BANGOR, Maine — A local man accused of strangling his girlfriend during what he described as an altercation at their apartment pleaded not guilty to murder Wednesday in connection with her death.
David Coon, 50, is charged with intentional or knowing murder in the May 3 death of Sherry Clifford, 49, at the Jefferson Street apartment they shared.
Superior Court Justice Ann Murray gave prosecutors and the defense 90 days to file motions in the case and scheduled a trial for the last week in February 2014.
At the end of Coon’s arraignment at the Penobscot Judicial Center, he turned to the courtroom’s gallery and mouthed the words “Thank you” to a group of three who came to support him.
Coon remains at the Penobscot County Jail unable to make bail, which was set at $100,000 cash or $500,000 in property at last month’s hearing.
He was indicted by the Penobscot County grand jury on May 29.
Clifford’s death was ruled a homicide by Dr. Mark Flomenbaum, deputy chief medical examiner, according to an affidavit filed at the Penobscot Judicial Center.
“The death was determined to be caused by asphyxiation with some neck compression,” the affidavit, signed by Bangor police Detective Brent Beaulieu, said. “Dr. Flomenbaum discovered hemorrhaging in the neck region just under the jaw bone. There was also hemorrhaging around Clifford’s hyoid bone.”
The hyoid bone is the U-shaped bone at the base of the tongue.
Coon told police that Clifford had “freaked out” and “attacked him.” He admitted that he “pinned Clifford to the floor and she told him that she could not breathe,” according to the affidavit. “Coon stated that Clifford died while pinned to the floor. Coon said that he had covered Clifford’s mouth with his hand to quiet her.”
In a subsequent interview, “Coon admitted that he was squeezing tightly on Clifford’s face and although he does not recall this, it is possible that his hand may have slid to Clifford’s neck during the incident,” the affidavit said. “Coon also admitted that this altercation may have lasted longer than five minutes as he originally stated.”
Coon called 911 about 6:37 p.m. May 3 and said that “she OD’ed on … she drank herself to death,” the affidavit said. When police and Bangor rescue personnel arrived, Clifford was found dead on the floor of their apartment.
Coon and Clifford both have criminal histories, according to background checks and Bangor Daily News archives.
If convicted of murder, Coon faces 25 years to life in prison.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence and would like to talk with an advocate, call 866-834-4357, TRS 800-787-3224. This free, confidential service is available 24/7 and is accessible from anywhere in Maine.
BDN reporter Judy Harrison contributed to this story.