High court judge denies bail to defendant in Lewiston man’s slaying

Posted Nov. 26, 2013, at 6:13 a.m.
Nathan Morton, charged with murder in connection with Romeo Parent's killing, listens to Maine Supreme Judicial Court Justice Ellen Gorman during his appellate review of a trial's judge's bail denial in Androscoggin County Superior Court in Auburn.
Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal
Nathan Morton, charged with murder in connection with Romeo Parent's killing, listens to Maine Supreme Judicial Court Justice Ellen Gorman during his appellate review of a trial's judge's bail denial in Androscoggin County Superior Court in Auburn.

AUBURN, Maine — A member of the state’s highest court on Monday upheld a lower court ruling that denied bail to a Greene man facing a murder charge in the spring slaying of Romeo Parent of Lewiston.

Nathan Morton, 24, had appealed a trial court ruling to a single justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

Associate Justice Ellen Gorman presided over a two-part hearing at Androscoggin County Superior Court that concluded last week.

In her three-page order, Gorman wrote that the state had met its burden of establishing, “by clear and convincing evidence, that Morton is likely to commit additional criminal conduct if released.”

During an earlier bail hearing, a trial judge had denied Morton bail based on Maine law that requires the state to establish probable cause to believe that the defendant committed a formerly capital offense. That judge also denied bail to Morton as a matter of discretion. State law states that the court can allow bail at its discretion, unless the state proves there’s a substantial risk the defendant:

* Won’t appear in court or otherwise pose a risk to the judicial process;

* Will pose a danger to someone else or to the community; or

* Will commit a new crime.

Gorman wrote that evidence presented by prosecutors aimed at predicting likely future criminal conduct showed that Morton was engaged in buying and selling prescription medications “and sometimes committing other crimes to fund those endeavors” around the time of Parent’s slaying.

That evidence convinced Gorman that, if Morton were released, there would be a “substantial risk” that he would return to that activity.

At the time Parent was killed, Morton didn’t have a job, wasn’t enrolled in an academic program or involved in volunteer activities, Gorman wrote. He had been living at home in Greene with his mother, who testified last week that she hadn’t been aware that her son had been selling drugs while living there and hadn’t been aware that he would sneak out of the house to interact with his group of like-minded friends after she had fallen asleep, Gorman wrote.

Morton is one of four defendants charged in the April killing of 20-year-old Parent.

Police said Morton drove Parent and co-defendant Michael McNaughton, 26, of Lewiston to a remote wooded area in Greene where McNaughton stabbed Parent with a screwdriver and strangled him with a makeshift garrote, fashioned from wire and wood. Police said Morton also later helped move Parent’s body to a Monmouth stream, where it was found by police.

Morton’s attorney, George Hess, had argued that his client eventually cooperated with police, helping them recover the body and discover the scene of the slaying.

He said Morton’s drug use stemmed from a 2008 motor vehicle accident in which Morton was badly injured and was treated with pain medication. He said Morton had no drug convictions.

If allowed to live with his parents, Morton would have been supervised by his parents and brothers and would have had no access to illegal drugs nor a motor vehicle, Hess said.

At the hearing, two state police detectives testified. Evidence included police records and a medical report detailing Morton’s injuries sustained in a 2008 car accident.

Morton has been held at Androscoggin County Jail since his arrest last spring on three charges, including murder.

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