A North Carolina man was sentenced to life in prison Friday for his role in a 2017 home invasion that left a Millinocket businessman dead and his wife seriously wounded.
Christopher Murray, 40, of Red Springs, North Carolina, was convicted of murder, elevated aggravated assault and robbery by a jury on Feb. 1, 2019, following a four-day trial.
He was one of three people charged with robbing and shooting Wayne Lapierre, 59, and his wife, Diem (pronounced Yem) Lapierre, now 36, in the basement of their Massachusetts Avenue home on Dec. 19, 2017. Wayne Lapierre died of bullet wounds three days later in a Bangor hospital.
Superior Court Justice William Anderson said at Murray’s sentencing at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor that he imposed the life sentence because the crime was premeditated, Murray intended to kill two people and Diem Lapierre endured conscious suffering before she was able to call for help.
Anderson said that over the course of the case he has wondered: “How could a person be so inclined to kill people intentionally, to kill people for a fairly routine robbery, otherwise?”
The judge had sentenced co-defendants Tony Locklear, 46, previously of East Millinocket and Pembroke, North Carolina, and his daughter, now 24-year-old Alexis Locklear of Maxton, North Carolina, on March 13, 2019. Locklear was sentenced to life in prison while his daughter, Murray’s ex-girlfriend, was sentenced to time served — 375 days — for her limited role in the home invasion.
Tony Locklear asked to spend the rest of his life in prison for robbing and shooting Wayne Lapierre and his wife, Diem, in the basement of their Massachusetts Avenue home in December 2017.
Aug. 1 would have been Wayne Lapierre’s 62nd birthday, Diem Lapierre said in a written statement read at Friday’s sentencing.
“My family was turned upside down in one night,” she wrote, addressing the crime’s impact on the couple’s two children, now 12 and 9. “These evil men came to kill us for no reason. I hope he pays for what he did to my family. No matter how long he is in there it will never bring my husband back.”
At his trial, she testified that Murray was the man who shot her.
Deputy Attorney General Lisa Marchese, who prosecuted the case, recommended Murray receive a life sentence because he was “the trigger man.” Defense attorney Stephen Smith of Augusta urged Anderson to impose a 35-year sentence because Locklear planned and executed the home invasion. Smith also said that Murray, who has five children and no criminal history, does not agree with the jury’s verdict.
An emotional Murray told Anderson that he has been accused of things that “are unspeakable.”
He apologized for being at the Lapierres’ home that night and said Locklear forced him to participate in the crime.
“I wish I could have changed something, said something that produced a different outcome,” he said. “That night a gun was put to my head. I was given the option of having my life taken or doing something I regretted.”
If the defendant had one wish, he said, it would be to bring Mr. Lapierre back.
Wayne Lapierre was a licensed medical marijuana grower, who also owned storage facilities, a plowing and excavation company and other businesses in the area, the affidavit said.
Anderson said that there was no testimony at Murray’s trial to indicate he was coerced into participating in the robbery and murder.
Murray’s sentencing was delayed by the court system’s shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic and because he sought new court-appointed attorneys after his conviction. Anderson denied that request earlier this year.
Diem Lapierre’s survival after she was shot twice in the head made her “a walking, talking miracle,” prosecutors and defense attorneys have said. As a result of being shot, she lost her left eye and still has two bullets lodged in her brain, according to testimony at Murray’s trial.
Lapierre, one of nine children raised on an Aroostook County farm, was a licensed medical marijuana grower who also owned storage facilities, a plowing and excavation company, and other businesses in the Millinocket area, according to court documents. The state claimed that Tony Locklear and Murray planned the assault and robbery believing that the Lapierres had a large amount of cash in the house.
Murray’s defense team argued that Tony Locklear, who had previously worked for Wayne Lapierre, planned the assaults and robbery, and that Murray and Alexis Locklear were unaware of his plans.
Diem Lapierre, a native of Vietnam, identified Murray as the man who shot her in the head as she sat next to her husband on the floor of the master bedroom in their basement.
At Murray’s trial, she recounted how Murray took her husband’s pillow from the bed, held it up and shot her through it. She fell over onto her husband and heard but did not see two shots fired at her husband.
One of the men later shot her again, Diem Lapierre testified. She was unconscious for about 30 minutes, until “God brought me back,” she said. She was able to untie herself, crawl upstairs to the kitchen and call 911.
The intruders left the Lapierre home with two 5-gallon buckets of marijuana, between $400 and $500 in cash, and the rings off Diem Lapierre’s fingers, the prosecution told jurors last year.
Tony Locklear also faces murder and first-degree kidnapping charges in North Carolina in connection with the slaying of Braxton Chavis Jr. in Maxton on Dec. 4, 2017 — just 15 days before the Millinocket home invasion. When he will be returned to North Carolina to face the charges in that state has not been determined.
He is incarcerated at the Maine State Prison in Warren. His daughter returned to North Carolina after her release.
The penalty in Maine for murder is 25 years to life in prison. The maximum penalty for aggravated assault and robbery is 30 years in prison.