HOULTON, Maine — Jurors on Friday evening found a Presque Isle pawn shop owner guilty of intentional and knowing murder in the case of a woman who has been missing for 15 years.
The body of Starlette Vining has never been found, but George Jaime Sr., 76, was arrested last year and charged with murder in connection with her disappearance.
Jurors deliberated approximately two hours before taking a break for dinner at 5 p.m. Friday. The verdict was delivered before 9 p.m.
Jaime had no reaction upon his conviction, and no family members of the convicted murderer or the victim were in the courtroom when the verdict was delivered.
The trial began Tuesday with Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson telling jurors in his opening statements that Jaime killed Vining, his live-in girlfriend, in a drunken rage in October 1998. Vining was 38 years old when she was last seen alive.
The accused killer’s son, Ted Jaime, and his friend, James Campbell, both testified earlier this week that George Jaime told them he stabbed Vining to death, dismembered the body and incinerated it in a commercial furnace in the basement of the pawn shop and apartment complex he owned. Ted Jaime also testified that he saw Vining’s corpse in his father’s apartment, and both he and Campbell said they helped clean up the murder scene.
Ted Jaime’s ex-wife, Parise Voisine, said on the witness stand Wednesday that her former husband had told her about cleaning up the murder scene and about the dismemberment.
Ethel Jaime, Ted Jaime’s mother and the accused killer’s ex-wife, testified that her son had told her several times about George Jaime murdering a woman and about Ted Jaime’s participation in cleaning up the crime scene, although he never mentioned Vining’s name.
Defense attorney Jeffrey Silverstein has challenged the recollections of Ted Jaime and Campbell, pointing out that some of their accounts of what happened and details about cleaning up the crime scene did not match up. Both men also admitted to past histories of drug and alcohol abuse.
Silverstein continued with that theme on Friday when he put Carrie Doustou, who now lives in New Hampshire, on the stand.
Doustou, who two previous witnesses said gave George Jaime a ride to Ted Jaime’s home on the night he allegedly murdered Vining, told Silverstein under oath that she did not give Jaime a ride that night. She said she was living in Bangor and working three jobs at that time and would not have been in Presque Isle.
Upon cross examination from Benson, however, Doustou admitted she told a detective in July 2012 that the story told by Voisine and Ted Jaime about her giving George Jaime a ride “did sound vaguely familiar.”
Benson also pointed out that Doustou was on probation at that time and not allowed to drink. But he got her to admit she still could have been drinking that night, which might have affected her memory.
Susan Cunningham of Florida, George Jaime’s daughter, also testified for the defense and supported assertions made by Silverstein that Ted Jaime and his father had friction in their relationship. She told Silverstein that her brother Ted was “furious” when he learned that their father was not going to leave him ownership of the pawn shop and apartment complex after his death and once tried to get him to sign legal documents that would have made such a transaction possible when he was groggy from anesthesia while just coming out of surgery.
Benson told the jury in closing statements that although some of the evidence was conflicting and confusing at times because of the 15 years that had passed, he said that George Jaime was the only one who had murdered Vining. He said that Voisine testified she had spoken to Vining in her workplace shortly before her death, and Vining had told her that she wanted to break up with Jaime.
Silverstein countered in his closing statements that there was no evidence that Vining was dead and that she could “be in a coma somewhere.” He also said that there was no evidence that Vining was going to break off the relationship with Jaime.
Silverstein referred to Ted Jaime as a problematic witness, but Benson said the only thing problematic about him was that he had covered up for his father for 15 years, even under increased questioning by police.
Jurors were instructed that they could consider the lesser included charge of manslaughter along with the murder charge before they began deliberations.
George Jaime did not testify in his own defense.
Benson said that he was happy with the verdict and that Vining and her family were finally getting the justice that they deserved.
Silverstein said afterward that he did see basis for an appeal of the verdict and that is something that he would discuss with his client.
Murray said that sentencing would take place in approximately one month, but no specific date was set. Jaime was returned to jail and remains held without bail.