SKOWHEGAN, Maine — The Anson man accused of fatally shooting a man over drugs was found guilty of murder Tuesday morning in Somerset County Superior Court.
Robert Lee Nelson, 41, was accused of shooting Everett L. Cameron, 60, to death as the victim sat in his pickup truck on Town Farm Road in North Anson on Oct. 31, 2009.
Justice John Nivison rendered his verdict two weeks after the state and defense gave final arguments. Nelson had waived his right to a jury trial.
Many of Cameron’s family members burst into tears after the verdict was read by Nivison.
“Today our family learned that the man responsible for my father Everett Cameron’s death is guilty,” said Cameron’s daughter, Nicole Sacre, who read a statement outside the courtroom on behalf of the family. “He will remain behind bars where he belongs. We are very grateful for this verdict and the closure this will bring to our family.”
Maine Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea said she was pleased with the verdict.
Nivison “did conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant Robert Nelson was guilty of murder,” she said. “The state is very pleased with that.”
Sacre said the trial had been difficult on the family.
“One of the hardest parts of this trial was our father being portrayed as a drug dealer,” she said with many family members around her. “Everett Cameron was a good man. He worked all his life until he was stricken with cancer and he could not work any longer. He battled cancer and he won with his family by his side. He was a loving son, brother, father, and he was so proud and happy to be a grandfather.”
Cameron’s son, Everett J. Cameron Sr., said he lost his best friend on Oct. 31, 2009.
“Everything was taken from my life. My father was my best friend,” said Cameron Sr. “At least I know now that he can rest in peace.
“My son might have lost his grandfather, but at least he’ll always be able to carry on the same name,” Cameron Sr. added.
Nelson’s defense attorney, Philip Mohlar of Skowhegan, said he was disappointed with the verdict.
“I was surprised,” Mohlar said in a telephone interview. “I thought that the way the case played out, the evidence suggested that my client was innocent, and we were hoping the judge saw it the same way.”
Mohlar said he had not had a chance to talk with Nelson about a possible appeal, but “that will be something we have to consider.”
Nivison said the prosecution had largely a circumstantial case, as no murder weapon was presented at the trial, nor any DNA or physical evidence.
However, Nelson’s lack of credibility played a large role in his conviction for murder, the judge said.
“I did come away from the court’s presentation with the fact that he did not find the defendant credible, and he said as much so during his rendering of facts and his finding of guilt,” Zainea said of Nivison.
Nivison said that Nelson told police, friends and family different stories about the events on the day of the murder.
Both the prosecution and defense agreed that Cameron had been selling 30-milligram oxycodone pills that were prescribed to him. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2004.
Cameron, of North Anson, and Nelson had arranged a meeting on the Town Farm Road, according to evidence presented at the trial. Nelson testified during his trial that he went there to tell Cameron he didn’t have the $35 he owed him for an oxycodone pill that Cameron had given Nelson previously.
Nivison said he didn’t buy that excuse as a reason to meet in person.
“Logic says that if he simply didn’t have the money, he could’ve told him over the phone,” said Nivison.
Instead, Nivison said the evidence points to Cameron having met Nelson on the Town Farm Road in order to make a drug sale. The fact that the television was left on at Cameron’s nearby home indicated that he planned a quick meeting, and was not stationed there to sell to many people, as the defense had argued.
The number of different stories Nelson told as to why he returned home to wash up and change his shirt after the meeting with Cameron also called into question the defendant’s credibility, said Nivison.
He also said it didn’t make sense for Nelson to lie to police about why he had gunshot residue on his hands. Nelson had told police that he was target-shooting with a friend only days before the murder. That turned out to be a lie, the judge said.
“If he didn’t kill him, he’d be inclined to tell the whole truth,” said Nivison.
Prosecution witnesses saw Nelson with Cameron near the time when Cameron was killed, and a man living near the crime scene heard a gunshot at 2:15 p.m. Only one witness, testifying for the defense, said she had seen another vehicle near Cameron’s, but it was closer to 1:30 p.m., before the time that police believe Nelson shot Cameron.
Nelson is “definitely not a credible or reliable witness and is in contrast to witnesses for the state,” said Nivison.
Although the state did not find the murder weapon, witnesses said they had seen Nelson with a .357 revolver earlier that year. The medical examiner determined that the round which killed Cameron was capable of being fired from a .357.
Nivison said Nelson had the “opportunity, means and motive” to kill Cameron and the state had proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Nelson fatally shot Cameron.
Nelson will continue to be held without bail at Somerset County Jail in Madison until sentencing, which will be announced at a later date.
Correction: An earlier version of this story contained an error in the photo caption. Robert Lee Nelson was found guilty of murder Tuesday morning in Somerset County Superior Court, not Piscataquis County Superior Court.