,” she continued, “was Holly’s 21st birthday and we celebrated in a graveyard. We spend all our holidays in graveyards because we can’t bear to celebrate without her. I plead with you to put this monster away for life.”
The only time Monday that Koehler, who is an only child, showed a hint of emotion was when his mother, Vicki Koehler of Carmel, spoke. He appeared to purse his lips and clench his jaw as she asked for a sentence less than life.
“He was calm, patient, loving and dreamy as a child, and now as a man,” she said. “He has always been my touchstone and my rock.”
Referring to several recent deaths at the Maine State Prison in Warren, Vicki Koehler said she was “scared to see her son go off where three prisoners have died in strange ways.”
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. She met Koehler for the first time less than 48 hours before she was killed, according to testimony. Boutlier had been staying at a center for homeless teens and “couch surfing,” that is, staying with friends for a night or two.
During the trial, Koehler and Justin Ptaszynski, 28, of Bangor gave conflicting testimony about the events that occurred the day Boutilier died, Aug. 8, 2009. Ptaszynski, who told the jury he witnessed the murder, identified the people in a video taken by a camera outside the Bangor police station 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 at about 1 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 8.
Koehler and Ptaszynski went for a walk along the Penobscot River with Boutilier the day she died, Ptaszynski testified. 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 was the murder weapon as the one Koehler wielded that afternoon.
Koehler denied killing Boutilier. He said that he was never at the riverfront shack that day. Koehler said he was at the 3 on 3 Charity Basketball Jam that was held 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.
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 2010 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.
At an impromptu press conference outside the courthouse Monday, Benson he was happy with the sentence Anderson imposed.
“Justice was done,” he said. “Colin Koehler got exactly what he deserved — a life sentence.”
Defense attorney Peter Cyr of Portland said his client maintains his innocence and would appeal the verdict and sentence.