Judge to rule by end of next week on motion to throw out murder suspect’s confessions

Andrew Kierstead is led out of the Knox County Superior Courtroom on Tuesday morning following a hearing to determine whether his confessions can be used at the trial scheduled for next month.
Stephen Betts
Andrew Kierstead is led out of the Knox County Superior Courtroom on Tuesday morning following a hearing to determine whether his confessions can be used at the trial scheduled for next month. Buy Photo
Posted Oct. 29, 2013, at 3:40 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — A judge said Tuesday he would issue a ruling by the end of next week on whether statements made by accused murderer Andrew J. Kierstead can be used at his trial scheduled to begin Nov. 18.

Defense attorney Steven Peterson argued before Justice Jeffrey Hjelm that Kierstead was not thinking clearly and was suicidal — after taking drugs and alcohol — when officers questioned him over a five-hour period following the Sept. 27, 2012, shotgun slaying of 48-year-old Richard Mills of Cushing. Peterson said the statements made by his client should not be admitted at the upcoming trial.

But Assistant Attorney Leane Zainea countered that Kierstead was able to answer questions, corrected officers when he felt they had misquoted him, and was aware of his circumstances when he spoke to a public safety dispatcher, sheriff’s officers and state police detectives. The defense attorney argued in his motion that the statements were not voluntary because Kierstead was not of sound and conscious mind.

Tuesday’s session was the conclusion of a hearing that began on Oct. 21 in Knox County Superior Court.

The sole witness to testify Tuesday was Pen Bay Medical Center emergency room physician Dr. John Whitney Randolph, who treated Kierstead when the defendant was brought to the hospital shortly after 1 a.m. on Sept. 28, 2012.

Kierstead was hunched over, very quiet and had no expression, the doctor recalled. Kierstead claimed to have taken a lot of vicodin, methadone and alcohol on the day and night of the shooting and had tried to kill himself with an overdose of drugs after the shooting.

The suspect’s blood alcohol level was 0.054 shortly after 1:30 a.m., the doctor said. Randolph said that Kierstead’s blood alcohol level could have been around 0.150 five hours earlier.

The doctor said he did not notice Kierstead stumble or stagger but acknowledged that with the amount of substances in his system, his judgment could have been clouded.

Zainea pointed out in her closing argument to the judge that Kierstead was aware of his surroundings during the interrogations and at one point asked two officers to stop talking about hunting season because of the mention of guns.

Last week, officers testified that Kierstead was calm and coherent when he made statements that he shot and killed Mills outside the victim’s home at Far Meadow Lane in Cushing. The 41-year-old Kierstead called the Knox County Regional Communications Center shortly before 8 p.m. to say he had shot Mills.

The Tenants Harbor man told police, according to the affidavit filed in court, that he was an unemployed carpenter and had no money. He said Mills had supplied him with drugs after getting him hooked 10 to 15 years ago. Mills recently had fronted him $250 worth of pills but then on the day of the shooting refused to give him more drugs until Kierstead paid off the debt, the affidavit stated.

“They argued and Kierstead got Mills to go outside and help him with a noise under the hood [of his vehicle]. When Mills was looking under the hood, Kierstead got a 12-gauge shotgun from the front seat and pointed it at Mills,” the police affidavit stated.

Kierstead told police that he keeps the shotgun loaded and had been sleeping with it.

“Mills told him to put it away before someone got hurt. [Kierstead] then told them [officers] that he fired the shotgun at Mills. He pumped another round in and kept firing. He said he did not know how many shots he fired,” the affidavit stated.

Investigators said they found five 12-gauge casings near the truck. One gunshot hole was found in the truck.

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