HOULTON, Maine — A man found guilty last week in the murders of three people, including a 10-year-old boy, in Amity almost two years ago also was found criminally responsible for his actions Thursday afternoon.
Thayne Ormsby, 21, stood expressionless as the jurors rendered their verdict, which came after close to two hours of deliberation in Aroostook County Superior Court. His attorneys, James Dunleavy and Sarah LeClaire of Presque Isle, immediately said they plan to appeal.
Ormsby was convicted on April 13 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 elder Ryan’s home on U.S. Route 1, according to police. All three died of multiple stab wounds. Ormsby also was found guilty of arson for burning Jeff Ryan’s truck after he stole it from the murder scene.
While the jury found Ormsby guilty of murder last week, he had also entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity to the charges. Because of this, Ormsby was tried in two phases before Justice E. Allen Hunter. Family and friends of Dehahn were present for the verdict on Thursday, as were some of Ormsby’s family. They declined to comment. The defendant’s mother, Maria Ormsby, sobbed as Ormsby was led away. Relatives of Jeff and Jesse Ryan were in court last week but did not attend this week’s proceedings.
Closing arguments Thursday were presented by LeClaire and Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson.
LeClaire focused on testimony offered by Dr. Kathryn Thomas, a psychologist who interviewed the killer and also completed psychological tests on him. Thomas testified that Ormsby was suffering from a delusional disorder, a type of psychosis in which the sufferer feels that something is happening to them or around them when it really isn’t.
LeClaire said Thursday that Ormsby did not appreciate that what he was doing was wrong when he committed the murders. She characterized Ormsby as a young man who was abused and neglected by his mother and who thought it was his job to kill Jeff Ryan, who he believed was a drug dealer. There is no evidence to support the drug dealing allegations.
Ormsby moved to Orient in the weeks before the murders to live with Robert and Joy Strout. Court testimony revealed that there was animosity between the Strout family and Jeff Ryan because Ryan had once had a relationship with Tamara Strout, Robert and Joy’s daughter. There was a significant age difference between the two, and Tamara Strout eventually had a child with Ryan. Thomas said on Wednesday that it was Robert Strout who told Ormsby that Ryan was a drug dealer.
Benson argued that Ormsby was not psychotic because he knew what he was doing was wrong and that in order to get away with killing Jeff Ryan, he had to kill the other two victims to eliminate all witnesses. Ormsby also went to great lengths to try and evade capture by removing items from the home that he thought had his fingerprints on them, burning his bloody clothing and fleeing the state. Benson also reminded the jury of testimony from Dr. Debra Baeder, chief forensic psychologist at the State Forensic Service. She testified on Wednesday that while Ormsby was not mentally healthy, he did not have a delusional disorder and was not psychotic.
Benson also said that the killer was aware enough to deny his involvement when questioned by state police detectives in late June in New Hampshire, and again during part of a July 2, 2010, interview.
“He had a total lack of regard for human life,” said Benson. “But he was not insane.”
Deputy Attorney General William Stokes, who helped prosecute the case, was pleased with the verdict and the work of the jury, but said that the victory was tempered by the fact that three people were savagely cut down. He said that the evidence that Ormsby was criminally responsible was “pretty obvious.” Stokes said he couldn’t imagine that Ormsby would ever get out of prison, but did not want to talk too deeply about sentencing at this point.
Ormsby faces 25 years to life in prison on each murder charge.
Dunleavy said that the defense had the burden to prove that Ormsby was not criminally responsible, but he thought that testimony from Thomas helped them meet that burden.
Dunleavy said that there would be an appeal, but he did not elaborate on what grounds.
Attorneys said that sentencing would not likely take place until June.