Attorney claims Winslow man charged in Waterville murder acted in self defense

Matthew Partridge
Kennebec County Jail
Matthew Partridge
Posted Dec. 10, 2012, at 3:23 p.m.
Last modified Dec. 10, 2012, at 7:19 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Winslow man accused of fatally shooting a man outside a Waterville bar last week acted in self defense, his attorney stated during the man’s bail hearing in Kennebec County Superior Court Monday afternoon.

Matthew Partridge, 30, is charged with murder in connection with the death of Justin V. Smith, 26, of China late on Dec. 4. His bail was set at $700,000 by Justice Michaela Murphy.

Maine Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson asked Murphy to stipulate that should Partridge make bail, he have no contact with the victim’s family or access to a firearm. Murphy granted the conditions.

Partridge remained in Kennebec County Jail in Augusta as of late Monday afternoon.

Benson said Partridge has no prior criminal record but is still a danger to the community.

Partridge’s attorney, Pamela Ames of Waterville, said Partridge shot Smith in the face in self defense.

Ames said Smith punched Partridge in the face as Partridge sat in his pickup truck while trying to leave the Concourse near You Know Who’s Pub. She said the punch was enough to give Partridge two black eyes and a broken nose.

“He had a reasonable belief that he needed to use deadly force to defend himself,” said Ames.

Benson disagreed.

“The evidence is quite clear,” he said. “After the altercation, Partridge went to his truck and armed himself. He then returned to the scene. After he was struck, he took out his firearm and shot directly into the face of the victim.”

Friends of the victim and the alleged shooter gave police different accounts of what they witnessed that night.

According to an affidavit filed in Kennebec County Superior Court by Maine State Police Detective Joshua Birmingham, Partridge and Smith were both at the bar with different groups of friends on Dec. 4 at about 11 p.m.

One of the two men who was with Smith at You Know Who’s Pub told Waterville police Detective Dwayne Cloutier that he and his friend were approached by two men outside the pub, when one of the men punched his friend in the face.

After he and his friend went into the bar to get Smith, they walked outside and approached a gray Dodge Dakota pickup truck parked out front, according to the affidavit.

The witness said Smith then walked up to the driver’s side window and said “Who likes to sucker punch people?”

“The driver pulled out a handgun and fired two shots at Smith and left the area,” Birmingham wrote in his report from the witness’ accounts.

One of Partridge’s friends told Waterville police Detective David Caron a slightly different story.

According to the affidavit, the witness told Caron that Partridge went into the bar to use the restroom, while he waited outside. The witness said that while he was waiting, two men approached him that he did not know.

“One of the men rubbed [the witness’s] leg with his own leg which offended [the witness],” read the affidavit. “[The witness] and the man engaged in a physical altercation. The man told [the witness] that he had a concealed weapons permit and [the witness] backed off.”

Partridge’s friend then told Caron that he and Partridge went to Partridge’s gray pickup. Partridge had a gun in his hand when the two drove to the area where the fight had taken place, read the affidavit.

Partridge and his friend were “approached by another man that they did not recognize,” Birmingham wrote in his affidavit. “Partridge rolled his window down and got punched in the face by the man. Partridge subsequently fired one round from his gun striking the assailant. Partridge quickly left the area.”

Smith was rushed to Thayer Hospital in Waterville, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Margaret Greenwald told police that Smith died of a single gunshot wound to the head.

After the shooting, Partridge dropped his passenger off at a friend’s house and then drove off. He was later stopped by Maine State Police Trooper Sam Tlumac for a felony traffic stop. Partridge’s vehicle matched witnesses’ description.

“You know what the problem is? I, I tried to defend myself and I wasn’t sure if I was doing it right. If I was doing the right thing,” Partridge told Tlumac during the traffic stop in a recorded conversation. “And I shot the guy.

“Like, I don’t even know why he punched me in the face. I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” said Partridge to Tlumac. “I didn’t want to do it.”

Maine State Police Sgt. Jason Richards recovered a Sig Sauer 9 mm handgun from Partridge’s truck after executing a search warrant on Dec. 5. The gun had five rounds in the magazine with one in the chamber. Partridge had a concealed weapons permit.

During the bail hearing, Ames painted Smith as the aggressor.

Ames said Partridge and his friend were trying to leave, but Smith “would not let him get away.”

After Smith punched Partridge in the face, leaving him with a broken nose and two black eyes, Ames said Partridge was afraid, and that’s why he shot Smith.

“My client was in fear for his life,” Ames said to Murphy. “That’s an affirmative defense to murder.”

Ames recommended that Murphy set bail at $20,000 and keep Partridge under house arrest.

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