September 18, 2019
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Trial begins for North Carolina man accused of killing Millinocket man

Gabor Degre | BDN
Gabor Degre | BDN
Christopher Murray (center) with his attorneys Jeffrey Toothaker (left) and David Bate during the opening arguments of Murray's trial in Bangor Monday. Murray was one of three people charged in connection with a home invasion that left a Millinocket man dead and wounded his wife in December 2017.

Diem Lapierre sounded disoriented when she called 911 on Dec. 19, 2017, to report that she and her husband, Wayne Lapierre, needed help in their Millinocket home. But she did not say she had been shot.

A native of Vietnam, Diem Lapierre’s accent also made it difficult for the dispatcher at the Penobscot Regional Communications Center to understand what she was saying.

Diem Lapierre repeatedly said she needed help. She said three or four people wearing masks had come into the house and “jumped” her and her husband. He was “bleeding everywhere,” and she had been “hit” in the face.

The 911 call was played Monday on the first day of the jury trial for one of the three people charged in connection with the December 2017 home invasion that left Wayne Lapierre dead and his wife wounded.

Christopher Murray, 39, of Red Springs, North Carolina, was charged with robbing and shooting Lapierre, 59, and his wife, now 34, in the basement of their Massachusetts Avenue home. Wayne Lapierre died of bullet wounds three days later in a Bangor hospital.

Diem (pronounced Yem) is set to testify Tuesday at Bangor’s Penobscot Judicial Center with the help of an interpreter. She is expected to describe how Murray shot her twice in the head through a pillow. Two bullets remain in her head, and she lost an eye, according to court documents.

Millinocket police Sgt. David Cram and the Millinocket Police Chief Steven Kenyon, who both were on the scene that night, testified Monday afternoon that they were shocked to learn after she was evaluated at a hospital that Diem Lapierre had been shot.

She was able to let him in the house, which was locked, Cram said. The wounded woman directed him to the area of the basement where Wayne Lapierre awaited help and was able to say the couple’s children were not in the house.

“She was bleeding slightly from the facial area and looked like she had a black eye, but she did not appear to be shot,” Cram testified. “She looked like she’d been hit in the face.”

Murray was charged along with Tony Locklear, 44, previously of East Millinocket and Pembroke, North Carolina. Locklear’s daughter and Murray’s former girlfriend, Alexis Locklear, 22, of Maxton, North Carolina, pleaded guilty last week in Bangor to robbery for her role in the home invasion.

Alexis Locklear is scheduled to testify against Murray on Tuesday.

Murray has pleaded not guilty to one count each of intentional or knowing murder, elevated aggravated assault and robbery in connection with the home invasion.

His trial began Monday before Superior Court Justice William Anderson with opening statements from the defense and prosecution followed by the police officers’ testimony.

Diem begged for her life in the basement of her home before Murray shot her twice in the head, Assistant Attorney General Robert “Bud” Ellis told the jury of seven men and eight women, including three alternates, in his opening statement.

“She will testify about how Murray took a pillow and shot her through it in the head,” Ellis said. “She fell over onto Wayne, who was sitting next to her, but the shot did not render her unconscious. She heard the two shots fired into the left side of Wayne’s head. Murray then shot Diem in the head again.”

Wayne Lapierre was a licensed medical marijuana grower who also owned storage facilities, a plowing and excavation company, and other businesses in the Millinocket area, according to court documents.

The men went to the house intending to rob Lapierre, for whom Tony Locklear had previously worked, Ellis told jurors. Alexis Locklear drove the two to the Lapierre house, but prosecutors have said she was not aware of their plans to rob the couple. She also was not in the house when the shots were fired.

Murray and Tony Locklear allegedly forced the couple at gunpoint into the basement, Ellis said. They handcuffed Wayne Lapierre and tied up his wife with some rope.

They left with two 5-gallon buckets of marijuana, between $400 and $500 in cash, and the rings off Diem Lapierre’s fingers, according to prosecutors. She was able to free herself from the ropes and call 911.

Defense Attorney Jeffrey Toothaker of Ellsworth did not discuss details about the case in his opening statement. He asked jurors to take notes and test the credibility of witnesses, especially Diem Lapierre and Alexis Locklear.

“Pay attention to what Diem said on the 911 call, how many times she was interviewed by the police and what information was imparted to her and by whom,” he said. “She was shot in head. That has to have impacted her thinking.”

Toothaker also said the jury should compare what Alexis Locklear told police when she was arrested to what she told prosecutors later while negotiating a plea agreement.

Earlier this month, Tony Locklear pleaded guilty to the same charges on which Murray is being tried. He does not have a plea deal with prosecutors.

His sentencing date has not been set.

Toothaker told the jury that Murray was working security at a casino in North Carolina when he met Alexis Locklear, who also was working there. He met Tony Locklear through her.

Her plea agreement with the Maine attorney general’s office calls for a charge of felony murder to be dropped and for her to be sentenced to time served. Described by the judge as an accomplice, she is expected to be sentenced within a few months.

The penalty for Class A robbery in Maine is up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000.

Tony Locklear also faces murder and first-degree kidnapping charges in North Carolina in connection with the slaying of Braxton Chavis Jr. in Maxton on Dec. 4, 2017.

He was arrested on the Maine charges in Alabama in early March 2018.

The Locklears and Murray have been held without bail at the Penobscot County Jail since their arrests.

The penalty for murder in Maine is 25 years to life in prison.

 



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