May 26, 2018
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Two charges dismissed in Farmington ax-attack trial

By Donna M. Perry, Sun Journal

FARMINGTON, Maine — A Franklin County justice on Wednesday dismissed two charges in an ax-attack case, but the defendants still face assault charges.

Brian Sweeney, 32, of Rumford and Shari Dupree, 32, of Wilton were being tried on charges of felony aggravated assault and burglary and misdemeanor charges of assault and criminal mischief at Franklin County Superior Court. They have pleaded not guilty to charges that they attacked a Farmington couple with an ax and a meat cleaver in April 2012.

Justice Michaela Murphy, on the second day of the trial, dismissed the burglary and criminal mischief charges after she heard arguments from defense lawyers Woody Hanstein and Ron Hoffman.

The state and defense rested their cases about 11 a.m. Wednesday and gave jurors an early lunch.

According to testimony, the April 2012 dispute began over a tattoo that Jeremiah Gattis of Farmington gave to Sweeney on the day of the incident. Gattis testified Tuesday that Sweeney and he were best friends, and Sweeney lived with him and his girlfriend off and on.

Gattis testified that Sweeney put an ax through a bedroom window, nearly missing Gattis’ girlfriend, and that Sweeney broke the glass of the front door and came at Gattis with an ax. Gattis’ injuries included a cut to his forehead and a dislocated finger, he said Tuesday.

The ax never was found.

Before resting, Hoffman called Kenneth Sprague of Wilton to the stand. He testified that he has known Dupree since she was a child and grew up with her parents. She works for him and manages an apartment building where she has lived for 10 years with her two children.

Sprague described her as a mother figure who tried to provide for her children. He has never seen her be violent, he said.

Sprague also testified that he received a call from Dupree the night of the incident and that she was hysterical. He went to her home where he saw Dupree and Sweeney and a lot of blood. Dupree had a serious cut in the triceps area of her arm, and Sweeney had injuries on his neck and leg.

Sprague said he suggested that they call the police. Dupree wouldn’t call police because she was terrified of retribution from Jeremiah Gattis, Sprague said.

Sprague said Dupree didn’t know why Gattis attacked her and why he reacted the way he did.

She told him that she knocked on the door of Gattis’ residence and he attacked her outside, Sprague said. He wanted to take her to the hospital but she wanted to make sure her children were taken care of and got to school, he said. She went to the hospital the next day and returned with stitches in her wound, he said.

Assistant District Attorney Joshua Robbins asked why Sprague didn’t call police.

“It was not my place to call police,” he said. “She was scared to call police. She was more scared of retaliation.”

Once Dupree learned there was a warrant out for her arrest, she turned herself in, he said.

According to testimony, Dupree picked Sweeney up at Blueberry Hill Apartments to get the rest of his belongings from Gattis’ residence on the evening of April 3, 2012.

Hanstein called Nicholas Shink of Jay to testify on Sweeney’s behalf. Shink described Sweeney as being a peaceful person, very soft-spoken and very giving. He was not known to be violent in any way, Shink said.

Several people came up to him after the ax attack was made public, Shink said. They couldn’t believe Sweeney would commit the crime, he said.

Attorneys were to give their closing statements when court resumed at 12:15 p.m. Then the jury is expected to deliberate.

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