March 18, 2010

After 26 years, suspect in killing faces trial

By BETTY ADAMS, Kennebec Journal

(Continued from page 2)

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Staff photo by Joe Phelan Thomas Mitchell, left and his attorney Jim Strong appear for an arraignment in Kennebec County Superior on Thursday Sept. 28, 2006 Court in Augusta, Maine. Mitchell is charged with the January 6, 1983 murder of Judy Flagg that occurred in Fayette, Maine. His attorney declined to enter a plea.

AP

Justice Nancy Mills refused to suppress evidence in the case and rejected a motion to dismiss based on the length of time between the offense and the indictment.

"The sophisticated DNA testing performed in this case was not available until 2000," she wrote. "The Maine State Police devote time to unsolved homicides when schedules permit. Once the evidence was analyzed and eye witness testimony confirmed, the state sought an indictment."

Strong declined to be interviewed about the case. "I don't want to contribute at all to any pretrial publicity," he said last week.

'A TRAUMA FOR THE TOWN'

Jed Davis, an attorney in Augusta who was part-time town manager of Fayette at the time of the slaying, recalled the mood of the townspeople after the Jan. 6, 1983, slaying.

"Women became afraid to go alone in the town. It was really shocking," he said. "At that time there was no murder in Fayette that people could remember."

Residents donated money for a trust fund for young Chad, and Davis was one of three trustees.

"When he became 18 in about 2000, we met with him and we turned over the money. He had grown into a fine young man," Davis said. "His father remarried and his stepmother was just wonderful to him. Despite this horrible trauma, he had a good childhood."

Davis said the trust fund gave the town a way to express its grief.

"It was a trauma for the town," Davis said. "It was years before the town got over that."

Davis recalled that Mitchell was identified as a suspect at the time.

"It's wonderful actually that there's finally going to be some justice done on it," he said.

Barbara Helen Baker, who was married at the time to Davis and now lives in San Antonio, Texas, said the town changed after Flagg's murder.

"What ensued with the town was quite remarkable," Baker said. "By a year later, nobody was a stay-at-home mom. Everyone had jobs outside of the house."

She, too, was pleased to learn that a suspect was finally going to trial.

"I'm amazed and wonderfully surprised that they did that DNA on the fingernails," she said.

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