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State rests in Amity triple murder trial without calling witness Robert Strout

Posted April 12, 2012, at 5:17 p.m.
Last modified April 13, 2012, at 5:15 a.m.
Thayne Ormsby turns his gaze toward the media on the day of the opening statements in his triple homicide trial in superior court in Houlton on Monday, April 9, 2012.
Thayne Ormsby turns his gaze toward the media on the day of the opening statements in his triple homicide trial in superior court in Houlton on Monday, April 9, 2012.

HOULTON, Maine — The fate of the man accused in the gruesome slayings of two men and a 10-year-old boy nearly two years ago in Amity is expected to be in the hands of 12 Aroostook County residents by Friday afternoon.

The state rested its case Thursday afternoon in the triple murder trial of Thayne Ormsby after playing his videotaped confession for jurors.

Closing arguments, followed by instructions from Superior Court Justice E. Allen Hunter, are expected to be presented to the jury at midmorning Friday in Aroostook County Superior Court, according to Deputy Attorney General William Stokes, who is prosecuting the case.

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.

Stokes did not call Robert Strout, 65, of Orient to the stand Thursday. Strout has pleaded guilty to helping Ormsby destroy evidence after the slayings and helping him flee out of state.

The prosecutor declined to comment on why Strout, who walked into the Aroostook County Courthouse about 12:30 p.m. and identified himself to court security personnel as a witness in the case, did not take the stand.

Ormsby’s attorney, James M. Dunleavy of Presque Isle, seemed surprised that Strout did not testify.

“We find it interesting that the state did not call Robert Strout,” he said after court recessed for the day.

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, Robert Strout II. He is expected to be sentenced after Ormsby’s trial concludes.

Dunleavy declined to discuss who might be called as witnesses for the defense.

Ormsby most likely will not testify if closing arguments are to begin Friday morning. In other cases, the testimony and cross-examination of defendants in murder cases has taken a full day or longer.

In the video played for jurors, Ormsby told police how he repeatedly stabbed the two men and 10-year-old boy nearly two years ago in Amity.

“I didn’t try to be fancy. I wanted to be quick,” Ormsby said in the interview with Maine State Police detectives. “Somewhere in the subconscious of my mind, I developed myself as an assassin.”

The videotaped interview in which Ormsby confessed 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, but the tape was stopped just as Ormsby told detectives he would tell them what they wanted to know.

The defendant was arrested the same day after being interviewed by Maine State Police Detectives Dale Keegan and Adam Stoutamyer.

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.

Ormsby told detectives that he had planned for a few days before the slayings to kill Jeffrey Ryan and Alvin Silsby, even though he had never met him and did not know where Silsby lived. Ormsby said that Ryan, Silsby and Ormsby’s father, whose name has not been revealed in court, all sold drugs.

“Back in the day, they were three of the biggest drug dealers in this area,” Ormsby said. “I wanted to rid the world of them.”

No evidence has been introduced at the trial to substantiate Ormsby’s claims about the three men.

Bangor psychologist Diane Tennies of Bangor testified Thursday morning that she interviewed Ormsby when he was 12. She said he was abused by his mother and depressed. Tennies said there were reports when she saw Ormsby in 2003 that his mother abused alcohol and drugs.

“Even though I never met him, he’s a part of my life,” Ormsby said of Jeffrey Ryan in the videotaped interview with the detectives. “He’s the reason I’m missing parts of my life.”

In the video, Ormsby told detectives he rode his bicycle from the Strouts’ residence to the Ryan trailer to kill Jeffrey Ryan. The defendant said he stabbed Jeffrey Ryan “multiple times” in the back when the man turned away from him to show Ormsby some nails in a woodshed behind the trailer.

When Keegan asked Ormsby what he was thinking as he went into the trailer to kill Jesse Ryan and Dehahn, Ormsby replied: “I’m in a mode, I’m scared, and I have to finish what I started.”

Ormsby told the detectives that he first stabbed Dehahn in the chest while he was sitting on the couch playing video games with the boy. As he stabbed the man, Jesse Ryan ran down the hall to the back bedroom. Ormsby said he chased after him.

“I chased Jesse and he was the quickest,” he said. “He just said he was scared.”

Ormsby said he repeatedly stabbed the boy while Jesse Ryan was behind the bedroom door down on his hands and knees.

When he returned to the living room, Ormsby told the detectives he was surprised that Dehahn was not on the couch.

“I thought Jason was done,” he said. “I didn’t think he was going anywhere.”

Ormsby said he went outside looking for Dehahn and caught up with him.

“I put him in the ditch,” Ormsby said. “I didn’t want to leave him in the road. I cut his throat two or three times.”

He told detectives he had met Ryan twice before he killed him but had never seen the boy or Dehahn before the night he killed them.

Ormsby said he had planned to stab Jeffrey Ryan but killed Jesse Ryan and Dehahn to cover his tracks. He said that he stole Jeffrey Ryan’s truck and had intended to look for Silsby but pulled into a road to a junkyard next to Robert Strout’s home after a man driving a logging truck honked at him and he became scared.

In the video, Ormsby said he rode his bicycle back to the Strouts’ and met Robert Strout in the yard.

“I told him right after I did it,” Ormsby told detectives. “He was shocked. I asked him to bring me a cup of coffee and he told me to stay away from the house.”

Strout told police Ormsby was covered in blood, according to previously published reports.

Ormsby said he drove the stolen truck to the unoccupied house owned by Strout’s daughter Tamara Stout in Weston. He told detectives that he spent the night there and burned his bloody clothes and boots in her wood-burning furnace.

The next day, before the bodies had been discovered, Ormsby, with the aid of Strout, set Jeffrey Ryan’s truck ablaze using gasoline. Ormsby said that his face, eyebrows and eyelashes were singed because he was too close to the fire.

Ormsby’s confession matches the evidence presented during the trial by the medical examiner, investigators and forensic analysts.

The start of the trial was delayed Thursday after Hunter, who is presiding over the trial, questioned each juror individually. He asked which of them had heard the alternate juror who was dismissed Wednesday make comments about Stokes, who is prosecuting the case.

Eight of the 14 remaining jurors, including the two remaining alternates, said they heard the dismissed juror express his admiration for how Stokes was handling the case. The juror was dismissed after he approached Stokes during the lunch break and asked to shake his hand. Stokes declined.

All the jurors questioned Thursday morning who had heard the comment said the incident had not influenced them and they could remain impartial.

Hunter denied a defense motion to declare a mistrial and dismiss the jury. The judge also denied a motion to sequester the jury as impractical. He has ordered that jurors remain in the jury room during lunch. They are being provided with a meal, Hunter said.

Dunleavy and Sarah LeClaire, Ormsby’s attorneys, had asked that the trial be moved outside Aroostook County because of pretrial publicity. Hunter denied that motion last Friday.

“We are doing what we can within the context of the rules to see that Mr. Ormsby gets the fairest trial possible,” Dunleavy said after court recessed Thursday.

Because of his insanity plea, Ormsby is being tried in two phases. In the first and longer phase, the jury will be asked to find whether he is guilty of the charges on which he has been indicted. If he is found guilty, the jury will hear evidence as to his state of mind at the time of the crime. Jurors then will be asked to determine whether Ormsby was criminally responsible for his actions.

If the jury finds he was insane when the crimes were committed, Ormsby would not be sent to prison but to the Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta for an undetermined amount of time. If jurors find him guilty and sane, Ormsby would face a sentence of between 25 years and life in prison on each of the murder charges. He would face up to 30 years in prison if convicted of arson.

Judges are allowed to impose life sentences in Maine under specific circumstances. One of them is being convicted of multiple murders.

The trial was scheduled to end April 20. If the jury renders its verdict Friday in the first phase, the second phase most likely would begin Tuesday. The court will be closed Monday for Patriot’s Day.

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