September 21, 2019
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Man who was found guilty of killing his stepfather will be sentenced in November

Jen Lynds | BDN
Jen Lynds | BDN
James Peaslee, center, was found guilty of murder and using a firearm to intentionally or knowingly cause the death of another in Aroostook County Superior Court in Houlton late Tuesday, June 11, 2019. He is flanked by his attorneys, at left, John Tebbetts of Presque Isle and Stephen Smith of Bangor.

BRIDGEWATER, Maine — The sentencing of an Easton man who was found guilty in June of killing his stepfather has been rescheduled.

James Peaslee, 38, was found guilty of murder and using a firearm to intentionally or knowingly cause the death of another on June 11 after a jury trial in Aroostook County Superior Court in Houlton.

He was scheduled to be sentenced for those crimes Aug. 19 in Aroostook County Superior Court in Caribou, but the sentencing was continued until 9 a.m. Nov. 12, a court clerk said Monday. It will be held in Caribou.

Prosecutors could not be reached for comment on the reason for the continuance, but attorney Stephen Smith, who represented Peaslee, said on Tuesday that “new evidence has come up that is still being processed” by the court.

Peaslee was found guilty of shooting and killing his stepfather, Paul Hilenski Sr.

Hilenski died from a gunshot wound to the chest after Peaslee came to Hilenski’s home in January 2018 and fired multiple gunshots at him, according to court testimony. The 79-year-old victim lived alone at his home on the Boundary Line Road in Bridgewater.

The state contended that multiple security videos taken from Hilenski Sr.’s home depicted Peaslee committing the killing.

Assistant Attorneys General Leanne Robbin and Robert “Bud” Ellis contended that Peaslee was furious over a probate decision involving the estate of his mother, Janet Hilenski.

During closing arguments, Robbin said that Peaslee’s “resentment was building” after he learned that Hilenski Sr. was allowed to remain on the Boundary Line Road property after his mother died without a will, leaving the case to go through probate. Peaslee and his siblings received checks from the estate.

She said data showed that Peaslee’s phone was off for three hours on the day of the murder, which is when she said he was killing his stepfather.

Robbin also reminded jurors that Peaslee’s fingerprints were found on a box of .380-caliber ammunition and a tray taken from his home during a search.

Attorney Stephen Smith of Bangor joined with Presque Isle attorney John Tebbetts to defend Peaslee against the charges.

In closing statements, Smith said that police officers who identified Peaslee as the man in the security video couldn’t be “100 percent sure,” because they had not seen him often enough or close enough.

He also told jurors that the security video was “washed out” and did not clearly depict the shooter’s identity.

The victim’s security video recorded the shooting and its aftermath, including Hilenski’s death in his kitchen. An exterior video showed an individual running up the steps of the Hilenski home and knocking on the door. He then fired several rounds into the home through the screen door and a window in another door. He then ducked, fired more rounds and ran away.

An interior video showed the victim going to answer the door and being fired at. He was then shown reaching for a landline phone in the kitchen, sitting down in a chair, and quickly thereafter falling to the floor and dying. Hilenski Sr. had a gun holstered at his side but was unable to get a shot off.

The defense is planning to appeal the case. Peaslee is being held without bail at Aroostook County Jail in Houlton.

This story originally appeared on The County.

 



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