Jury selection scheduled for Amity triple homicide trial

Posted Dec. 16, 2011, at 1:39 p.m.
Last modified April 10, 2012, at 10:06 a.m.
Thayne Ormsby
Thayne Ormsby

CARIBOU, Maine — An Aroostook County Superior Court justice will allow a jury to hear statements that a 21-year-old who is accused of killing three people in Amity made to police last year.

Justice E. Allen Hunter has denied a defense motion to suppress statements that accused killer Thayne Ormsby made to police during two separate interviews. Hunter also has ordered that jury selection for the trial begin on April 4. A Superior Court clerk said Friday that two weeks have been set aside for jury selection, with the trial set to begin, likely in Houlton Superior Court, after that process is complete.

Ormsby, an Ellsworth native who was living in Orient at the time of the killings in June 2010, is accused of stabbing to death Jeffrey Ryan, 55, Ryan’s son Jesse, 10, and Ryan family friend Jason Dehahn, 30, all of Amity. All three were found dead about 27 hours after the killings at the Ryans’ home on U.S. Route 1. The victims were stabbed to death with a combat-style knife that Ormsby reportedly always carried with him, according to police.

On June 30, 2011, the accused and his attorneys, James Dunleavy and Sarah LeClaire of Presque Isle, sought in Superior Court in Houlton to suppress statements Ormsby made to police in June and July 2010. The attorneys argued that the officers did not inform Ormsby of his right to remain silent and request an attorney before the statements were made.

During the six-hour June 30 hearing, Maine State Police Detectives Dale Keegan and Adam Stoutamyer testified that any information about the homicides came from Ormsby voluntarily and that they gave the accused ample opportunity to obtain counsel. Keegan, who since has retired from the state police, testified at the hearing that during the first interview with Ormsby on June 29, 2010, he told Ormsby that he was not under arrest and did not read him Miranda rights. He said Ormsby voluntarily answered questions and submitted DNA and fingerprint samples when asked.

Keegan added that when he and Stoutamyer interviewed Ormsby again on July 2, Ormsby again agreed to be interviewed and repeatedly was read his Miranda rights and told that he was not under arrest and was free to stop answering questions or ask for a lawyer at any time.

Keegan testified that Ormsby stuck to his original story until confronted with evidence from the crime scene, and then admitted guilt and wrote out a confession for police. Keegan testified that he read Ormsby the Miranda rights again before Ormsby wrote out the confession.

Stoutamyer testified that during a break, Ormsby told him that the “search is over” for the killer.

Assistant Attorney General Bill Stokes, who is prosecuting the case, said late on Thursday that Hunter has denied the motion to suppress the statements. Hunter did not accept Dunleavy’s argument that questioning should have stopped when Ormsby told police once during questioning that he would have to “plead the Fifth” to some questions during his July 2 interview with police or when at another point he said, “perhaps I do need a lawyer.”

Even after making those statements, Ormsby kept talking and answering questions for police, according to testimony, and never requested that the interview cease or that he be provided an attorney.

Ormsby pleaded not guilty in July 2010 to three counts of murder in connection with the deaths and to an arson charge in connection with the theft of Jeffrey Ryan’s truck, which was set on fire in Weston after the killings.

Ormsby reportedly told police he killed Jeffrey Ryan because he believed Ryan was a drug dealer. Ryan’s family has denied the claim, and a criminal background check on Jeffrey Ryan revealed no history of drug-related offenses.

Police linked Ormsby to the crime scene through DNA and fingerprint evidence obtained from a beer can and cigarette butt in Ryan’s home.

Also, for his alleged role in helping to conceal evidence in connection with the triple homicide, Robert Strout, 64, of Orient was arrested in September 2010 and charged with hindering apprehension and arson. While free on bail, Strout was arrested again in August 2011 on an unrelated drug offense.

He pleaded guilty to all the charges against him in October and will be sentenced after he testifies against Ormsby at the trial. Under a plea agreement, he will serve at least two years in prison on the charges but not more than four years.

In the weeks before the killings, Ormsby lived a short distance from the crime scene at the Orient home of Strout and his wife, Joy Strout. Strout told police last year that a bloodied Ormsby came to his home after the killings and threatened to kill his family if he did not help Ormsby cover up evidence of the crime, including helping to dispose of the clothes Ormsby was wearing and the knife used in the killings.

Strout later drove Ormsby to New Hampshire to live with his son. That is where Ormsby later was arrested.

Strout was out on bail on those charges when he was arrested by officers with the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency this past August and charged with aggravated furnishing of scheduled drugs and violation of bail. He pleaded guilty to furnishing more than 8,000 milligrams of the powerful painkiller oxycodone over a five-month period.

Strout remains free on bail.

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