ALFRED – For two weeks, Whitfield George sat through the trial in York County Superior Court, imagining only one outcome that would deliver justice to his slain brother.

He saw that outcome Friday, as a jury found Darlene George and her brother Jeffrey Williams guilty of the murder of George’s husband, Winston George of Old Orchard Beach.

Darlene George and Williams stared straight ahead, showing no reaction, as the jury’s forewoman read the verdict, after about five hours of deliberations.

Behind them, Whitfield George cupped his hands over his face. Then he turned to some of the relatives who had joined him in the courtroom. “We got what we came for,” he whispered to them, nodding toward Darlene George. “She’s gone.”

The two defendants were convicted of murder and conspiracy to commit murder. They will face a minimum of 25 years and a maximum of life in prison when they are sentenced later this year.

Darlene and Winston George married in 2002. They moved to Maine from New York that year because Darlene George was transferred to an office in South Portland. 2008, both of them were having extramarital affairs, prosecutors said, and the marriage was in ruins.

At 5:45 a.m. on June 20, 2008, Darlene George called 911 to report that she and her 13-year-old son had been victims of a home invasion.

She told police that men wearing nylon stockings over their heads had tied up her and her son in a bedroom, then killed Winston George after he returned home from work. The men demanded money and drugs, Darlene George said, but she had only a small amount of cash to give them.

Winston George’s body was found in the basement of his home at 56 Smithwheel Road. He had been tied up, strangled with a rope and suffocated with a plastic bag. Someone had cut a small hole in the plastic and shoved a rum bottle into his mouth.

The trail of evidence didn’t lead police to random killers. Instead, it led straight to two men from New York who were well known to Darlene George — her brother, Williams, and Rennie Cassimy, a self-described “gigolo” with whom she had been having an affair for more than a decade.

Prosecutors ultimately charged all three with murder and conspiracy to commit murder, building their case with bus station surveillance videos, bank records, phone records and interviews with several people who had seen Williams and Cassimy in Old Orchard Beach.

Videotapes showed the men arriving in Portland by bus around 4 p.m. on June 19, 2008, then leaving on an 8:30 a.m. bus on June 20. Winston George, 44, was killed around 2:45 a.m.

During the trial, Assistant Attorneys General Lisa Marchese and Leane Zainea claimed that Darlene George had at least two motives to kill her husband.

They said she was concerned that Winston George was going to file for divorce and she wanted sole control of two properties they owned in Old Orchard Beach, a rental property in Brooklyn, N.Y., and two properties owned by Winston George in his native country, Trinidad and Tobago.

Also, the prosecutors said, Darlene George was angered by Winston George’s ongoing affair with one of his co-workers, even though she had a lover of her own.

The central claim of the prosecution was that Darlene George devised an elaborate plot to kill Winston George and disguise the crime as a home invasion.

Among the key pieces of evidence were cell phone records showing that Darlene George, Cassimy and Williams were in constant communication in the days and hours leading up to the killing. The records appeared to contradict George’s claim that she had no idea her brother and her lover were in Maine that day.

Another important element was that Williams left Maine carrying a camouflage backpack that Darlene George had bought at a military surplus store on June 19. George also had bought two winter face masks at the Army Barracks store in Scarborough.

“The most important piece of evidence, in our view, was the backpack,” Marchese said after the verdicts.

Cassimy became the prosecution’s star witness in the nine-day trial.

Earlier this year, he reached a deal with Marchese and Zainea, and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder. The prosecutors dropped the murder charge against him and agreed to recommend an eight-year prison sentence, after which Cassimy will be deported. In exchange, Cassimy agreed to testify against Darlene George and Williams.

On the witness stand, Cassimy said he and Williams went into the Georges’ house around 10 p.m. on June 19. He said Darlene George was supposed to have left masks, but they couldn’t find them so they put nylon stockings over their heads.

When George and her son, Giovanni Whiteman, arrived home around 11 p.m., the men grabbed them and tied up the teenager with bedsheets, Cassimy said. He said they pretended to tie up Darlene George, but after Giovanni was blindfolded, George was free to get up and move around.

Giovanni testified that while he was tied up and blindfolded, he heard his stepfather come home and fight with the intruders. The boy said he told his mother he could easily get free from the bedsheets and help Winston George, but she told him that would be too dangerous.

Giovanni heard George saying a prayer, then the house went quiet.

While Cassimy admitted to taking part in the crime, he put all of the blame on Williams for the strangling and suffocation of Winston George.

Cassimy told the jury that he was reluctant to carry out the plan but he felt an obligation to George because they were lovers, and for all the help she had given him and his children.

Darlene George didn’t testify in the trial. Her lead lawyer, Paul Aranson, said that George had no motive to kill her husband, and that she wasn’t the cruel mastermind depicted by the prosecution.

Aranson told the jury that he believed Cassimy came to Maine and killed Winston George without the knowledge of Darlene George.

Cassimy had told her that he wanted to move into her basement apartment, along with his two sons, but she didn’t like that idea, Aranson said. Cassimy was afraid of “losing his meal ticket,” the lawyer said.

Williams did testify in his own defense. He said he came to Maine with Cassimy because his sister and Cassimy kept pressuring him to visit.

Williams said he thought he would be staying overnight at the Georges’ house, but Darlene George left him and Cassimy at a motel in Old Orchard Beach.

Williams said Cassimy left the motel around 9 p.m., saying that he was going to visit a friend, and that Darlene George would see them in the morning.

Williams said he fell asleep and didn’t see Cassimy again until around 4 the next morning. Williams said he was so frustrated by the situation that he persuaded Cassimy to leave on an early bus from Portland.

Aranson and Joel Vincent, Williams’ lawyer, told the jury that Cassimy was willing to tell the prosecutors anything to secure his plea deal. They urged jurors to disregard Cassimy’s testimony.

Marchese said the problem for George and Williams was that several other pieces of evidence backed up Cassimy’s story.

She said the most shocking aspect of the crime was that Darlene George subjected her son to a terrifying ordeal and made him a witness to his stepfather’s murder.

“Giovanni Whiteman was used as a pawn by Darlene George in this entire scheme,” Marchese said. “She used him as an alibi, and that was just terrible.”

After the verdicts, Whitfield George and several family members gathered outside the courthouse. He said they were crying “tears of joy so that my brother could rest in peace.”

The relatives, who came up from New York City, intend to attend the sentencing, which hasn’t yet been scheduled.

“The journey is over. We have what we want: justice,” said Whitfield George, one of Winston George’s four siblings.

The family hopes to see Darlene George and Williams sentenced to life in prison, where they will have time to think about the harm they caused.

“Every day that she wake,” Whitfield George said, “she will see some bars around her.”

 

Staff Writer Trevor Maxwell can be contacted at 791-6451 or at: [email protected]