The trial of a man accused of killing his ex-fiancee is expected to begin Monday morning, not in a courtroom but at the apartment in Alfred where Kelly Gorham lived before her disappearance three years ago.

Jurors in the murder case against Jason Twardus will tour the apartment and property about 9 a.m. Monday. They will then return by bus to nearby York County Superior Court, where lawyers will give their opening statements.

Such an outing during a trial is called a jury view. In this case, the view was requested by Twardus’ attorneys, Daniel Lilley and Darrick Banda.

“The purpose is to show the relevant spots so the evidence makes more sense to the jury,” Lilley said.

Twardus, 29, of Rochester, N.H., is charged with killing Gorham, a 30-year-old nursing student. Prosecutors say he killed Gorham at her apartment and then buried her body on a remote tract of land in northern New Hampshire that is owned by Twardus’ father.

Gorham was last seen by friends on Aug. 7, 2007. Her body was found, covered by a comforter from her apartment, on Sept. 1, 2007 in Stewartstown, N.H. Twardus and Gorham had been engaged, but he broke off the relationship two months before she disappeared.

Maine State Police investigated the case for several months before arresting Twardus on Jan. 10, 2008.

The core elements of the state’s case against Twardus were highlighted during a bail hearing in September 2009, at which Justice G. Arthur Brennan ordered Twardus to be held without bail until the resolution of the case.

At the time, Deputy Attorney General William Stokes described the case against Twardus as strong. New Hampshire authorities obtained security video from a convenience store near Stewartstown that police say shows Twardus was there on Aug. 8, 2007, although he denies it.

Police also have said Twardus changed his story several times about where he was when Gorham was killed.

Twardus’ fingerprints were found on items near her body, including a bag of her photos, and a strand of her hair was found in the trunk of Twardus’ car.

Stokes, who will lead the prosecution at the trial, said the state could call about 40 witnesses to the stand. He declined to discuss evidence or other details of the case. The trial is expected to last at least two weeks.

Lilley said there is no evidence tying his client to the crime.

The presence of Gorham’s hair in Twardus’ trunk and fingerprints on the possessions near the body aren’t surprising, Lilley said, because the couple lived together for a year and a half, until several weeks before her disappearance.

As for the allegation that Twardus has changed his story concerning his whereabouts, Lilley chalks that up to his client’s confusion over dates during the course of about 10 interviews with investigators.

If prosecutors cannot prove that Gorham was killed in Maine, then a jury in Maine cannot convict Twardus, Lilley said.

“She definitely was murdered,” Lilley said. “But our position is that we have not seen any evidence whatsoever showing where this young lady was murdered.”

A decision on whether Twardus will testify will be made at the appropriate time during the trial, Lilley said.

 

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