HOULTON, Maine — Two teenagers appeared in court on Monday in connection with the death of a 61-year-old Houlton resident.
Reginald Dobbins, 18, and Samuel Geary, 16, both of Houlton, each have been charged with murder in the March 1 death of Keith Suitter. Both were arrested on Friday evening, according to Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety, but Geary’s name was not made public until his petition for detention in juvenile court Monday.
Geary’s name was not released on Friday due to his age, according to McCausland.
Both suspects have been held at the Aroostook County Jail in Houlton since their arrests.
They made their first court appearances Monday in Houlton District Court before Judge Bernard O’Mara.
Dobbins entered no plea. A plea of denial to the charge was entered on Geary’s behalf. While represented by assigned attorneys for the hearing, both teens were given forms to request court-appointed attorneys going forward.
Assistant Attorney General Deborah Cashman indicated that the state would seek a bind-over hearing to determine if Geary could be tried as an adult.
McCausland said no other details would be released about the homicide, such as a cause of death, motive or what led investigators to the pair. All documents pertaining to the case, including what was filed to obtain search warrants for the Geary and Dobbins properties, were impounded by the court Monday.
The Houlton Police Department first investigated the case as a motor vehicle accident, Chief Joe McKenna said last week.
McKenna said two women found Suitter’s red Ford F-150 pickup truck abandoned and stuck in a snowbank on March 1 about a half mile from his home and contacted the Houlton Police Department. The women realized that they knew Suitter and went to his home to check on him. They returned to where the truck was stuck to alert police that they found Suitter dead at his home.
The homicide investigation then was turned over to state police.
Suitter, a longtime Houlton resident and military veteran, ran his own painting business and lived alone.
Dobbins was arraigned Monday by videoconference from the jail and was represented at Monday’s hearing by Houlton attorney Jeff Pickering. The young man told O’Mara that he understood all of his rights.
At Cashman’s request, O’Mara ordered affidavits secured for 30 days, with the opportunity to extend the hold.
A status conference was scheduled for June 17 and a bail hearing was set for Friday, March 13.
Several members of Keith Suitter’s family, including siblings and in-laws, attended Monday’s hearing, but declined to speak to the media.
Members of Dobbins’ family, including his parents and sister, also were in the courtroom.
Geary’s mother was in attendance as well. Her son, a short, thin teen with closely cropped brown hair, was represented Monday by attorneys Adam Swanson and Eugene McLaughlin. He told the judge he understood his rights.
Cricket Griffith, Dobbins’ elder sister, said she believes her “happy, joyful” and “loving” brother is innocent. She said her brother was diagnosed with tongue cancer at 17, lost 53 percent of his tongue and had to undergo reconstructive surgery to restore his taste buds. He also has suffered other health problems, she said.
Griffith said Suitter was a friend of her mother and the two would play cards together. She said her brother barely had a relationship with the man.
“He is not capable of something like this,” she said. “He barely knew [Suitter]. There was no motive.”
She said she visited her brother before the court hearing, and he told her that “he didn’t do it.”
“He said he was trying to help and he got all messed up in it,” Griffith said.
She added that her entire family had nothing but empathy for the Suitter family.
“They are the victims here,” she said Monday.