HOULTON, Maine — Jury selection in the murder trial of Thayne Ormsby is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Wednesday in Aroostook County Superior Court.
Opening statements and witness testimony are expected to be presented Thursday or Friday, depending on how long it takes to seat a jury, according to the Maine attorney general’s office, which is prosecuting the case.
If, for some reason, an impartial jury cannot be selected in Houlton, the trial could be moved, according to a previously published report. Defense attorneys James Dunleavy and Sarah LeClaire of Presque Isle filed a motion in February asking that the trial be moved to Caribou or another county because of pretrial publicity.
Deputy Attorney General William Stokes, the lead prosecutor, objected. Stokes said in February that he believed a suitable jury could be found in Houlton, according to a previously published report.
In 2007, a trial was moved from Hancock County to Penobscot County after a jury could not be seated in Ellsworth in the trial of two people charged with drugging and raping three women two years earlier. Less than 80 potential jurors showed up at jury selection out of the more than 200 who were summoned, according to the Bangor Daily News archives.
Stephanie Stark, 51, was found guilty of seven out of 12 charges stemming from the sexual assaults of two women. Peter Mills, 53, was found guilty of 17 out of 22 charges in the sexual assaults of the same two victims and a third woman. They were acquitted of the most serious charges of gross sexual assault after a trial at the historic Penobscot County Courthouse.
If a panel of impartial jurors cannot be seated in Houlton, Superior Court Justice E. Allen Hunter most likely would grant the motion for a change of venue. That would delay the trial and a jury would be selected in the county to which the trial was moved.
A native of Ellsworth, Ormsby was living in Orient at the time of the killings. He is accused of stabbing to death Jeffrey Ryan, 55, Ryan’s son Jesse, 10, and Ryan family friend Jason Dehahn, 30, all of Amity. They 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 investigators.
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.
The defendant allegedly 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, according to previously published reports.
Police linked Ormsby to the crime scene through DNA and fingerprint evidence obtained from a beer can and cigarette butt in Ryan’s home, according to court documents.
Robert Strout, 64, of Orient pleaded guilty to hindering apprehension and arson in October 2011 for helping Ormsby conceal evidence in connection with the triple homicide.
He is expected to testify against Ormsby and be sentenced after the murder trial concludes.
Strout’s plea agreement with prosecutors calls for him to serve at least two years in prison but not more than four.