ALFRED — Within six months of becoming John Durfee’s tenant, Roxy Labonte was terrified of her landlord.

She testified Monday that Durfee entered her apartment without notice, touched her inappropriately, made lewd comments and asked her to join him to smoke PCP, a hallucinogenic drug known as angel dust.

Labonte recalled walking to work one morning when Durfee, a paving contractor, pulled up in his pickup truck. She said he was laughing and asked her what she would do if he took her into the woods, tied her to a tree, sexually assaulted her and left her for dead.

Labonte moved out of the apartment in Alfred. A nursing student named Kelly Gorham moved in.

About two years later, in the summer of 2007, Labonte saw her former apartment on the news, and learned that Gorham had been murdered. Labonte called the police.

“I thought it was John,” Labonte told the jury Monday at the murder trial of Jason Twardus in York County Superior Court. “He was the first person that came to my head.

Labonte, who left the courtroom through a back entrance so she wouldn’t have to see Durfee in the hallway, was called to the witness stand Monday by Twardus’ lawyer, Daniel Lilley.

Since the trial started on Sept. 13, Lilley has suggested that Durfee – possibly with help from another man, Calvin DeGreenia – killed Gorham and framed Twardus.

Durfee and DeGreenia have testified that they had dinner and drinks with Gorham on the last night she was seen alive. They denied any involvement in her disappearance or death.

Labonte’s testimony – and testimony from a second woman who said she was sexually harassed routinely by Durfee – was the most explosive yet as Lilley continued to attack Durfee’s character and credibility.

Durfee testified early in the trial, and he was called back to the stand by Lilley on Monday afternoon. He denied ever harassing Labonte, and he said he does not sexually harass women.

Prosecutors insist that the right man is on trial. They say Durfee and DeGreenia are not killers, and are being used by the defense to shift attention away from the evidence against Twardus, Gorham’s ex-fiance.

Deputy Attorney General William Stokes has said that Twardus, 29, of Rochester, N.H., was unable to accept the fact that Gorham, 30, broke off their engagement and asked him to move out of the apartment in June 2007.

Twardus is accused of staking out the property in Alfred on the night of Aug. 6, 2007, then returning early on the morning of Aug. 8 and strangling Gorham.

Perhaps the most incriminating evidence against Twardus is the spot where Gorham’s body was found by police on Sept. 2, 2007: a remote, wooded piece of land owned by Twardus’ father in Stewartstown, N.H., near the Canadian border. Investigators said they needed two days and the assistance of a tax map to find the land.

Lilley has suggested that Durfee got a map for that location from Gorham’s apartment, but there has been no evidence to back up that assertion.

Twardus gave inconsistent statements to investigators about his whereabouts on Aug. 6, 7 and 8, 2007. In several recorded interviews, he appeared to revise his story continuously as detectives confronted him with new information.

Other evidence against Twardus includes footage from surveillance cameras taken on Aug. 8, the day Gorham, a nursing student, was reported missing by her supervisor at Maine Medical Center in Portland.

Twardus was seen withdrawing $100 from an ATM in Rochester at 7:06 a.m. About noon that day, a man whom prosecutors say was Twardus was recorded at the counter of a Big Apple store in Colebrook, N.H., the closest town to Stewartstown. The cameras showed the man driving a car resembling Twardus’ Subaru Impreza.

Witnesses for the prosecution said they were sure that the man on the video was Twardus; witnesses for the defense said they were sure it wasn’t Twardus or the quality of the tape was too poor to make any identification.

Testimony by various witnesses in the trial, now in its third week, has established the fact that during the early part of the investigation, police suspected that Durfee might have been involved in Gorham’s death.

On Aug. 10, 2007, two days after Gorham was reported missing, Durfee traded in his Cadillac Escalade SUV to a Ford dealership in Springvale. It was bought by his daughter.

While it was still in the possession of the dealership, the vehicle was impounded and searched by police. Two cadaver dog teams inspected the Escalade; one of the dogs gave a positive alert for the scent of a cadaver, while the other did not detect anything.

Under questioning by Lilley, Durfee said there was no connection between his decision to trade in the Escalade and Gorham’s disappearance. He said he went to the dealership, rather than make a private sale to his daughter, because of tax benefits from the deal.

 

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