A jury Wednesday found a man accused of killing his girlfriend’s husband on Easter Sunday last year not guilty of murder, but guilty of manslaughter.
Antoinne “Prince” Bethea killed Terrance Durel Sr., 36, of New Orleans on April 16, 2017, outside the home Bethea shared with Durel’s estranged wife, Danielle Lane Durel, 44, at 2 Highland Ave. He pleaded not guilty to one count of intentional or knowing murder and claimed he acted in self-defense after Durel sent a threatening text to his estranged wife.
Durel’s mother, Theresa Reed of New Orleans, wept as she talked to reporters outside the courthouse after the verdict was announced.
“I was hoping for a murder conviction, but we got a manslaughter conviction and I’m happy for that,” Reed said as she tried to control her emotions. “I want to thank the prosecutor for doing a great job because he deserved it.”
Reed wore a necklace with the letter T on it. She said that she has worn it since her son’s funeral more than 16 months ago.
“He killed my son and he didn’t have to,” she said of Bethea. “I don’t feel any remorse for him, none, none at all. We didn’t get the conviction that we wanted, but he won’t be walking out this door today.”
Superior Court Justice Ann Murray ordered that Bethea continue to be held without bail at the Penobscot County Jail.
Members of Bethea’s family did not speak to reporters after the verdict was announced.
Bethea’s attorney, Hunter Tzovarras of Bangor, said that his client was “holding up OK. He said that he had his day in court and trusted the process, but the process didn’t turn out with the result he was expecting.”
Tzovarras said the verdict would be appealed to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court after Bethea is sentenced.
A sentencing date has not been set.
The jury of three women and nine men, one of whom is African-American, deliberated for three hours. Manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.
Earlier this month, Bethea rejected a plea deal where he would have pleaded guilty to manslaughter in exchange for a recommendation from the prosecution that he serve 25 years in prison.
Bethea testified Tuesday that he was fighting with Durel’s friend, Stephen “Primo” Lancaster, 38, of Las Vegas, when the gun fired and struck Durel, who was nearby, in the leg and stomach.
“I don’t know who pulled the trigger,” he testified. “I don’t know where Durel was. He was never on the ground with me and Mr. Lancaster.”
Bethea’s testimony contradicted Lancaster, who testified last week that he “tackled” Bethea and Durel after the two began fighting outside the apartment Bethea shared with Durel’s estranged wife. All three men were on the ground “scuffling” when the gun discharged, Lancaster told the jury.
Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea said in her closing argument that Bethea retrieved the Taurus 9 mm handgun from the home of his girlfriend’s father after he learned of text messages Durel had sent his estranged wife. Bethea had the gun in his back pocket when he and Lane Durel returned to Highland Avenue, but no one else there had a firearm, the prosecutor said.
Zainea challenged Bethea’s statement that the gun went off accidentally.
“Guns don’t just go off by themselves,” she said. “There are three safeties on this gun and had to be racked so a bullet could slide into the chamber.
Zainea also said the jury should view Bethea’s attempt to change his appearance by cutting off his dreadlocks and shaving his head along with his flight to Connecticut and then Ohio as “consciousness of guilt.”
Bethea was arrested May 21, 2017, during a traffic stop in Euclid, Ohio, according to testimony.
“Actions really do speak louder than words,” Zainea told jurors. “His actions prove that he intentionally or knowingly shot Terrance Durel.”
Defense attorney Hunter Tzovarras said in his closing statement that his client was not guilty of murder or manslaughter.
“It was not reckless or unreasonable for Antoinne Bethea to arm himself,” the attorney said. “He’d been threatened. It wasn’t Antoinne Bethea who pulled the gun out of his back pocket. He was acting in self-defense when the gun went off.”
Tzovarras told the jury that Bethea’s testimony matched the physical evidence more consistently than did the testimony of other witnesses.
“The text messages show that Terrance Durel was the aggressor,” the defense attorney told the jury.
Tzovarras said the change in Durel’s behavior could be attributed to his drug use. The autopsy showed he had cocaine, oxycodone and fentanyl in his system.
The defense attorney asked the jury to try to understand why Bethea did not call police after the shooting and then fled.
The jury began deliberating on the sixth day of the trial. Testimony began Aug. 20, but jurors took Thursday and Friday off due to scheduling problems and illness.
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