SKOWHEGAN, Maine — A Fairfield man accused of killing his wife took the stand Friday and denied slaying Valerie Tieman in August 2016, but admitted that he lied to investigators and did not immediately report her missing.
His trial began Monday before Superior Court Justice Robert Mullen.
Valerie Tieman’s body was found on Sept. 20, 2016, in a shallow grave on wooded property owned by Luc Tieman’s parents, according to testimony. Her body was wrapped in a blanket and placed in a body bag.
Buried with her were flowers, a Mason jar, a wedding band, an empty SweeTarts box, a bag of potato chips, and love notes using Tieman’s and his wife’s pet names for each other. Under her body, police found a bottle of Gucci men’s cologne called “Guilty,” an investigator testified earlier this week.
On Friday, Tieman spoke haltingly and gave disjointed answers under questioning from his attorney, Stephen Smith of Augusta and Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea, who is prosecuting the case.
While on the stand, Tieman admitted that he lied to police when he told them she disappeared from a Walmart parking lot on Aug. 30, 2016. The defendant testified that he believed “she chose drugs over family” and had left him.
He told the jury that he made up the story about her disappearance to keep her parents from worrying that she had slipped into drug use again. Tieman told jurors that he looked for his wife and cooperated in the search for her even though he did not initially report her missing and moved in with another woman while the search was ongoing.
“Even my time in the military couldn’t have prepared me for this,” Tieman, a disabled U.S. Army veteran who suffers from post traumatic stress disorder, said of his ordeal since his wife’s disappearance. “They told me they found a woman’s body but didn’t say who it was. I didn’t want to assume the worst.”
After Valerie Tieman’s body was found, Tieman then told police that at her request he bought heroin, injected her with it and watched her die.
On direct examination Friday, Tieman said that he made up the story about the drug overdose because police had said they would charge his parents in connection with the burial of her body on their property.
“If I had known she’d been shot, I wouldn’t have said that,” Tieman testified. “I did it to save my parents. It worked.”
Valerie Tieman died of gunshot wounds to her head and neck, according the autopsy report. It showed that she had oxycodone and other painkillers in her system but no heroin was found.
The murder weapon was found in Luc Tieman’s parents’ home, where he and his wife lived shortly before her death. Tieman admitted Friday that the gun belonged to him.
Under cross-examination, Tieman did not recall many of the statements he made to police even though recordings of those conversations were played during the trial.
He acknowledged that his nickname for Valerie, who middle name was Joy, was “Joy Joy.” He said that she called him Luc-e Bear. Tieman said that he could not explain how notes with those terms on them were buried with his wife.
When the prosecutor asked if he’d seen the ring found in the grave, Tieman said he hadn’t seen it. Zainea handed the gold band packaged in an evidence bag to Tieman and asked if he recognized it.
“Can I try it on?” he asked. “It looks like my wedding band.”
Tieman, who testified over his attorney’s objections, was not allowed to try it on and did not explain how it got in his wife’s grave.
Closing arguments and instructions will be given Monday, the judge said.
If convicted, Tieman faces 25 years to life in prison.
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