HOULTON, Maine — Events outside the courtroom Tuesday overshadowed testimony inside that focused on forensic evidence in the triple murder trial of Thayne Ormsby.
A man related to one of the three people Ormsby is accused of stabbing to death was arrested and charged with tampering with a juror after he allegedly urged a juror to “hang the bastard.” He made the statement as the juror was entering the Aroostook County Courthouse on Tuesday morning, Maine State Police said.
The male juror reported the incident to a court official and the trial was delayed for about 45 minutes.
Albert Gaudet, 52, of Standish was arrested by state police Lt. Christopher Coleman, according to Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety. Coleman interviewed Gaudet on Tuesday morning as testimony in Ormsby’s trial began.
Coleman, who supervises detectives in 11 counties, was in Houlton on Monday and Tuesday to observe the trial.
Ormsby, 21, has pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity to three counts of murder and an arson charge in connection with the stabbing deaths of Jeffrey Ryan, 55, Ryan’s son Jesse, 10, and Ryan family friend Jason Dehahn, 30, all of Amity, on June 22, 2010. They were found dead about 27 hours after the killings at the Ryans’ home on U.S. Route 1, according to police.
Gaudet is a nephew of Robert Dehahn, 55, of Amity, who is the father of Jason Dehahn, according to Coleman.
After he was arrested and taken to the Aroostook County Jail, Gaudet was released on $750 cash bail, according to the Aroostook County district attorney’s office in Houlton. His bail conditions include not returning to Houlton until the Ormsby trial concludes. He is scheduled to make his initial appearance in Aroostook County Superior Court on July 18.
Tampering with a juror is a Class B crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
It is the first time in recent memory that someone has been charged with tampering with a juror at a Maine homicide trial, McCausland said.
A similar event occurred last year in Bangor during the trial of Garrett Cheney, 23, of South Berwick in the hit-and-run death of a University of Maine student. A bystander reportedly implored jurors not to let Cheney “get away with it” and become another “Casey Anthony” as they were leaving the courthouse during a lunch break on July 26, 2011.
Two weeks before Cheney’s trial began on July 19, a Florida jury on July 5 acquitted Casey Anthony of murder in the death of her 2-year-old daughter, whose disappearance she did not report to police for a month. The verdict in Anthony’s trial, which was broadcast live around the world, sparked outrage.
Bangor police investigated the incident and interviewed the person who spoke to jurors but no one was charged, according to Cheney’s attorney, William Bly of Biddeford.
The juror who reported the incident Tuesday in Houlton will remain on the jury, Superior Court Justice E. Allen Hunter ruled after he and attorneys for both sides questioned him. The man said he could remain impartial and had not told his fellow jurors about what had happened. Neither side objected to his remaining on the jury.
After the delay Tuesday morning, the state police detectives who collected evidence at the scene of the triple homicide in Amity nearly two years ago took the stand.
Detectives Elmer Farren and Jay Pelletier both testified about finding three half-empty beer bottles and a cigarette with a long ash on it in an ashtray in Jeffrey Ryan’s trailer. The DNA from one of the bottles and the cigarette butt were matched to Ormsby, a forensic analyst from the Maine State Crime Lab testified Tuesday afternoon.
Hunter granted a defense motion that kept a forensic chemist at the crime lab from testifying about a presumptive test she did for human blood on the knife the prosecution has said is the murder weapon. The judge said that because the test could show a false positive on blood from pine martens, otters, weasels and other animals trapped in Maine, it would be excluded.
Deputy Attorney General William Stokes, who is prosecuting the case, said that the material found under the handle of the knife, recovered from a boggy area off U.S. Route 1 in Orient, was too degraded to be tested for DNA.
Ormsby grew up in Ellsworth and went to Ellsworth High School until he dropped out his senior year. At the time of the killings, he was living with Robert Strout, 65, and Joy Strout, 63, in Orient, according to previously published reports.
Robert Strout pleaded guilty in October to hindering apprehension and arson in connection with Ormsby’s case. The older man admitted helping Ormsby set fire to Jeffrey Ryan’s pickup truck the day after the slayings to cover up evidence and taking Ormsby to New Hampshire to stay with Strout’s son. He is expected to be sentenced after testifying against Ormsby.
Shortly after Ormsby was arrested, Robert Strout, who is free on bail, reportedly said Ormsby told him the killings followed a confrontation over a $10,000 drug debt owed to a third party. The defendant killed Dehahn and the boy after he killed Jeffrey Ryan because they could identify him, Stokes told the jury Monday.
Defense attorney James M. Dunleavy of Presque Isle called the deaths in Amity “tragic, horrible and horrific.”
“The defense will put into context the events of June 22 and 23 ,” he told jurors in his brief opening statement Monday.
Ormsby was arrested on July 2, 2010, in Dover, N.H.
He has been held without bail at the Aroostook County Jail since he was returned to Maine on July 12, 2010.
Dressed in a lightweight gray suit, Ormsby has paid close attention to testimony during the first two days of his trial. He has taken notes and consults often with his legal team.
Testimony about the search for and the discovery of Jeffrey Ryan’s burned pickup truck in Weston is scheduled to be presented Wednesday. Stokes said Tuesday that he did not know when Robert Strout, considered to be the state’s star witness, would take the stand.
The trial is scheduled to conclude on April 20.