Defendant takes stand in murder trial, pleads guilty to gun charge

Robert Lee Nelson (right) sits with one of his defense attorney's John Alsop during opening arguments in his murder trial in Somerset County Superior Court in Skowhegan on Monday, Nov. 26, 2012. Nelson is accused of shooting Everett Cameron in the face with a handgun in October 2009.
Robert Lee Nelson (right) sits with one of his defense attorney's John Alsop during opening arguments in his murder trial in Somerset County Superior Court in Skowhegan on Monday, Nov. 26, 2012. Nelson is accused of shooting Everett Cameron in the face with a handgun in October 2009. Buy Photo
Posted Dec. 03, 2012, at 11:27 a.m.
Last modified Dec. 03, 2012, at 6:48 p.m.

SKOWHEGAN, Maine — The Anson man accused of murdering Everett L. Cameron three years ago denied the charge as he took the stand in his own defense Monday morning.

Robert Lee Nelson, 41, is accused of shooting Cameron, 60, of North Anson to death as the victim sat in his pickup truck on Town Farm Road in North Anson on Oct. 31, 2009.

“I did not kill Everett Cameron,” Nelson said to Philip Mohlar of Skowhegan, one of his defense attorneys. It was one of three times Nelson denied killing Cameron while on the stand Monday.

Nelson waived his right to a jury trial. Instead, Justice John Nivison will render a verdict in the case in Somerset County Superior Court.

Nelson stated that he had snorted oxycodone and Xanax along with drinking beer throughout the day of the murder. He went to cut wood in the morning with a friend before meeting Cameron at about 2 p.m. while on the way to his daughter’s birthday party.

Nelson said Cameron had called him to say Cameron was “all set.” Nelson told the court that that meant Cameron had drugs to sell.

Both the prosecution and defense agree that Cameron had been selling 30-milligram oxycodone pills that were prescribed to him. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2004.

Nelson owed Cameron $35, the cost of one oxycodone pill that Cameron had given to him earlier. Nelson said he met with Cameron on the Town Farm Road in order to tell him he couldn’t pay the money back.

Two hours later, Cameron was found dead in his pickup truck with a gunshot wound to his head.

“The word around town was that I was one of the last to see him and fingers were being pointed at me,” said Nelson, adding that he was initially told about Cameron’s murder from friend Pam Frith.

Mohlar asked why he lied about target-shooting with a friend as a reason he might have gunshot residue on his hands.

“Because I’m a convicted felon,” said Nelson. “I lied to them.”

He is prohibited from having a firearm because he was convicted in Penobscot County Superior Court on Oct. 4, 1994, of burglarizing a motor vehicle.

Maine Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea asked Nelson about what he had previously told Maine State Police investigators on the night of the murder. Much of what he told them were lies, she said.

“Why did you tell the police you didn’t have any drugs?” Zainea asked Nelson.

“I didn’t want to go to jail,” replied Nelson.

She also asked him why he didn’t pay back Cameron even though he had more than $100 on him at the time.

“I wanted to hold onto my money in order to get more drugs,” said Nelson, adding that he would have to pay Cameron back for the first pill before he could buy more.

Nelson said he wasn’t out of drugs when he met Cameron that day, but he always wanted to make sure he didn’t run out of pills.

“I wasn’t jonesing,” Nelson said to Mohlar. “I was thinking ahead like any other addict would do.”

The state and defense rested their cases after Nelson’s testimony.

On Friday, the state asked for a continuance in order to search a sand pit in the Kingfield and Salem Township area in the hopes of finding a bullet slug that may match that taken from the victim.

Outside the courtroom, Mohlar said the state was unsuccessful.

“They found nothing,” said Mohlar.

Mohlar said that he feels “very good about the case.”

“The evidence went in the way that we thought it would and the case is what it is and we think it’s pretty favorable to our client,” said Mohlar. “At the end of the day, it’s all circumstantial evidence. From our perspective, it’s not anywhere near enough to convict Mr. Nelson, and we’re going to hope that the judge sees it the same way we do.”

The state presented no DNA or physical evidence and no murder weapon that could have tied Nelson to Cameron’s death.

Mohlar and his co-defense attorney, John Alsop of Skowhegan, have maintained that other drug buyers in the area had the motive and opportunity to kill Cameron.

As agreed at the beginning of the trial, the second count of the indictment — possession of a firearm by a prohibited person — was held off until the end of the murder trial. Nelson pleaded guilty on Monday to the Class C felony, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

The trial will resume on 9 a.m. Tuesday with closing arguments. Nivison said he would render his verdict at a later date.

Mohlar said it could take up to two weeks before the verdict is read. It depends on scheduling, he said.

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