AUGUSTA — A man accused of killing an Augusta couple on Christmas Day in 2015 in an apparent act of revenge will go on trial in Cumberland County Superior Court after a judge agreed Friday with his attorneys that extensive pretrial publicity would make it difficult to select an impartial jury in Kennebec County.

David W. Marble Jr. is accused of the intentional and knowing murders of Eric Williams, 35, and Bonnie Royer, 26.

On Friday, Justice Michaela Murphy granted the motion for change of venue without hearing arguments and allowed Luke Rioux and Mark Peltier to withdraw as defense attorneys.

She explained to Marble, 31, of Augusta and formerly of New York, that Rioux had realized that he had a conflict because he previously represented someone involved in the case.

The change of venue request, filed by one of Marble’s previous attorneys, Pamela Ames, says too much pretrial publicity for the case involving Marble, whose nickname is “Dee Money,” would make it hard to select a local jury.

IMPACT OF GOVERNOR’S COMMENTS

At a town hall-style meeting in January 2016 in Bridgton, Gov. Paul LePage gained the national spotlight when he talked about the state’s substance abuse issues, saying, “These are guys with the name Dee Money, Smoothie, Shifty – these types of guys – they come from Connecticut and New York, they come up here, they sell their heroin, they go back home. Incidentally, half the time they impregnate a young white girl before they leave, which is a real sad thing because then we have another issue we have to deal with down the road.” LePage later apologized to Maine women.

The motion to change venue was filed Feb. 10.

“Gov. LePage has continuously and repeatedly referred to ‘Dee Money’ in a negative context in almost every public statement about black drug dealers from out of the state of Maine,” Ames wrote, adding she “is aware of the difficulty of recent jury selections of Africa-American defendants from out of the state of Maine attempting to impanel a fair and impartial jury even without the degree of pretrial publicity that this murder case has generated.”

The prosecutor’s office did not file an objection to the change.

Assistant Attorney General Meg Elam represented the state at Friday’s hearing.

Williams and Royer were shot to death about 3:30 a.m. Dec. 25, 2015, as they sat in a Chevrolet Trailblazer on Sanford Road in Manchester while Royer was on a cellphone calling 911.

Marble was arrested on Dec. 29, 2015, after a car he was riding in was stopped in Augusta. He was indicted in February 2016 on the murder charges and on a charge of possession of a firearm by a prohibited person by a grand jury in Kennebec County and remains in the Kennebec County jail. The indictment was amended later to remove references to “AKA Dee Money.”

Marble has pleaded not guilty to the murder charges as well as to the firearms charge.

In September 2016, Murphy granted a motion to try Marble separately on the firearms charge. Marble’s attorneys at the time, Ames and Scott Hess, had argued that the charge would indicate Marble had prior felony convictions in Monroe County, New York, which might prejudice the jury unduly. Marble later requested replacement attorneys, and a judge permitted it.

Police have said the execution-style killings – the medical examiner said both victims were shot in the head – were revenge for a burglary tied intricately to illegal drugs and firearms dealings.

A lengthy affidavit seeking an arrest warrant for Marble, filed by Maine State Police Detective Christopher A. Tremblay, outlined the case against Marble.

The affidavit says Marble told police he believed Williams, along with three other people, had robbed Marble’s Sewall Street apartment shortly after midnight, stealing televisions, backpacks, a gun and drugs while Marble was being driven to and from the Portland area on a drug run.

After the stolen items were taken to a home on Ridge Road in Augusta, Williams was dropped off at his Easy Street house by one of the other perpetrators, the affidavit said.

According to the affidavit, Marble’s driver was with Marble when he discovered the burglary, and the driver said he overheard Marble say he suspected Williams had done it.

A post on Marble’s Facebook page from Dec. 28, 2015, says, “Forgive me GOD FOR I HAVE SIN. Spiritus Sancti.” The latter entry was cited in the arrest affidavit.

The affidavit also says Marble denied he had anything to do with their deaths when he was questioned by Williams and Royer’s friends on Christmas Day.

At Friday’s proceeding, Murphy told Marble that he would be provided with a list of attorneys available to do homicide defense in Portland.

Murphy told him that the trial would be in Cumberland County, likely sometime in late fall. It is not clear whether he would be transferred to the Cumberland County Jail.

Betty Adams can be contacted at 621-5631 or at:

badams@centralmaine.com