ELLSWORTH, Maine — A Lamoine man charged with murder in connection with the death of one man and injuries to two others in a shooting outside his home in March was denied bail Monday in Hancock County Superior Court.
Michael Carter, 30, was arrested Friday, June 8, on charges of murder, elevated aggravated assault, aggravated assault and illegal possession of a firearm. He is accused of killing Lawrence “Randy” Sinclair, 32, with a gunshot to the head and of shooting Torrey Garland, 34, and Joshua McKinney, 25, during the March 11 incident at his Route 184 home. Sinclair, Garland and McKinney all were Ellsworth residents at the time of the shooting.
More than 50 people packed into the courtroom Monday morning to observe the proceeding, which lasted nearly 2½ hours. Richard Hartley, Carter’s defense attorney, and Assistant Attorney General Deb Cashman took turns questioning Maine State Police Detective Jay Pelletier, the lead investigator in the case, in front of Justice William Anderson.
Hartley told the judge that Carter is a lifelong resident of Hancock County with family in the area and a sod business he owns and operates. A surety bail of about $100,000 to $150,000 would help ensure that Carter stays in the area and makes himself available to officials as the case moves forward, Hartley said.
Assistant Attorney General Lisa Marchese, who is sharing prosecution duties in the case with Cashman, told the judge that the seriousness of the manner by which he allegedly shot and killed Sinclair — by holding a 9 mm handgun about 12 inches away from Sinclair’s head and pulling the trigger as Sinclair was trying to drive away from the scene in a van, according to Marchese — warranted holding Carter without bail.
“He basically executes him,” she told the judge.
According to a nine-page affidavit filed in court Monday by Pelletier, the state medical examiner reported to police that Sinclair was shot in his forehead between his eyebrows from about 12 to 18 inches away. The affidavit indicates that McKinney told police that Carter first shot Garland in the chest and then approached the 2002 Oldsmobile van’s driver-side door after Sinclair hopped in. McKinney said that he “saw Randy with his hands up and looking at Michael [and] that Michael shot Randy,” according to the document.
The shooting was precipitated by a series of confrontational phone calls, primarily between Garland and Carter, over a paint job that Garland and McKinney recently had done on Carter’s truck, according to the affidavit. Sinclair, Garland, McKinney and Sinclair’s brother Jacob Sinclair, 25, went to Carter’s house around 4:30 a.m. so Garland and Carter could settle their differences, the men later told police.
Jacob Sinclair, Garland and McKinney each told police they presumed that the confrontation might result in a fistfight between Garland and Carter, but that none of them expected weapons to be involved. According to police, there is no evidence that anyone but Carter had a weapon during the altercation.
According to witnesses, Sinclair and Carter were friends growing up and remained friendly to each other before the March 11 incident. Carter told police he had spoken with Sinclair on the phone in the hours before the shooting and that they talked “about the old days; about being friends.”
Pelletier also wrote in the affidavit that during his final interview with police, Carter told officers that “I lost control on Randy. I’m gonna pay for it. The evidence will show it.”
In arguing Monday for no bail, Marchese also told the judge that Carter has failed to show up for prior, unrelated court proceedings. Carter also has attempted to collude with his girlfriend Tacy Mullins about what to tell police about the shooting, she said. Mullins, 23, shares the Route 204 home with Carter and was present when the shooting occurred.
According to the affidavit, Carter and Mullins initially told police over several interviews that Mullins was the one who shot the men outside the house. Carter has a prior felony conviction and so is prohibited from owning or possessing firearms.
Carter eventually told police that he was the one who shot the men but said he traded blows with Sinclair and McKinney outside his house before he began shooting, according to the document. Pelletier wrote in the affidavit that Carter’s final account was “generally inconsistent with physical evidence observed at the scene, inconsistent with [Carter’s] prior statements, and inconsistent with other accounts of the event.”
Attorneys on both side of the case said during Monday’s hearing that though drugs did not figure into the dispute, some people involved were under the influence of drugs at the time of the shooting.
Hartley suggested that Garland had been on a Ritalin “bender” for three days immediately leading up to the shooting. The defense attorney also told the judge that Carter and Mullins were threatened in phone calls leading up to the shooting and that some of the men who showed up at Carter’s house may have been trying to find weapons to bring before they arrived.
Cashman said Carter had taken Xanax the night before the shooting and tested positive the next morning for opiate and marijuana use. Marchese said Carter has a “long-standing history” of drug abuse and, since his arrest on June 8, has tried to get Mullins to smuggle prescription drugs to him in Hancock County Jail.
Carter, who accidentally shot himself in the leg during the incident as Mullins tried to take the gun away from him, was found to have a blood-alcohol level of 0.21 percent when he was treated after the shooting at Maine Coast Memorial Hospital in Ellsworth, according to the affidavit.
In reaching his decision, Justice Anderson said he was concerned about Carter’s attempt with Mullins to mislead police and about the possibility of further violence erupting if Carter remained free. He sided with prosecutors and ordered Carter held without bail.
“Yes!” someone sitting among Sinclair’s family and friends exclaimed when the judge gave the order. Sinclair’s mother, Althea Wentworth, got a hug from another woman as Carter was led out of the courtroom.
Outside the courthouse, Garland and Lawrence “Randy” Sinclair Sr., the father of Randy Jr. and Jacob, each said he is glad Carter has to sit in jail without bail.
“It’s exactly what should have happened,” the father said. “[Carter] deserves to go away for the rest of his life.”
Marchese said after the hearing that the state was pleased with the judge’s no-bail order.
“I think it would have been a problem if [Carter] were let out on bail,” the prosecutor said. “[The men who were shot] were called out by the defendant. You don’t bring guns to fistfights.”
Supporters of Carter and the Sinclair family got into a brief verbal confrontation outside the courthouse after the hearing, but police showed up quickly to separate the parties and had them leave. As a result, Hartley and members of Carter’s family left the courthouse quickly without speaking to the media.
Follow BDN staff reporter Bill Trotter on Twitter at @billtrotter.
To read the Carter affidavit, click these links: