PORTLAND – A Cumberland County Superior Court jury deliberated briefly Monday, but wrapped up the day without issuing a verdict on whether Linda Dolloff beat her husband with a softball bat while he slept in their Standish home.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers concluded the 14-day trial Monday morning with closing arguments that outlined their different takes on the events in Linda and Jeffrey Dolloff’s house in the early morning hours of April 12, 2009.

Jurors will decide whether Linda Dolloff beat her husband and then shot herself in the abdomen to cover up the assault, as prosecutors allege, or if the two were victims of a home invasion, as the defense contends.

Dolloff has been charged with attempted murder, elevated aggravated assault and filing a false report.

Cumberland County District Attorney Stephanie Anderson noted that the couple was on the edge of divorce and Dolloff’s motive was she wanted to “play the grieving widow (rather) than the jilted spouse.”

Anderson built her closing argument around a replay of part of Dolloff’s 911 call, contending that loud sounds heard in the background on the tape were part of a “second bloodletting,” prompted by Dolloff’s discovery that her husband was still alive.

During the call, Dolloff put her cell phone down — but stayed connected to the dispatcher — for nearly six minutes, saying she was going to check on her husband. Anderson said that Dolloff had already assaulted her husband once by that time but hit him again with the bat — while calling out his name so it would sound to the dispatcher as if she was trying to rally Jeffrey Dolloff to stay alive until help arrived.

None of the trial testimony offered an analysis of whether the sounds were of an assault, but when he took the stand, Jeffrey Dolloff said the 911 dispatcher saved his life by calling Linda Dolloff back to the phone and away from his room.

Jeffrey Dolloff indicated his opinion was based on repeated playing of the 911 tape, because he has no memory of the night of the assault.

Anderson also said Linda Dolloff used part of the time off the phone to go downstairs in the couple’s house, contending that she was the figure seen through the front door window by the first officer to respond to the scene.

Defense lawyer Daniel Lilley said Linda Dolloff never went downstairs and said the reported sighting of someone on the first floor suggests that there was someone else in the house on the night of the assault.

Anderson pointed out that the bat used to assault Jeffrey Dolloff was stored in a different part of the Dolloffs’ garage from other bats, meaning it wasn’t “a weapon of opportunity.”

She also said the gun used to shoot Linda Dolloff was a .22-caliber handgun from the top drawer of Jeffrey Dolloff’s dresser, rather than a .45-caliber handgun that was in the same drawer. The .22-caliber gun did less damage to Linda Dolloff than the .45-caliber would have.

“This, ladies and gentlemen, was an inside job,” Anderson told the jury.

Jeffrey Dolloff had about two dozen guns in the house and the couple never locked their doors. He said if anyone came into the house, he would be awakened by the couple’s black lab, Zoe, and be able to grab his guns before an intruder got far.

“It never dawned on Jeffrey Dolloff that he would have to protect himself from his wife,” Anderson said.

But Lilley said the prosecution’s evidence doesn’t stack up.

Anderson, he said, “deserves the John Grisham fiction award” for her account of the incident, a reference to the popular author of legal thrillers.

He said a key was the officer seeing someone downstairs in the house.

“If you think that this trained officer saw a person in the house, then you can get home for an early afternoon tee time,” Lilley told jurors.

He said Maine State Police detectives who took over the case from the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office never followed up on the report of a sighting of someone because it didn’t fit their theory of an attempted murder over the divorce.

But, he said, “that person can’t just disappear, no matter how hard they try.”

Lilley also derided the prosecution’s contention that Linda Dolloff shot herself, saying she’s too short at about 5-foot-4 to hold a gun with a 10-inch barrel far enough away to avoid a burn from the gun blast while aiming it at her lower abdomen.

He also said Anderson’s motive is all wrong, because Jeffrey and Linda Dolloff had agreed to divorce terms about two weeks before the assault. Under the terms, Linda Dolloff would have been allowed to stay for a year in the house she and her husband built, get half ownership of a house the couple owned in Buxton as well as a half-share of a 230-acre farm across Dolloff Road from their Standish house, and $100,000.

During the time she was away from the phone, Lilley said, “she’s hoping beyond hope in that six minutes that this guy will come to his senses. She’s not going to go after him with a bat.”

At most, Lilley said, jurors could conclude that the case against his client is “a maybe.”

“You can’t convict people on maybes,” he said.

 

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

emurphy@pressherald.comon