ALFRED – The freeze-frame shows a man standing near the counter of a convenience store, wearing a baseball cap and a hooded sweat shirt.

It’s a black-and-white photograph taken from surveillance video at a Big Apple store in far northern New Hampshire on Aug. 8, 2007.

In a courtroom filled this week with thousands upon thousands of pages of police notes, evidence, witness statements and other documents connected to the investigation of Kelly Gorham’s murder, the fate of her alleged killer could hinge on that single image.

Its importance was underscored Thursday, as the lawyers in Jason Twardus’ trial spent much of the day asking witnesses about the image, and whether it was or was not the defendant.

Twardus, 29, is on trial in York County Superior Court. He is accused of murdering Gorham, 30, his ex-fiancee.

Prosecutors say the image proves that Twardus — on the day Gorham was reported missing — was not at home in southern New Hampshire, as he told police, but was just a few miles from the remote parcel of his family’s land where Gorham’s body was later discovered.

Their theory was backed up by testimony from two men who were friends with Twardus in the summer of 2007, and by a third witness who was engaged to Gorham’s mother and spent a lot of time with Twardus in the two years before Gorham was killed.

“That’s Jason,” said Fred Bechard, a retired school superintendent who was dating Pauline Gorham. When shown the image from the surveillance tape, Bechard said he had no doubt.

“His hat, his hoodie, his profile, even the way he stands,” Bechard said. “If I saw him I would shout out, ‘Jason, hello, how are you?’“

Chris Poulin and Ben Finenco, who were friends with Twardus and worked with him at Cole Haan in Greenland, N.H., also testified that they were sure the man in the image was Twardus.

“I’m 100 percent sure that’s Jason,” Poulin told the jury.

The witnesses said the two-toned hat looked like the hat Twardus had bought at Myrtle Beach, S.C., one year earlier. They said his profile and prominent Adam’s apple were distinctive features that left them convinced.

But Twardus’ lawyer, Daniel Lilley, suggested that the witnesses’ opinions were swayed by other factors, and that the man shown on the tape could be anyone with a hat and a sweatshirt similar to the ones owned by Twardus.

Lilley challenged Poulin and Finenco on whether they helped investigators because they didn’t want to get into trouble for having illegal drugs at their apartment in Portsmouth, N.H. Lilley also asked Poulin if he held a grudge against Twardus for telling police he got drugs at the apartment.

“I didn’t think he’d throw me under the bus like that,” Poulin testified.

“So are you throwing him under the bus in this courtroom?” Lilley asked.

“No sir,” Poulin said.

Lilley also said Bechard identified the man in the photo as Twardus only after police had arrested Twardus and charged him with murder.

He asked Bechard if the investigators’ certainty might have influenced him, as well as his allegiance to Pauline Gorham. Bechard said he could remain objective.

Lilley asked each witness how they could be so certain from a black and white image, which is not in sharp focus and which shows the man from a distance of several feet. Poulin, Finenco and Bechard admitted they could not read any identifying details on the hat or sweatshirt, but they did not waver on their opinions.

Two aunts of Twardus, who are defense witnesses, were allowed to testify Thursday because they will not be available today or next week as the trial continues.

Both women said they could not tell from the photograph whether the man at the Big Apple store was their nephew.

“I can’t make out the face or anything else,” said an aunt from Tennessee, when asked if the man looked like Twardus. “I can’t see it clear enough to say whether it does or not.”

Gorham, a nursing student who worked part time at Maine Medical Center in Portland, was last seen alive on Aug. 7, 2007. Police found her body on Sept. 2 in a shallow grave on land owned by Brian Twardus, Jason’s father, in Stewartstown, N.H., near the Canadian border.

Gorham had been strangled to death and buried with some personal items, including loose articles of underwear and a shoebox full of photographs belonging to her younger sister, Katie.

The trial opened Sept. 13 and is expected to last until the middle of next week. If convicted, Twardus will face a prison sentence of 25 years to life in prison.

Staff Writer Trevor Maxwell can be contacted at 791-6451 or at:

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