SKOWHEGAN, Maine — A jury on Monday found Luc Tieman guilty of murdering his wife, less than an hour after the Fairfield man gave his own closing argument in his trial at the Somerset County Courthouse.
Tieman, 34, was charged with intentional or knowing murder in the August 2016 death of his wife, Valerie Tieman, 34.
He showed no emotion when the verdict was read.
His trial began April 2 before Superior Court Justice Robert Mullen.
The jury of seven men and five women deliberated for about 40 minutes before announcing they had reached a verdict.
As the forewoman walked toward the courtroom exit after the jury was dismissed, she paused to embrace Sarajean Harmon, Valerie Tieman’s mother.
“It was nice to think that she sympathized to that level with me,” Harmon, of Taylors, South Carolina, said outside the courtroom at an impromptu news conference. She was flanked by her husband and Valerie Tieman’s father, Allen Harmon, and her son, Greg Harmon, who is on active duty in the U.S. Air Force.
Allen Harmon thanked the prosecutors and police officers who worked on the case. When asked to describe his daughter, he said, “She was a loving, caring person. She gave everybody the benefit of the doubt.”
Greg Harmon, who had not seen his sister since he joined the military in 2013, described the past 19 months as a “roller coaster.”
“You have your ups and you have your downs, and there have been a lot of downs,” he told reporters. “We’re happy it’s out in the public and no longer hidden behind a curtain. It’s nice to know that justice prevails at the end of the day.”
Luc Tieman is expected to be sentenced in mid-May. He faces 25 years to life in prison.
In a rare move, Mullen had allowed Tieman to address the jury directly instead of having Tieman’s defense attorney, Stephen Smith of Augusta, offer closing arguments.
Tieman took the stand Friday and on Monday emphasized many of same things in his closing, in which he again denied killing his wife.
“So far, everything that the state has brought against me has an alternate explanation,” Tieman said. “The only thing we know is that my wife, Valerie, is dead.”
Valerie Tieman’s body was found 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 rippled 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, Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea told the jury in her closing argument.
Investigators testified that they believe Valerie Tieman was killed and buried Aug. 25, 2016, because that is the last time she used her cellphone.
Luc Tieman told the jury Monday that the items found in the grave were on the bedside table in the bedroom he and his wife shared in his parents’ Fairfield home. He offered no explanation for how they ended up in her grave.
“I didn’t have an alibi,” he told the jury. “I didn’t think I needed one because I didn’t know my wife was dead. Someone else did. Every time I talked about my wife with police, it was in the present tense because I didn’t know she was dead.”
Tieman did not suggest an alternative suspect to jurors. He did admit beginning an affair with another woman a few days before police believe his wife died.
Zainea told the jury in her closing argument that Tieman killed his wife to be with his new girlfriend, whom he met on Facebook on Aug. 21, 2016.
“Three days later, she and Tieman met at a pool party in Waterville,” the prosecutor said. “He had sex with her later that day. Two days later, he moved in with her.”
She also said that Luc Tieman, who originally told police his wife had left him for another man, did not immediately report his wife missing. His parents did that Sept. 9, 2016.
“He showed absolutely no concern that his wife was missing,” Zainea told the jurors. “It was only after her parents reported her missing that Luc Tieman spoke with police. It was during that call that he began to spin a tale.”
Valerie Tieman died of gunshot wounds to her head and neck, according the autopsy report. It showed that she had painkillers in her system but no heroin.
Once his wife’s body was discovered, Tieman told police that he had watched his wife shoot up heroin and die of an overdose. When he took the stand, Tieman testified that he made that story up after police threatened to charge his parents. He said he would not have told that lie if he’d known she had been shot.
The murder weapon was found in Luc Tieman’s parents’ home. Luc Tieman admitted Friday that the gun belonged to him.
Tieman told the jury that his DNA was not found on tools believed to have been used in digging the grave, on the items found in it or on the murder weapon.
In her rebuttal closing, Zainea told jurors that was not true. She reminded them that a DNA expert from the Maine State Police Crime Laboratory had testified that Tieman’s DNA and his father’s DNA were found on the murder weapon.
The gun was found in Tieman’s parents’ bedroom along with ammunition, according to testimony.
Zainea and Smith said outside the courthouse after the verdict was announced that while it was very unusual for a defendant to give his own closing argument, Tieman had a right to do so.
“I was surprised that the defendant chose to give his own closing argument,” Zainea told reporters. “There’s a reason why you have an attorney representing you.”
Smith described Tieman as “disappointed” in the verdict. The defense attorney said the verdict would be appealed to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court after sentencing.
Zainea said the speed with which the jury made its decision was an indication of the strength of the prosecution’s case and the evidence against Tieman.
Smith said it is impossible to predict how long a jury will take or to read anything into how much time is spent deliberating.
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