HOULTON, Maine — After initially lying to police and shortly after the knife allegedly used to murder a Houlton man two years ago was found at his home, Reginald Dobbins broke down and admitted to authorities that he knew the real killer — his co-defendant in the case, Samuel Geary.
Dobbins, 20, of Houlton, is on trial on a murder charge, accused of beating and stabbing to death Keith Suitter, 61, of Houlton, on March 1, 2015, in the victim’s mobile home on Hillview Avenue where he lived alone.
Maine State Police Trooper Todd Stetson testified in Aroostook County Superior Court Wednesday that after a tip led police to the Dobbins residence, the accused killer told police that he and Geary had been near Suitter’s home on the day of the murder to make a drug transaction when they heard two people arguing.
In an audio recording of the initial police interview of Dobbins at his home that was played for the jury, Dobbins said that they did not see who the individuals were, and he denied being near or inside Suitter’s home that day.
During a search of of the Dobbins home a couple of hours after that initial interview, however, state police Detective Greg Mitchell told jurors Wednesday that a knife allegedly used to kill Suitter was found in a hole that Dobbins had punched in his bedroom wall. Dobbins at first told officers that a nephew had put the knife there, according to Mitchell.
Police also found a blood stained jacket, which Mitchell said that Dobbins’ mother, Christie Dobbins, told investigators he had been wearing on the day of the killings. Dobbins also initially denied to police that he had worn the black jacket.
After the knife and bloodied jacket were found at the home, Mitchell said that Dobbins began “sweating profusely” and said “I am going to be sick.”
Mitchell told jurors that Dobbins then contacted investigators again the next day and admitted that he had lied.
In a video recording of the subsequent interview with Dobbins at the police station, Dobbins told police that on the day of the murders, he had lent his black jacket to his friend Geary.
Geary, who was 16 when Suitter was killed, also was charged with the murder and, after a judge ruled that he would be tried as an adult, pleaded guilty in Washington County Superior Court in Machias on May 25. No sentencing date has been set yet for Geary, who is among the 61 people on the list of potential witnesses to be called to testify in the Dobbins trial.
On the video played for jurors Wednesday, Dobbins tells police that while he and Geary were walking near Suitter’s home, Geary said that he was going to go inside and rob Suitter. Dobbins said he was standing outside the home when he saw Geary enter the Suitter residence and begin beating and stabbing the victim.
“I was standing there in shock,” a sobbing Dobbins told police. “I didn’t think he was going to kill him. … That knife you found in the wall was Sam’s knife. He left it at my house.”
Throughout the taped interview, Dobbins repeatedly called Geary “Sam McGeary.”
Suitter suffered 21 blunt-force trauma blows, consistent with having been inflicted by a hammer, according to the state medical examiner, and 10 stab wounds to the head and back. The blows during the attack fractured Suitter’s skull, lacerated his brain and penetrated his lung. His body was found in a blood stained living room, covered in potting soil. The longtime Houlton resident and military veteran ran a painting business.
In a hearing last year, Geary implicated Dobbins as the killer. According to Geary, he and Dobbins went to Suitter’s home to buy drugs. After Dobbins had gotten into the home using the ruse that his vehicle had broken down, Geary alleged, Dobbins pulled a hammer out of his jacket and began striking Suitter.
Geary also admitted trying to stab Suitter himself but the folding knife didn’t open all the way, and he instead cut himself. He told the court last year that Dobbins then grabbed the knife from him and stabbed the victim.
Hunter Tzovorras, Dobbins’ defense attorney, said in his opening argument on Monday that only Geary’s blood and DNA were found on a hammer at the crime scene. The defense attorney also said that Geary’s DNA was found on a pocket of Suitter’s clothing, which he said was proof that Geary had robbed the victim. No one has yet testified about DNA evidence, however.
Only a small portion of Dobbins’ second interview with police was played in court Wednesday. The video will continue Thursday.
Justice Hal Stewart II is presiding over the trial that is scheduled to last through the week. Assistant Attorney General John Alsop is prosecuting the case.