Originally published in the Portland Press Herald Thursday, July 19, 2007

His hands cuffed to his belt and his legs in shackles, a 20-year-old Newcastle man told a judge on Wednesday that he understood that he was being charged with murdering a former classmate.

John A. Okie, accompanied by his attorney, did not enter a plea to the charge in the death of 19-year-old Alexandra ”Aleigh” Mills, who was found dead in her parents’ home in Wayne on the morning of July 10.

He reiterated to a group of reporters what he said on Tuesday when he was arrested: ”I didn’t do any of it.”

He said that he didn’t want to talk about his father, whose body was found in the Okie family’s home on Monday night. Police have called that death a homicide, but have not released details about the case or named a suspect.

The medical examiner was scheduled to do an autopsy on the body of John S. Okie, 59, on Wednesday.

The younger Okie’s appearance in Kennebec County Superior Court came a day after he was arrested at an uncle’s home in East Boothbay.

On Wednesday, Justice Donald H. Marden told Okie that the murder charge is a felony carrying a sentence of 25 years to life in prison.

Marden ordered Okie held without bail until the complaint goes to a grand jury for consideration. Marden said Okie will be asked to enter a plea if the grand jury indicts him.

The judge granted a request by Assistant Attorney General Lisa Marchese to impound all of the documents in the Mills murder case, including an affidavit by Maine State Police Detective Christopher Tupper that gives the reasons for Okie’s arrest.

Details may come out at a special bail hearing requested by the state, which could be held as soon as mid-August, Marchese said.

Mills and Okie graduated from Kents Hill School in Readfield in 2006.

Mills went on to the University of Maine at Augusta. Okie attended the University of Southern Maine this past year, according to the University of Maine System.

Okie’s mother, Karen Okie, was in court on Wednesday but did not speak to her son. She sat with a brother, a brother-in-law and a friend.

Later, they met with attorney Leonard Sharon in a jury room next to the courtroom. Sharon, who has represented defendants in high-profile murder cases, was hired by the family to represent Okie.

”They’re not doing so well, ” Sharon said of the family. ”They rallied together (for) support.”

Sharon said that a law partner met with Okie in the Kennebec County jail on Tuesday night, and that Sharon talked with Okie for five minutes before Wednesday’s hearing.

”I really know absolutely nothing about the facts of the case, ” Sharon said.

He said he recommended that the family hire a separate attorney for themselves.

”Because of what happened to the father and what may have happened since the death of Ms. Mills, what they tell me may be privileged, ” Sharon said, adding that they may be called as witnesses in the Mills case.

Sharon, who touched the suspect’s shoulder briefly as he was led back to jail, said he was unable to assess his condition. ”He’s still in a state of shock.”

No members of Mills’ family were in court, although state police Lt. Gary Wright said they were told about the hearing.

Marchese said police are continuing to investigate the deaths of both Mills and Okie.

Marchese added that ”public discussion of certain information could compromise the investigation.”

Okie’s death is the state’s 15th homicide this year.