BANGOR, Maine — The month-long trial of two men charged with killing three people and then torching a car containing their bodies came to an end Wednesday when jurors found one of the defendants guilty on all counts of murder and arson and the other guilty on some counts at the Penobscot Judicial Center.
Nicholas Sexton, 33, of Warwick, Rhode Island, was found guilty of the murder of Nicolle Lugdon and of arson, but the jury, after deliberating for nearly 45 hours over five days, could not reach a verdict on the murder counts in connection with the deaths of Daniel Borders and Lucas Tuscano.
The jury found Randall Daluz, 36, of Brockton, Massachusetts, guilty on three counts of murder and one count of arson amid what authorities described as a drug deal gone bad.
The verdict angered Daluz, who spoke to Sexton, seated behind him in court, for the first time during the trial.
“It’s all about yourself,” Daluz said. “It’s all about yourself, bro.”
Sexton showed no emotion as the verdict was read. He did not react to his co-defendant’s outburst.
Sexton’s mother, who has kept vigil behind her son every day of the trial and throughout deliberations, quietly wept when the verdict was announced.
None of Daluz’s family members attended the trial.
Some relatives of the victims cried when the verdicts were read. All declined to speak to reporters outside the courthouse.
The charred bodies of Lugdon, 24, of Eddington, Borders, 26, of Hermon and Tuscano, 28, of Bradford were found in a burning rental car Aug. 13, 2012, at 22 Target Industrial Circle in Bangor. They had been shot to death and the car they were in set on fire to destroy evidence, according to testimony.
Sexton took the stand May 19 and said Daluz shot Borders accidentally but killed Tuscano and then Lugdon intentionally. Sexton said that Daluz forced him to set the car on fire and threatened to kill him and his children if he went to the police.
Daluz did not take the stand.
“ The families [of the victims] are gracious, they are pleased,” Assistant Attorney General Lisa Marchese, who prosecuted the case, said at an impromptu press conference outside the courthouse after the jury had been dismissed. “Obviously, it’s difficult that Mr. Sexton was not found guilty of murder on Mr. Borders and Mr. Tuscano, but they are very grateful for the work of the jury and that they did find Mr. Daluz guilty. The jury process works.”
Marchese’s boss, Deputy Attorney General William Stokes, said Tuesday that the deliberations over five days were the longest in his 35-year career. They also were the longest for the six attorneys involved.
Superior Court Justice William Anderson, who has presided over the trial since it began with jury selection on April 28, declared a mistrial on the two murder counts the jury could not reach agreement on.
Marchese said that she most likely would not make a decision about whether to retry Sexton on the murder counts on which the jury deadlocked until after both men have been sentenced.
A sentencing date has not been set. Marchese predicted it would be scheduled for late summer or early fall.
Sexton and Daluz face between 25 years and life in prison for each murder count and up to 30 years in prison on the arson charge.
Marchese said that under Maine case law she could and would recommend a life sentence for Daluz because of his convictions on multiple counts of murder. She said that she would have to research other cases before deciding if she could recommend a life sentence for Sexton.
Defense attorneys for both defendants said they would file motions for new trials and appeal the convictions, as well as the judge’s decision to try the two men together.
“It’s not what we expected,” Sexton’s attorney, Jeffrey Toothaker of Ellsworth, said outside the courthouse. “Nick is obviously upset but I have the utmost respect for that jury panel. They seemed quite focused. You can never predict what a jury might do. It’s curious that on the one murder count that he did get convicted of, the state has multiple confessions from Mr. Daluz that Mr. Daluz did it. It’s just a weird scenario.”
Toothaker predicted his client would be sentenced to between 35 and 50 years in prison.
The prosecution agreed not to introduce Daluz’s statement to police in which he said Sexton killed all three victims so the two men could be tried together. Marchese also agreed not to use remarks Daluz allegedly made to a cellmate in which he said Sexton killed Borders and Tuscano but Daluz killed Lugdon.
“We are extremely distraught because it appears as if the jury accepted, in part, the testimony of Mr. Sexton, which we thought was false and fabricated in several different ways,” Daluz’s attorney, Jeffrey Silverstein of Bangor, said outside the courthouse. “So, it was really unsettling to learn through their verdict that they seemed to be accepting his description of how things occurred.”
Silverstein said that he was not surprised by his client’s outburst when the verdict was read.
“He’s maintained all along that this was Sexton’s doing, that he didn’t have any direct role in it and it comes as no surprise that he had those comments,” he said.
He also laid out some of the arguments that most likely will be made in an appeal.
“We’re very concerned about not only the comments made by Mr. Sexton’s attorneys in regards to Mr. Daluz having to explain himself, but also by the state in their rebuttal in terms of potentially shifting the burden of proof onto Mr. Daluz as the defense never has any burden,” Silverstein said. “We’re also very concerned that the Sexton attorneys played a race card in this. They made much out of the fact that Mr. Daluz was a black man up here in Maine and one who would stand out. We think it’s inappropropriate and hope it had no impact on the jury but it is an issue that we will pursue.”
Toothaker said in an email that Sexton testified to the fact that Daluz stood out when the pair came to Bangor to sell drugs. Sexton also said that as a white man he was in the minority in Brockton, Massachusetts, when he spent time there with Daluz.
Silverstein also said that Daluz’s decision not to take the stand was appropriate under the circumstances.
News shortly after noon Wednesday that a note had been sent out by jurors stating they had reached an impasse on two charges drew local attorneys, court personnel and at least two judges to the courtroom to await the verdict.
Jurors deliberated for nearly 45 hours, not counting lunch and dinner hours, over five days in the marathon trial. The jury first said it was deadlocked on some charges at the end of the day Tuesday. Anderson told them to try again. Jurors chose to return Wednesday morning rather than continue working Tuesday night.
The defendants are expected to be held at separate facilities while awaiting sentencing. It could not be determined late Wednesday if Sexton would remain at the Hancock County Jail and Daluz would remain at the Penobscot County Jail, where they were held during the trial.