SKOWHEGAN, Maine — The state rested its case Thursday afternoon in the murder trial of Robert Lee Nelson of Anson.
Defense attorneys Philip Mohlar and John Alsop, both of Skowhegan, will present their witnesses on Friday in Somerset County Superior Court. Nelson waived his right to a jury trial. Instead, Justice John Nivison will render a verdict in the case.
Nelson, 41, is accused of shooting 60-year-old Everett L. Cameron to death as he sat in his pickup on the Town Farm Road, not far from his North Anson home, on Oct. 31, 2009.
Both the prosecution and defense agree that Cameron had been selling 30 mg oxycodone pills that were prescribed to him. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2004.
Testimony revealed that Cameron’s pills were missing after he was shot in the head. Pharmacy records say that he had filled his prescription the day before.
After Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea rested the state’s case, Mohlar asked Nivison for an acquittal due to the state’s lack of direct or physical evidence tying Nelson to the slaying of Cameron.
Nivison denied the motion.
During the afternoon portion of the fourth day of the trial, Mohlar grilled the lead investigator in the case, Maine State Police Detective Jason Andrews, for what the defense attorney said was a lack of thoroughness by police in finding alternative suspects.
“Other people had a drug affiliation and contacted Mr. Cameron that day. They were given a cursory interview,” Mohlar said to Andrews, adding that Nelson had been interviewed for hours on end while other potential suspects were interviewed only once and for an hour or less. “Every word [of Nelson’s] was parsed and questioned. Every move was questioned.”
Mohlar said Nelson was cooperative with police and let them search his vehicle and home the night of the murder.
“There was a reason why your client was the focus of our investigation,” Andrews replied to Mohlar, saying that Nelson’s story often changed when he was interviewed and didn’t fit with other witness statements.
Mohlar, however, pointed to the fact that no DNA evidence, no physical evidence and no murder weapon were presented to tie Nelson to Cameron’s slaying.
Because Cameron had been selling his oxycodone pills for a number of years, Mohlar said that others in the drug community would have had reason to kill Cameron and take his pills.
Mohlar named a dozen other people Cameron regularly sold pills to — two of whom had called or had been called by Cameron earlier on the day he was killed.
Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber said Nelson was the last person Cameron called on his cellphone and his car was the only one seen next to Cameron’s truck on the Town Farm Road.
Macomber also said that because Nelson had no oxycodone pills in the morning, but did in the afternoon, common sense says he got them in the afternoon.
Mohlar said, however, that fingerprints and DNA evidence collected from two pill bottles in Cameron’s truck and from the glove box point to two unknown people, and not to Nelson.
In the morning session, Katie White of Cornville testified that she broke up with Nelson, her former boyfriend, because she thought he had killed Cameron.
“I started to think he was guilty,” White told Zainea.
White, who was 18 when she dated Nelson in 2009, said she broke up with him about a month after Cameron died and Nelson became the prime suspect.
She added that Nelson never admitted to killing Cameron.
White also said that she had broken a rifle belonging to Nelson because he had tried to kill himself before Cameron’s death.
Andrews played an audio recording of an interview with Nelson he conducted with Detective Jeffrey Love on Nov. 4, 2009.
In the audio and in video recordings, Nelson recounted his steps on Oct. 31, 2009. He said he told Cameron that he was unable to pay him $35 for an oxycodone pill that he got earlier from him.
Cameron was found dead in his pickup truck two hours after that meeting.
Andrews questioned Nelson in order to get details about his day. The detective said he had interviewed witnesses and Nelson was missing some information in his story to police.
“Some people have small pieces and others have big pieces to the puzzle. You have a big piece,” Andrews told Nelson in the recording. “Your piece is missing some of those edges.”
The trial will start its fifth day at 8:30 a.m. Friday.