ROCKLAND, Maine — A former Thomaston man has admitted to killing his former cellmate during an altercation at Bolduc Correctional Center two years ago.
Zachary Titus, 35, pleaded guilty to a charge of manslaughter during a court hearing Thursday morning in Knox County Court. Titus was facing a murder charge for the June 24, 2018 death of Dana Bartlett, but the charge was reduced to manslaughter as part of a plea deal that will allow him to serve less time.
Titus likely will receive a sentence of 18 years in prison with all but 12 years suspended, according to Assistant Attorney General Leanne Zainea. However, his attorney Steve Peterson, likely will argue for less than 12 years served at the sentencing, which is tentatively scheduled for March.
Titus and Bartlett shared a cell with two other inmates at the minimum security prison in Warren, which is commonly referred to as the prison farm.
Both Titus and Bartlett told unidentified individuals on recorded phone calls that they had fought a couple of days before Bartlett’s death, according to a police affidavit filed earlier this year
Leading up to his death, Bartlett was reportedly terrified of his cellmates, according to former inmates who spoke to the Bangor Daily News. They said Bartlett asked a guard multiple times to move him to another cell in the hours before he died. The guard allegedly refused to move him.
Maine Department of Corrections officials have maintained that an investigation found “no indication” that Bartlett asked to be removed from his cell because of safety concerns.
On the afternoon of June 24, Titus and Bartlett got into a fight over cigarettes, according to the two other cellmates. One of the men said he witnessed Titus put Bartlett in a “sleeper hold” and the other told police when he returned to the cell from a smoke break that Bartlett was “lifeless” on the floor and Titus was trying to wake him up, according to the affidavit.
Both of the cellmates said they left the room after the altercation broke out. When they returned to an unresponsive Bartlett, Titus allegedly said that “[Bartlett] just came at me and I choked him out,” according to the affidavit.
An autopsy conducted the morning after Bartlett’s death concluded that the cause of death was strangulation and that the manner of death was a homicide.
Bartlett’s DNA was found on Titus’ shirt and wristwatch. No DNA from Bartlett was found on the two other cellmates.
At the time of the killing, Titus was serving a two-year sentence for theft. He was transferred from the Bolduc Correctional Center to the neighboring Maine State Prison, where he was held in the close custody unit.
Titus completed his sentence in September and was transferred to the Knox County Jail, where he continues to be held without bail.