HOULTON, Maine — The third day of Thayne Ormsby’s trial for the triple homicide in Amity nearly two years ago closed Wednesday with a cliffhanger: Will jurors hear the defendant’s videotaped confession to police when court resumes Thursday?
If the jury does hear Ormsby’s confession, 14 rather than 15 people will be sitting in the jury box. A male juror who was an alternate was dismissed after the lunch break Wednesday for approaching Deputy Attorney General William Stokes as he was leaving the courthouse.
Determining what happened in that brief encounter delayed the afternoon session of the trial by more than an hour. But for the delay, the jury, now seven men and seven women, including two alternates, might have heard all of the interrogation before leaving Aroostook County Superior Court on Wednesday.
Superior Court Justice E. Allen adjourned for the day just as the videotaped interview of Ormsby’s interrogation by Maine State Police detectives reached the point where the defendant reportedly confessed.
Defense attorneys James M. Dunleavy and Sarah LeClaire, both of Presque Isle, are expected to object Thursday to the jury’s viewing the remainder of the interview and the confession. Hunter previously has ruled that Ormsby’s confession could be admitted into evidence.
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.
The videotaped interview that reportedly contains Ormsby’s confession was made on July 2, 2010, at the police station in Dover, N.H. Jurors heard about 40 minutes of it before court was recessed Wednesday.
Ormsby was arrested the same day after being interviewed by Maine State Police Detectives Dale Keegan and Adam Stoutamyer.
The videotape made at the police station in New Hampshire was the second police interview of Ormsby that was played for jurors on the third day of the trial in Aroostook County Superior Court in Houlton. The first was an audiotaped interview with Ormsby made on June 30, 2010.
Ormsby sounded calm, polite and cooperative when first interviewed by detectives. He appeared more agitated in the later interview, but was cooperative.
Detectives first interviewed Ormsby on June 30, 2010, in a cruiser outside the apartment in Dover, N.H., of Robert Strout Jr. Robert Strout Sr., 65, of Orient had driven Ormsby to his son’s home on June 25, 2010, according to previously published reports.
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 Sr. and his wife, Joy Strout, 63, in Orient.
In his first interview, Ormsby said he had met Jeffrey Ryan only once. He denied knowing Jesse Ryan or Dehahn. He told detectives he had left the Strouts’ residence in Orient to look for work and because he “was in the way.” Ormsby stuck by that story in the second interview up until the point where it was stopped by the judge Wednesday.
“You know that I know the truth,” Keegan told Ormsby at the police station. “Something went terribly wrong in that house.”
The last segment jurors viewed showed Ormsby getting ready to leave the interrogation room to have a cigarette and get some coffee. He told detectives he would tell them all they wanted to know after the break.
Ormsby told the detectives in the first interview that he knew the Strouts through their daughter Tamara Strout of Weston, who was the best friend of his mother, Maria Ormsby of Ellsworth. He had ended up living with them in early June after spending some time living with Tamara Strout and her daughter Mariah Ryan of Weston. Mariah Ryan is the daughter of Jeffrey Ryan, according to previously published reports.
Interviews with members of the Strout family led investigators to Ormsby in New Hampshire, Stoutamyer testified Wednesday. Stokes declined Wednesday to say which members of the Strout family would be called to testify.
When asked by detectives during the first interview to speculate on who might have committed the murders, Ormsby said that he didn’t know. He said that Tamara Strout had theorized that Jeffrey Ryan had offended “some sort of biker gang.”
“She thought it might have had something to do with a problem with a drug dealer,” Ormsby said. “She couldn’t think of why else anyone would do that.”
At the end of the nearly hourlong interview, Ormsby agreed to be fingerprinted and to give detectives a DNA sample. His DNA and fingerprints were traced to items at the murder scene, according to previous testimony.
Testimony early Wednesday morning centered on the discovery of and investigation into the torching of Jeffrey Ryan’s 1989 Ford F-150 pickup truck. It was found on June 26, 2010, four days after the slayings, in Weston by a Cape Cod family. Members of the Cifelli family found the burned-out truck on their property about 12 miles from the trailer where the three died.
James Merrill of Cary Plantation testified Tuesday afternoon that he saw Ryan’s truck heading south on U.S. Route 1 about 8 p.m. June 22, 2010, the night of the killings. Merrill was hauling a load of logs to a mill in Baileyville.
Merrill, who is Jeffrey’s Ryan’s first cousin, told jurors the truck pulled into the driveway of a junkyard located next to Robert Strout’s property.
“I thought Jeff was driving,” Merrill testified. “I thought it was odd he was by himself because I knew he wouldn’t leave Jesse home alone. When I honked the horn, he didn’t wave or anything.”
Jesse Cifelli told the Bangor Daily News in June 2010 that he and his parents didn’t know the pickup they found on their 40-acre property off Bancroft Road was registered to Jeffrey Ryan until they went into town.
“It was completely incinerated,” Cifelli, then 20, said on June 26, 2010. “All of the interior was gone. There was nothing left, just the frame. We thought somebody went out joyriding after stealing it and torched it.
“The whole thing is just a frame and tires, and the tires were completely burnt off,” Cifelli added.
Maine State Police Detective Micah Perkins testified Wednesday morning that the truck was found a couple of miles from an unoccupied house on Spring Road in Weston owned by Tamara Strout.
Perkins said that in a search of that house on July 3, he found in a wood boiler in the basement what appeared to be the steel toes from a pair of work boots. He testified that he also found in the house a wallet that had an ID from Ellsworth High School in Ormsby’s name.
Ormsby burned his bloody clothes and boots there the day after the slayings, according to previously published reports.
Under cross-examination, Perkins said he had searched a tan Lincoln that belonged to Robert Strout Sr. He said he found a “survival type knife” under the front passenger seat with red-brown stains on it. Under questioning by Dunleavy, the detective said there were red-brown stains on the knife.
Perkins testified that the knife was sent to the Maine State Crime Lab for testing but he did not know the results of those tests.
The incident that led to the dismissal of an alternate juror came a day after a relative of one of the victims was arrested Tuesday for allegedly trying to influence a different male member of the jury.
The alternate juror was captured on video by court security cameras extending his hand to Stokes. The prosecutor, with his hands in his pockets, walked out the front door to the courthouse without acknowledging him.
The juror then spoke to Sgt. Janet Willette of the Judicial Marshal Service, who was doing entry screening. When questioned by Hunter about the incident, the man apologized to the court but also said that Stokes “was one of the smartest men I’ve ever heard.”
The trial is scheduled to conclude on April 20. The court will be closed Monday, April 16, for Patriot’s Day.