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A Bar Harbor man has been found guilty of charges that he raped and killed a friend from high school at a local playground last June.
Jalique Keene, 22, was charged with gross sexual assault and murder in the death of Mikaela Conley, 19, whom he had known since they attended Mount Desert Island High School together. Searchers looking for Conley, who was last seen alive on June 1, 2018, found her battered body the following day, concealed in a thicket of vegetation on a wooded hillside next to Conners Emerson School in downtown Bar Harbor.
A jury of six women and six men returned a verdict of guilty on both counts a few minutes after 5 p.m. Friday in Hancock County Unified Criminal Court in Ellsworth. Keene stood stone-faced as the verdict was read.
About 50 people crowded into the courtroom late Friday afternoon, most of them in support of Conley’s family. Reaction was muted, with several people hugging and crying quietly after the verdict was announced.
Conley’s relatives in the courtroom — which included her mother Danielle Timoney — declined to comment after court was adjourned.
John Alsop, a state prosecutor who handled the case, said he was not surprised at the verdict.
“We think the evidence is very compelling,” he said. “There were overwhelming evidence of his guilt.”
Alsop said the jury was right not to believe Keene’s claims about not remembering that he carried Conley’s limp body along the back of a school building — an act that was captured on video by a school surveillance camera.
“I found that to be unworthy of belief and I believe the jury did too,” the prosecutor said.
Ellsworth attorney Dawn Corbett, who represented Keene in the case along with attorney Jeff Toothaker, said that Keene was “disappointed” with the verdict.
“We had hoped that it would go another way,” Corbett said. “He’s accepting the verdict right now but he may appeal the verdict.”
Last spring’s killing shocked and alarmed Bar Harbor, which is better known as a picturesque seasonal tourist destination and gateway community to Acadia National Park. Between June 2, when searchers found Conley’s body, and the evening of June 4, when Keene was arrested, police released no information about whether they had any possible suspects or whether there might be any ongoing threat to the public.
The fact that Conley’s accused killer is a local resident who grew up in Bar Harbor and was friends with her has further upset many local residents who knew both their families. Keene and Conley had attended Mount Desert Island High School together, with Keene graduating in 2015, when Conley was a sophomore.
According to police, Conley had picked up Keene late in the day on May 31 at Logan Airport in Boston, as he returned from Europe after playing for a football team in Serbia. After they arrived in Bar Harbor around 1 a.m. on June 1, Keene and Conley walked to a playground at the school, which is across Eden Street from where Conley was living with her mother.
Earlier Friday, Keene testified that he did not murder Conley but that they did have consensual sex the night she was killed. The jury was shown security camera footage Thursday of Keene dragging her body in broad morning daylight into trees behind a building at the school, but he insisted on the stand that he had no memory of moving her body and he could not explain why he moved it.
Keene testified that he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder because of abuse he suffered as a child before he was adopted and moved to Bar Harbor. A psychologist also testified on Friday that he believes Keene could suffer from PTSD because of the abuse and, as a result, could have a dissociative episode in which a traumatic event would wipe his memory blank.
The psychologist, Geoffrey Thorpe, also testified that Keene could be faking a loss of memory about moving Conley’s body in an attempt to avoid being held responsible for her death.
During the course of the four-day trial, the jury also was shown gruesome photos of Conley’s body that were taken by investigators after it was found.
Keene’s sentencing likely will be scheduled for sometime in July, Toothaker said.
If you or someone you know needs resources or support related to sexual violence, contact the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault’s 24/7 hotline at 800-871-7741.