Update: Jalique Keene has been found guilty of charges that he raped and killed Mikaela Conley. Read the latest story about the verdict here.
A Bar Harbor man charged with raping and murdering a high school friend testified Friday morning that he has no memory of carrying her dead body behind a school building — despite having been recorded doing so in broad daylight by a school security camera.
Jalique Keene is accused of sexually assaulting, beating and strangling Mikaela Conley, 19, whom he had been friends with since they attended Mount Desert Island High School together. Police say he killed her on the ground of Conners Emerson School in Bar Harbor on the morning of Friday, June 1, 2018, and then concealed her body in a clump of vegetation near the bottom of a wooded slope behind the school.
Keene, 22, took the stand at his own trial Friday morning. Under cross examination by Assistant Attorney General Meg Elam, who had the video played on courtroom monitors while she was questioning Keene, he repeatedly denied having any memory of what the camera recorded.
“I don’t remember dragging her body,” Keene said several times.
In the video, Keene can be seen at 7:05 a.m., in broad morning daylight, coming around some vegetation with the body of Conley draped over his back. The footage shows him holding her arms as he walks along the back of the Conners school building and then out of view toward some trees, with Conley’s toes dragging limply across the ground behind him.
Another video recorded a few minutes later by the same camera shows Keene, without Conley, headed back the other direction. In it, he stops at a spigot along the back wall of the building, turns it on and then washes his hands, arms, shoes and lower legs.
Keene also insisted he had no memory of what is shown in that video.
“I don’t remember washing anything, I don’t remember dragging anyone,” he said. “I don’t remember this.”
Despite his insistence that he doesn’t remember doing what the camera recorded, Keene says he did not rape, assault or kill Conley.
Earlier Friday, while being questioned by his defense attorney, Dawn Corbett, Keene said he had consensual sex with Conley on the school grounds around 1 a.m. and that she had gotten upset after they had done so. He tried to console her, he said, and was not sure why she became upset. He told Corbett he did not murder Conley.
After talking to her for a while, he testified, he left with the understanding that they would meet in about an hour on the Shore Path on Bar Harbor’s waterfront. She never showed up, he told the jury.
He said he was suffering from jet lag, having returned to the United States from Europe hours before Conley was killed. Conley had picked him up at Logan Airport in Boston and then driven him back to Bar Harbor the previous evening.
Keene said he may have dozed off on the Shore Path, but that he saw the sunrise. After a while, he walked to Conley’s mother house on Eden Street where he and Conley had first gone upon their arrival back in Bar Harbor hours earlier and retrieved his cell he had left there. While at the house, which was around 7:45 a.m., he spoke to Conley’s mother, telling her he did not know where Conley was but that he would try to find out.
Keene also testified that, since last June, he has had recurring dreams about finding Conley’s battered body at the school, checking her pulse at her wrists, and then getting blood on his face while attempting to revive her.
The defendant told the jury he had a traumatic and abusive childhood as a young boy in Lewiston, where he lived with his birth father and later with a foster mother, before he was adopted by a Bar Harbor family and moved to MDI. He said his birth father sometimes beat him with items such as a fishing pole and belt and intentionally locked him in the basement for days without food.
After Keene’s testimony, psychologist Geoffrey Thorpe, who evaluated Keene after he was charged with Conley’s death, testified about Keene’s traumatic history and possible state of mind on the night Conley was killed.
Thorpe said Keene could have had a dissociative episode — brought on by post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from his abusive childhood — that could block his memory of moving Conley’s body. But under cross examination by Assistant Attorney General John Alsop, Thorpe also acknowledged that Keene could be faking a loss of memory about moving Conley’s body in order to avoid being held responsible for her death.
But, Thorpe added, Keene’s claims of not being able to remember moving Conley’s body “rang true to me.”
The attorneys made their closing arguments to the jury early Friday afternoon.
Alsop said Keene and Conley may have been enjoying each other’s company at first, when they were hanging out on the school grounds, but then something about Keene’s attitude changed. The intent to kill, he added, can “spring up” without premeditation.
“Some things turn very differently,” Alsop said. “Somewhere in the dark recesses of Jalique Keene’s mind, a switch flips. Things went very very bad.”
Keene knew what he was doing, the prosecutor added, and raped and bludgeoned Conley sometime after 4 a.m. He then stayed on the school grounds with her body until he hid it soon after 7 a.m., he said.
In her closing statement, Corbett said Conley was upset but was otherwise unharmed when she and Keene parted company at the school around 3:45 a.m.
She added that Conley fought back against her assailant and whoever beat her would have sustained some injuries in the attack. Keene had no scratches on his body when he was questioned by police, she said.
“This is his best friend that he has known for a long time,” Corbett told the jury. “He had a good life. It doesn’t make sense that he would kill her.”