Jurors got their first close-up look at the crime scene and body of Cpl. Eugene Cole in court Tuesday as prosecutors showed several images of the Norridgewock site where the deputy was shot.
“He was pale as if he was deceased, his glasses were sort of coming off of his face and he had blood on the right side of his face,” testified Maine State Police Detective Paul White, who was among the investigators who collected evidence from the site.
Tuesday was the second day of what’s expected to be a two-week murder trial of John D. Williams, who attorneys on both sides agree shot Cole in the early morning hours of April 25, 2018. In dispute is whether Williams “knowingly or intentionally” killed Cole when he shot him.
If jurors believe Williams was too impaired by drugs at the time to have formed the intent to kill, as his defense team is arguing, they may be allowed to downgrade the charge from murder to manslaughter, which would likely carry a reduced sentence.
The crime scene photographs were shown in court Tuesday on a large monitor screen. Two showed Cpl. Cole from the back — in his tan-and-black Somerset County Sheriff’s Office uniform, laying on his left side on the edge of the yard at 16 Mercer Road — taken from different distances. A third image was a closer view of his belt and holster, with Cole’s service pistol still strapped in place.
In those and other crime scene photographs, White pointed out that a spent casing from a .9 mm handgun was found in the grass in front of Cole, while the bullet was found behind him.
Prosecutors showed a picture of the house from a farther distance and at a different angle Monday, in which Cole’s body could be seen, but it was hard to make out.
Lt. Kevin Adam of the Maine Warden Service testified previously in the trial, on Monday, that he was the first law enforcement official to approach Cpl. Cole’s body after the Mercer Road homeowner saw him and called him over.
“I put my fingers up to his neck to check for a pulse. He was cold to the touch. He wasn’t moving,” Adam testified. “He had been deceased for a while.”
While the basic timeline of events in the early morning hours of April 25, 2018, are not in dispute, prosecutors are arguing, in part, the forensic evidence helps prove this is a murder case, not a manslaughter case.
On Monday, they called Dr. Mark Flomenbaum, the state’s chief medical examiner, to testify. He said that because of the tight ring of gunpowder near the entrance wound under Cole’s right ear, “I knew the range of fire was very close, essentially contact range.”
Zainea said Monday that under Maine law, Williams can be considered to have “knowingly” killed Cole if he was “practically certain that the defendant’s conduct would cause the death of Cpl. Cole.”
“We would all agree that it’s practically certain that putting a gun up to a person’s neck and pulling the trigger, the natural consequence would be that person’s death,” she said.
Defense attorney Verne Paradie did not cross examine Adam on Monday or White on Tuesday, but he said during his opening argument that he planned to dispute prosecutors’ claim of how close to Cole Williams was when he fired the gun.
In the prosecution’s timeline of events, which is largely unchallenged by the defense, Williams was attempting to get into the Mercer Road home, where he’d previously been living, when Cole approached to arrest him on drug charges. Williams pulled out his Ruger .9 mm handgun and fatally shot him in the neck at close range.
Williams then stole Cole’s police truck and went on the run, starting a nearly four-day manhunt that ended on April 28, 2019, when police found him hiding in a small cabin in the Fairfield woods near the Norridgewock town line.
The trial will resume on Wednesday morning at the Cumberland County Courthouse.