February 19, 2018
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Accused killer denied bail during video appearance in court from jail

Christopher Bouchard | Aroostook Republican | BDN
Christopher Bouchard | Aroostook Republican | BDN
James Peaslee, 37, of Easton (center), who is accused of killing 79-year-old Paul Hilenski of Bridgewater, made his initial court appearance via video from the Aroostook County Jail in Houlton on Friday morning. The hearing was held before Justice Harold Stewart, who was presiding from the Superior Court in Caribou. Flanking Peaslee are attorneys for the day Robert Ward, left, and Jeff Pickering.
By Christopher Bouchard, The Aroostook Republican

CARIBOU — James Peaslee, 37, of Easton, who is accused of killing his 79-year-old stepfather, was denied bail during his first court appearance Friday via video from the Aroostook County Jail in Houlton.

The court hearing, presided over by Justice Harold Stewart in Caribou Superior Court, was brief, lasting less than 10 minutes.

Peaslee said little during the proceeding as he was represented from the jail by attorneys Robert Ward and Jeff Pickering. Stewart explained to Peaslee that he was charged with murder and using a firearm to intentionally, knowingly cause the death of Paul Hilenski of Bridgewater.

Pickering indicated that his client understood the charges and wished to be represented by attorney Stephen Smith. Stewart said the court was in the process of appointing both Smith and attorney John Tebbetts to represent Peaslee. Smith was not present for Friday’s hearing, but Tebbetts was in the courtroom in Caribou.

Also in the Caribou courtroom, Assistant Attorney General John Alsop requested that Peaslee be held without bail and the judge agreed. Stewart indicated that a more formal arraignment would be held after a grand jury reviewed the case against Peaslee. The grand jury, he said, likely would take up the case in February or March.

The Aroostook County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call about 6 p.m. Wednesday from Hilenski’s Boundary Line Road home in Bridgeport, according to Maine Department of Public Safety spokesman Stephen McCausland.

When Aroostook deputies and state police arrived at his home, they found Hilenski dead inside, McCausland said in a press release issued Thursday. Police did not publicly release a cause of death, however, and Stewart’s reference in court Friday to a firearm being used in the crime was the first indication from authorities how Hilenski was killed.

The affidavit in the case has been impounded and no other details about the case were released Friday. The state medical examiner’s office also could not be reached Friday to determine if an autopsy has been completed.

Police located and arrested Peaslee at about 1 a.m. Thursday as he was driving on the West Ridge Road in Easton.

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