Thayne Ormsby’s lawyers file appeal in Amity triple-homicide case

Thayne Ormsby stands with his attorney Sarah LeClaire as the jury files into the courtroom in April 2012. Ormsby was found guilty in the triple-homicide killings of Jesse Ryan, Jeff Ryan and Jason Dehahn in June of 2010 in the town of Amity.
Thayne Ormsby stands with his attorney Sarah LeClaire as the jury files into the courtroom in April 2012. Ormsby was found guilty in the triple-homicide killings of Jesse Ryan, Jeff Ryan and Jason Dehahn in June of 2010 in the town of Amity. Buy Photo
Posted July 07, 2012, at 12:11 p.m.

CARIBOU, Maine — Attorneys for a 22-year-old man sentenced last month to three life terms in prison for killing three people in a rural home in Amity in June 2010 have filed paperwork to appeal the case.

The notice of appeal and application to allow an appeal of sentencing on behalf of Thayne Ormsby were filed on June 27 in Aroostook County Superior Court in Caribou, court clerks said Friday afternoon. The documents have been sent to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court for review.

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, an Ellsworth native who moved to Orient, a town just a mile from the crime scene, entered pleas of not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity to the charges. Because of the dual pleas, Ormsby was tried in two phases before Justice E. Allen Hunter in Superior Court in Houlton. He was represented by attorneys James Dunleavy and Sarah LeClaire of Presque Isle and found guilty of the murders first on April 13 and then criminally responsible for his crimes on April 19.

Ormsby also was found guilty of arson for burning Jeff Ryan’s truck after he stole it from the murder scene, and was sentenced to 15 years in prison for the burning. That sentence is being served consecutively with the life sentences.

Ormsby moved to Orient in the weeks before the murders to live with Robert and Joy Strout. Court testimony revealed 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. Tamara Strout eventually had a child with Ryan. Strout also told Ormsby that Ryan was a drug dealer, which there is no evidence to support.

Dunleavy told reporters immediately after the verdict that an appeal would be filed.

During the trial, Ormsby’s attorneys said he did not understand that what he was doing was wrong when he committed the murders. They 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 based on the drug-dealing accusations.

Dunleavy and LeClaire stressed 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. She said that in his mind, the slayings would elevate his status as an assassin.

Deputy Attorney General William Stokes and Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson dismissed that argument, saying 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.

Prosecutors focused on the testimony of Dr. Debra Baeder, chief forensic psychologist at the State Forensic Service. She testified that while Ormsby was not mentally healthy, he did not have a delusional disorder and was not psychotic.

Last June, Dunleavy and LeClaire tried to suppress statements that Ormsby made to police in 2010, claiming that his Miranda rights were violated. Miranda rights are read to an individual by police to inform the person of his constitutional rights, such as the right to remain silent and to request an attorney.

Ormsby confessed to the killings during an interview with State Police Detectives Dale Keegan and Adam Stoutamyer, which was recorded on video.

Both men testified that any information about the homicides came from Ormsby voluntarily and that they gave the accused ample opportunity to obtain counsel. Justice Hunter denied the motion to suppress the statements.

Ormsby’s attorneys also sought a change of venue for the trial based on pretrial publicity in the case. They were unsuccessful.

Once the trial started, an alternate juror was dismissed after making comments about Stokes, who was prosecuting the case. The dismissed juror expressed his admiration for how Stokes was handling the case and asked to shake his hand. Stokes declined.

Hunter questioned each juror individually about the incident and all said the incident had not influenced them and they could remain impartial.

The defense requested a mistrial, a motion that Hunter denied.

A juror also was questioned after a relative of Jason Dehahn told him “I hope you hang the bastard,” referring to Ormsby, when the juror was entering the courthouse. Hunter and attorneys for both sides spoke to the juror. The man said he could remain impartial, and he remained on the jury.

The law court has not yet established a date to review the appeal documents.

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