Ormsby found guilty in Amity triple homicide

Thayne Ormsby during an interrogation by Maine State Police.
Maine State Police
Thayne Ormsby during an interrogation by Maine State Police.
By Judy Harrison and Jen Lynds, BDN Staff
Posted April 13, 2012, at 10:23 a.m.

HOULTON, Maine — Jurors in the trial of the man convicted in the gruesome slayings of two men a nd a 10-year-old boy nearly two years ago in Amity will be back Tuesday in Aroostook County Superior Court to determine whether Thayne Ormsby was insane when he wielded the knife that killed the victims.

A jury of seven men and five women found him guilty on all counts Friday afternoon.

Jurors were not informed of the second phase of the trial until after they had rendered their verdict.

Ormsby, 21, was convicted of three counts of murder and one count of arson in 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 defendant did not react when the verdict was read but did ask corrections officers to remove him from the courtroom just seconds after the jury had left the courtroom.

Relatives of the victims said they were not surprised by the verdict.

“I expected this,” said Melanie Dutra, one of Jeffrey Ryan’s daughters and Jesse Ryan’s sister. “There was no doubt that he did it. He confessed. Plus, the police and the deputy attorney general did a wonderful job.”

Dutra attended the trial with her sister Ashley Ryan and brother Shannon Ryan.

Ashley Ryan said she was a bit worried when the jury came back into the courtroom before reaching a verdict and asked the judge for clarification on certain issues, but she also felt that Ormsby would be found guilty.

The family had listened in court as Ormsby, in a videotape of his confession, 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.

Neither woman was surprised that one of Jeffrey Ryan’s last acts was to offer to help Ormsby.

“That was who he was,” said Dutra.

“He was always helping people,” said Ashley Ryan. “He wouldn’t turn away anyone.”

Deputy Attorney General William Stokes declined Friday to discuss the sentence he might recommend in Ormsby’s case.

“The trial’s not over yet,” he said, referring to next week’s proceedings, which are scheduled to take up to two days.

Stokes praised the work of investigators and employees at the Maine State Police Crime Lab. DNA from a beer bottle and cigarette left at the scene was matched to Ormsby’s DNA.

“The police work in this case was outstanding and the forensic work done at the crime lab was really impressive,” he said at an impromptu press conference on the courthouse steps after the jury had left.

Stokes also lauded the work done by Maine State Police Detectives Dale Keegan and Adam Stoutamyer. They obtained a detailed confession from Ormsby on July 2, 2010, the day he was arrested, at the police station in Dover, N.H.

The prosecutor said the confession appeared to have been “very important to the jury.”

Defense attorneys James M. Dunleavy and Sarah LeClaire of Presque Isle declined to comment on the case until next week when the second phase of the trial has been completed.

Members of Ormsby’s family attended the trial Friday but did not react when the verdict was announced. The defendant’s mother, Maria Ormsby, and his uncle Steven Ormsby, both of Ellsworth, sat behind him for much of the day.

They were unable to attend previously because they were listed as possible witnesses.

An elderly woman identified by Dunleavy as Ormsby’s maternal aunt was in court every day with her husband. Dunleavy declined to identify the couple.

Ormsby’s mother sat outside the courtroom as the verdict was announced.

Ormsby lived with his uncle from the time he was 12 until he was 17, according to testimony. He was removed from his mother’s home by the Department of Health and Human Services because of physical abuse.

Jurors asked for a read-back of the medical examiner’s testimony after they had deliberated for nearly two hours on Friday. The read-back, which took about 1½ hours, concluded about 2:55 p.m. The verdict was announced about 3:15 p.m.

Dr. Marguerite DeWitt testified on Monday, the first day of Ormsby’s trial. She no longer works for the state. DeWitt now teaches criminal justice at the University of Texas in Huntsville.

All three victims died of multiple stab wounds and — from the positions their bodies were found in — each did what little he could to protect himself or escape his attacker, she said.

When shown a knife Monday that prosecutors had said is the murder weapon, DeWitt said its size and shape were consistent with the wounds inflicted on the victims.

Defense attorney Dunleavy admitted into evidence a second large knife found by police in the search of a tan Lincoln automobile owned by Robert Strout. Maine State Police Detective Micah Perkins testified Tuesday that he found the “survival-type knife” under the front passenger seat. Under questioning by Dunleavy, the detective said there were red-brown stains on the knife.

Perkins testified that the knife — which, unlike the alleged murder weapon, had a serrated edge — was sent to the Maine State Crime Lab for testing, but he did not know the results of those tests.

The defendant 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 Strout, 65, and his wife, Joy Strout, 63, in Orient.

The fifth day of Ormsby’s trial began Friday with the defense resting its case without calling any witnesses. The state rested its case Thursday afternoon after playing Ormsby’s videotaped confession for the jury.

Superior Court Justice E. Allen Hunter spent about 25 minutes Friday morning giving instructions to the jury. Lawyers then made their closing arguments.

Stokes told jurors that the evidence matched Ormsby’s confession.

“What he told the detectives and what you heard him say is totally consistent with the evidence,” Stokes said. “The defendant thought he had silenced all the victims. But now, almost two years later, the evidence speaks for Jeffrey Ryan, Jesse Ryan and Jason Dehahn.”

The prosecutor described the crime as “so shocking in its violence and brutality that it almost takes your breath away.”

Stokes urged the jury to find Ormsby guilty on all four charges.

Defense attorney LeClaire suggested that Robert Strout, who was expected to testify against Ormsby but did not, might have been responsible for the crime.

“You may have cause to question Mr. Robert Strout’s role in this case,” she said.

She reminded the jury that two knives had been admitted into evidence and that one of them was found in Strout’s car.

LeClaire asked jurors to take “into account what influences and pressure may have been brought to bear on Mr. Ormsby.”

During his final statement to the jury, Stokes held up the second knife.

“They want you to believe this is the knife,” he said. “Don’t you think if Dr. DeWitt had seen something that was a telltale sign of this serrated edge, she would have mentioned it? It’s all a distraction.”

The trial, which had been scheduled to conclude on April 20, most likely was shortened by a couple of days when the prosecution decided not to call Robert Strout as a witness. His testimony was expected to take up to two days.

Stokes declined to comment Thursday on why he did not call Strout as a witness. Strout arrived at the Aroostook County Courthouse in Houlton about 12:30 p.m. Thursday and told a court officer that he was at the courthouse for the trial.

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.

Next week, the jury will hear evidence as to Ormsby’s 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.

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/04/13/news/aroostook/closing-arguments-to-begin-in-ormsby-trial-defense-calls-no-witnesses/ printed on July 29, 2014