ELLSWORTH, Maine — A jury heard testimony Monday in the first day of a trial against a man police say broke into a Stonington apartment believed to contain prescription drugs and beat the woman who lives there, only to find out he was in the wrong apartment.
Morris Young, 25, of Franklin was arrested in March on charges of robbery, burglary, assault, aggravated criminal trespass and theft by unauthorized taking. His alleged accomplice, Catherine Carton, 33, of Sedgwick, was charged with the same crimes, and her trial is scheduled to begin on Nov. 15.
Attorneys on Monday questioned the victim of the attack, two witnesses, the Blue Hill doctor who treated the victim and the state’s key witness, a woman who claims Young and Carton confessed the crime to her.
In opening statements to the jury of five women and seven men, Assistant District Attorney William Entwistle said Morris Young broke into an apartment at Stonington Manor and demanded the woman who lived there give him drugs. He claimed Young punched the woman in the face several times before he made off with her pill bottles.
Young allegedly realized he was in the wrong apartment when he read the labels for the woman’s medication’s — blood pressure pills and fish oil tablets. When he realized his mistake, Entwistle said, he fled.
Entwistle said Young’s DNA evidence was found on a mask allegedly worn by the robber.
The victim of the attack took the stand and described hearing footsteps outside her window and a large thump around 5:15 a.m. on Feb. 9. She rolled over and saw a man standing in her doorway, she said. He was wearing a hooded sweatshirt and something covering his face, she said.
“The first thing that ran through my head was, I’m in trouble,” she told the jury. She said she asked the assailant who he was and was answered with four punches to the head. Photos taken that day showed her with cuts, bruises and blood around her eyes and forehead.
The man demanded drugs, she said, but she didn’t know what he was talking about. The man then threatened to kill her if he didn’t get what he wanted, she said. The victim handed over the only medications she had — the blood pressure pills and over-the-counter fish oil tablets.
She said that when the man saw the name on the bottles, he panicked.
“He looked at the bottles and said, ‘Oh my god, oh my god,’ and then ran out,” she told jurors. “I took a few deep breaths and then I went outside and started to scream.”
Robert Van Horn, the Castine attorney defending Young, said in his opening statements that the police had the wrong guy.
He cast doubt about the testimony of Jennifer Seile, a Stonington woman with whom Young and Carton were living at the time of the robbery. According to an affidavit, Seile — an admitted drug addict — told police that Young and Carton admitted to breaking into the apartment after she had discussed where the trio might obtain pills.
At one point, Justice Ann Murray sent the jury out of the courtroom and told Seile that she may be asked questions that could incriminate her in a crime. Murray told Seile she had a right to be silent or see an attorney. Seile said she was willing to answer the questions, and never invoked her rights to silence or counsel.
Van Horn said Seile could not be trusted, and that she had tried to convince Young to break into her father’s Stonington market to steal money, a request Young refused. On the stand Monday, Seile denied ever asking Young to rob anyone.
Seile told jurors that Carton had asked her how difficult it would be to rob several people she believed had drugs. Seile claims she tried to persuade Carton not to rob anyone. The night before the robbery, she said she heard Carton convincing Young to rob someone.
“I told them [robbery] was a really bad idea,” Seile said. “All they had to do was wait” until Seile got her paycheck, when she said she would buy them more drugs.
Van Horn pointed to discrepancies in what the victim of the attack said her assailant was wearing — a gray hooded sweatshirt and dark sweatpants — to what Seile said Young was wearing, a green sweatshirt and jeans.
He also claimed in his opening statements that Seile and her ex-boyfriend were the real culprits in the attack.
Seile “couldn’t convince Morris and Cate to steal pills for her, so she found someone else who would,” he told jurors.
Van Horn also said that Young’s DNA was indeed on the mask allegedly worn by the assailant, but so was another individual’s. He claimed that the other DNA belonged to Seile’s ex-boyfriend, who Seile admitted had worn the mask before.
The trial is expected to last through Wednesday. Entwistle said tomorrow he would call several law enforcement officers who investigated the crime, as well as representatives from the state’s crime lab.
Young faces up to 30 years in prison and a $50,000 fine. He and Carton are both free on bail.
Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.