PORTLAND, Maine — An attorney defending murder suspect Anthony Pratt on Friday questioned the reliability of prosecutors’ evidence tying him to the death of Margarita Fisenko Scott, a 29-year-old Westbrook woman whose body was found abandoned at a Portland Motel 6 in January.
Defense attorney Peter Cyr told reporters outside the Cumberland County courthouse Friday that the time of Scott’s death is unclear, and the apartment where police say they believe she was killed underwent renovations before it was searched, making evidence found there questionable.
“Mr. Pratt waived extradition to fight these charges, and he is innocent of these charges,” Cyr said.
Pratt, 19, from Far Rockaway, Queens, N.Y., was transported Wednesday from the Empire State to Maine and made his first court appearance in the case Friday morning in Portland. He was taken into custody in New York on April 2.
Pratt — who was handcuffed, wearing a yellow short-sleeved prison-issued shirt and matching pants — said little to Cumberland County Superior Court Justice Joyce Wheeler during the appearance, during which a May 14 arraignment and bail hearing were scheduled.
Wheeler set a tentative trial date in the case for sometime in September 2014. A Cumberland County grand jury must still officially indict Pratt on the Class A murder charge. Currently, he is being held on a criminal complaint supported by a police affidavit in the case, and both documents remain under seal by the judge at least until the May 14 appearance.
Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck acknowledged earlier this month that additional arrests in the case are “a possibility,” and city police as recently as this week said the investigation is ongoing.
A group of about eight people who appeared to be Scott’s family members and friends sat in the court during Pratt’s appearance Friday morning, but said afterward they did not want to speak to reporters.
Cyr fielded questions from the media outside the courthouse after the appearance.
“This is a circumstantial case,” Cyr said. “[According to] the information I have, there are no eyewitnesses.”
The defense attorney said that because nearly two months had passed between when Scott is believed to have died and when her body was found in a vehicle parked at a Portland Motel 6, it will be difficult for investigators to pinpoint her time of death and defend evidence found at the apartment where they say she was killed.
“The crime scene was essentially being renovated,” Cyr said. “There are certainly some issues here. We have some experts on board and we’re going to recreate some things.”
Sauschuck has said Pratt was dating Scott at the time of her death and said the crime had “domestic violence overtones” and alleged ties to “drug activity.”
Greater details of Scott’s final weeks and the events that police believe led to her death have not been made public. She was estranged from her husband and family members told police they hadn’t had contact with her for as long as two months before she was found dead.
The body of Scott was discovered on Jan. 17 in an SUV parked at the motel. Police believe she was killed by a single gunshot wound in a first-floor apartment at 266 West Concord St. sometime during November 2012 and her body was dumped at the motel site.
Sauschuck said the firearm used in the killing was stolen in a central Maine burglary, then sold on the black market in Portland, but he declined to provide additional details on the gun history, including whether police believe Pratt purchased the firearm directly.
Scott’s body was found in the backseat of a red 2002 Chevrolet Trailblazer registered to her husband. Sauschuck said her husband, Cary Scott, was “incredibly helpful” to investigators, had reached out to police for help finding her when she was missing, and was not considered a serious suspect in her death.
It was Cary Scott who reportedly discovered the body at the motel parking lot after a friend told the husband he saw the vehicle there, police have said.
An anonymous tip then led investigators to the West Concord Street apartment, where Sauschuck said Fisenko Scott had been staying “off and on” since leaving her husband.