March 18, 2010

Appeal denied in slaying of mother, estranged wife


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The Associated Press

Maine's highest court denied an appeal Tuesday by a Pittston man who was sentenced to consecutive 30-year sentences for killing his mother and his estranged wife more than three years ago in Boothbay Harbor.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court unanimously upheld Jon Dilley's two manslaughter convictions and the trial judge's imposition of the maximum sentence on each count.

Dilley, 55, had argued that the shooting deaths of his mother, Sarah Murray, 71, and his wife, Chevelle ''Chellie'' Calloway, 41, at Murray's summer home were not separate episodes and were not serious enough to warrant consecutive sentences.

In rejecting that argument, the court noted that Dilley's children, ages 6 and 9, were present when Dilley shot and killed their mother and grandmother.

''He shot through the door to reach his wife, killing her as she lay cowering on the floor. He then ceased shooting at her, turned, sought out his mother, chased her into the yard, and killed her as she ran from him, after which he returned to the house and shot his wife again.

''The court was justified in determining that the extraordinarily serious nature of his conduct warranted consecutive sentences,'' the opinion read.

During his six-day trial, Dilley did not deny shooting the two women on Aug. 21, 2004. The defense maintained that he was in a disassociative state of mind, known as depersonalization, during the 30 seconds or so in which the shootings occurred.

Dilley was tried for murder but was found guilty of manslaughter.

Dilley's lawyer, Steven Peterson of Rockport, said he was surprised that the justices didn't set aside the consecutive terms, in light of the jury's rejection of the more serious charge.

''This indicates to me that they don't have a problem with there being, basically, a quasi-murder sentence in a case where a jury has said not guilty to murder,'' Peterson said.

Murder is punishable by a minimum of 25 years and a maximum of life in prison.

The court also rejected Dilley's argument that the trial judge erred in admitting testimony by a former co-worker who quoted the defendant as telling him he could understand why a husband would kill his wife.

That conversation, about a news story involving a husband shooting his wife and killing himself, happened two years before the Dilley shootings.

Dilley's lawyers argued that the testimony was irrelevant and posed a risk of unfair prejudice, but the court said his statements to the witness could relate to the key issues of Dilley's state of mind and intent.

The justices also rejected arguments that the judge should not have accepted a community impact statement from a domestic-violence group during sentencing, and that he improperly determined the maximum sentence on each count.

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