Attorneys for Ormsby seeking change of venue for triple murder trial

Posted Feb. 29, 2012, at 5:27 p.m.
Last modified April 10, 2012, at 10:06 a.m.
Thayne Ormsby
Thayne Ormsby

HOULTON, Maine — Attorneys for a 21-year-old accused in the brutal slaying of two men and a 10-year-old boy in the Aroostook County town of Amity in June 2010 have filed court documents seeking a change of venue for the trial.

Assistant Attorney General Bill Stokes said Wednesday that he expects a decision on the request to move the trial of Thayne Ormsby to be made when jury selection begins in Aroostook County Superior Court in Houlton on April 4.

Stokes said Ormsby’s attorneys, James Dunleavy and Sarah LeClaire of Presque Isle, are seeking a change of venue based on pre-trial publicity in the case. The only other superior court in The County is located in Caribou, 60 miles north of Houlton, but superior court Justice E. Allen Hunter, who has presided over the case thus far, also sits in Washington County.

Stokes acknowledged Wednesday that the case has received a lot of publicity, but he felt that a suitable jury could be found in Houlton.

Ormsby, an Ellsworth native who was living in Orient at the time of the killings, 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.

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.

Late last year, Justice Hunter denied a defense motion to suppress statements that Ormsby made to Maine State Police detectives during two separate interviews in June and July 2010.

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 2011 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.

Strout remains free on bail.

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.

Two weeks have been set aside for jury selection, with the trial set to begin after that process is complete.

Dunleavy and LeClaire could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

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