Police arrest 2 men for murder in death of Bangor man

Courtesy of Penobscot County Sheriff's Office
Courtesy of Penobscot County Sheriff's Office
Joseph “JJ” Johnson (left) and Cote Choneska
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Joseph “JJ” Johnson, 30, of Old Town, and Cote Choneska, 39, of Veazie each are charged with intentional or knowing murder in the death of Berton Conley, 59, Detective Lt. Brent Beaulieu said shortly after 4 p.m.
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Bangor police on Wednesday arrested two people in the Nov. 1 slaying of a Bangor man in his Essex Street home.

Joseph “JJ” Johnson, 30, of Old Town, and Cote Choneska, 39, of Veazie each are charged with intentional or knowing murder in the death of Berton Conley, 59, Detective Lt. Brent Beaulieu said shortly after 4 p.m.

The men were taken to the Penobscot County Jail, he said.

No other details were released Wednesday. Beaulieu said the killing is still under investigation.

Police were called to 258 Essex St. at about 7:50 a.m. Nov. 1. Firefighters located a fire in the kitchen and found Conley unconscious inside the smoke-filled house.

Conley was brought to Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center where he was later pronounced dead. The medical examiner determined the manner of death was a homicide. The cause of death has not been released.

Information about how the two men knew Conley was not released.

Carroll Conley, the victim’s brother, said Wednesday that he was not familiar with the names of the defendants. He praised the work by the Bangor police and the Maine attorney general’s office, which prosecutes homicides, that led to the arrests.

“We know that this is going to be a long process, and we are hoping for justice when it concludes,” he said. “As a family, we are focused on supporting each other.”

Johnson and Choneska will make their first court appearances Friday before Superior Court Justice William Anderson at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor. They are expected to be held without bail.

Both men also could be charged with arson if there is evidence that they started the fire.

Choneska was sentenced in 1998 to 30 years in prison with all but 18 years suspended for shooting a Clifton store owner six times the previous year. He, his brother Tolbert Choneska, then 19, and his cousin, Travis Murphy, then 18, robbed the Clifton Variety Store on March 20, 1997. Tolbert Choneska and Murphy each were sentenced to five years in prison.

The owner survived, but was left partially paralyzed and in a wheelchair.

All three teens pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the robbery.

Choneska is a Passamaquoddy who grew up in Pleasant Point but spent much of his life in foster care and at the Maine Youth Center in South Portland, which is now called Long Creek Youth Development Center.

Information about Johnson’s possible criminal history was not available Wednesday.

If convicted of murder, Johnson and Choneska face between 25 years to life in prison.

 


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