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Attorney wants murder confession thrown out because suspect wasn’t of sound mind

Stephen Betts | BDN
Stephen Betts | BDN
Andrew Kierstead made an initial appearance on Oct. 1, 2012 in Rockland District Court, accompanied by his attorney Steven Peterson of Rockport.
By Stephen Betts, BDN Staff

ROCKLAND, Maine — Witnesses who testified Monday said that murder suspect Andrew J. Kierstead did not appear under the influence of drugs or alcohol on the evening that police arrested him.

Kierstead’s attorney Steven Peterson has filed a motion to suppress the statements made by his client in connection with the Sept. 27, 2012, shotgun slaying of 48-year-old Richard Mills of Cushing. The attorney argued in his motion that the statements were not voluntary because Kierstead was not of a sound and conscious mind.

Emergency medical technicians, Knox County Sheriff’s Office officers and a state police detective testified before Justice Jeffrey Hjelm during the daylong hearing in Knox County Superior Court.

Emergency dispatcher Melissa Olson said when Kierstead called the Knox County Regional Communications Center shortly before 8 p.m. on Sept. 27, he was calm but upset. She said she talked with him for 12 minutes while officers were sent to the scene of the shooting at 40 Far Meadow Lane in Cushing.

She said he remained calm during the conversation. He admitted he had shot his friend Mills, Olson said. He also said he could not believe that he had done it and that he had ruined his life.

Lt. Kirk Guerrette of the Knox County Sheriff’s Office said that when he arrived on the scene, Kierstead had done what the dispatcher had directed him to do: sit on the outside deck and leave the gun inside the house.

Kierstead followed the directions of the officers who handcuffed him. He told officers that Mills was next to a shed and showed them where the body was located. Kierstead then told Guerrette that he had shot Mills a few hours earlier and then had tried to commit suicide but failed.

Emergency medical technicians Charlene Benner and Laurie Poor testified that they checked on Kierstead’s medical condition and found that he was responsive to questions. They also reported that while he had a higher than normal heart rate, it was within a normal range for someone in a stressful situation. Neither said they smelled alcohol on him.

Both said that Kierstead repeatedly said he could not believe what he had done.

“He was shocked, bewildered, like he had just witnessed something,” Poor said.

Emergency medical technician Helen Darmara said she checked on Kierstead later in the evening — at about 9:30 — and she did smell alcohol but was not sure if it was on his breath or his clothes. She said that he had said he tried to kill himself by taking 25 to 30 methadone pills and vicodin. Darmara said, however, that he did not show signs of someone who had taken that number of pills.

Maine State Police Detective Jason Andrews said he interviewed Kierstead and that the suspect did not slur his words and responded appropriately to questions. He acknowledged there was one time when the suspect did not know what day it was.

Andrews said he took Kierstead to Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport after the suspect said he wanted to die. The detective said it is standard procedure to do that if someone voices such statements. Andrews said Kierstead vomited twice during the evening, once in Cushing and once outside the Rockland Police Station where the interview was held.

The hearing is scheduled to continue on Oct. 29 when Peterson will have a doctor who treated Kierstead at Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport that evening available to testify about the amount of drugs and alcohol found in his client’s system.

The trial is scheduled to begin Nov. 18.

Kierstead has been held in jail since his arrest on the evening of Sept. 27 at Mills’ residence in Cushing.

Kierstead was indicted on a charge of murder by a Knox County grand jury in October. He later pleaded not guilty.

Peterson said after Kierstead’s initial court appearance in September 2012 that his client’s state of mind at the time of the shooting will be critical to the case. Justice Hjelm ordered in December that a forensic evaluation be done by the state on Kierstead.

In an affidavit filed by police after the shooting, investigators said Kierstead told them that he fired a shotgun repeatedly at Mills outside the victim’s home because Mills had hooked him on drugs and had been supplying him for 10 or 15 years, but then shut him off for not paying money owed.

Kierstead told police that after he shot Mills, he took pills with the intent to overdose, according to the affidavit. He also told police that when he woke up, he hoped he had been dreaming, but then saw Mills outside and called 911.

Investigators said they found five 12-gauge casings near the truck and one gunshot hole in the truck.

Inside the residence, officers found a suicide note believed to have been written by Kierstead that explained why he shot Mills, according to the affidavit. The shotgun was found and so was one empty methadone pill bottle, one empty hydrocodone bottle, one hydrocodone bottle containing four tablets and one hydrocodone bottle containing 27 tablets.

The autopsy performed by the Maine medical examiner’s office found four wounds to Mills’ front with 12-gauge slugs and one birdshot wound to his right buttock.

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