February 26, 2010

Fatal shot more than an accident, jury decides

TREVOR MAXWELL

— By

Bruce Lavallee-Davidson

click image to enlarge

Photo by John Ewing/Staff Photographer... Wednesday, January 13, 2010... The verdict came down in the manslaughter trial of Bruce Lavallee-Davidson in the shooting death of Fred Wilson. Lavallee- Davidson, flanked by his lawyers, listened to the verdict with his eyes downcast.

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Staff Writer

PORTLAND — For three days, Kim Wilson listened as the most private details of her dead brother's sex life, drug use and basement ''dungeon'' were discussed in open court.

She watched as witnesses casually showed jurors the revolver that Bruce Lavallee-Davidson held to Fred Wilson's head while the two were engaged in sex play at Wilson's South Portland home.

And she heard graphic testimony about the unintended gunshot that took her brother's life in the early morning of April 18, 2009.

On Wednesday, minutes after a jury found Lavallee-Davidson guilty of manslaughter, Kim Wilson talked about the sides of her brother that were not discussed at the trial.

''He was a kind and generous individual,'' said Wilson, who lives in Burbank, Calif. She said Fred Wilson moved here several years ago from California, where they had grown up. ''He loved it here. This was his home,'' she said.

Fred Wilson, 50, was a brilliant computer programmer, a cook who loved to entertain guests, an athlete with a great sense of humor and wit, his sister said. She was offended that Lavallee-Davidson's defense team suggested that Wilson loaded the fatal bullet and was responsible for his own death.

''The defense certainly tried to muddy the waters,'' Kim Wilson said, standing outside Cumberland County Superior Court. ''I'm glad that the jury saw through that.

''I was amazed and just overwhelmed that the jury took such a short time,'' she said.

Jurors got the case from Justice Robert Crowley around 12:15, went to lunch, and then deliberated for about half an hour before returning the guilty verdict at 2 p.m.

Lavallee-Davidson, a 50-year-old organic farmer from Skowhegan, was stoic as the verdict was read. He faces up to 30 years in prison when he is sentenced March 26. Lavallee-Davidson will serve at least four years, the mandatory minimum sentence, because the crime involved the use of a firearm.

The trial that began Monday delved into a world of extreme sexual activity that rarely ends up discussed in the open forum of a courtroom. What would have remained a private encounter between three consenting men became public when a single bullet was fired from a .44-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver, killing Wilson instantly.

Lavallee-Davidson and another man, James Pombriant of Auburn, arrived at Wilson's home for a sex party on the evening of April 17, 2009. Pombriant brought GBL, a chemical compound that is used as a recreational drug when mixed with a sugared drink. Wilson had several aerosol canisters of an inhalant that is also used to get high.

The party was held in Wilson's basement. There was a small room that had been outfitted as a ''dungeon,'' with sex toys, pornographic videos, a computer and sexually oriented devices.

Lavallee-Davidson, an avid firearms enthusiast, brought three guns and ammunition. The men, all openly gay and HIV-positive, incorporated two of the guns -- a .44-caliber revolver and a Mossberg shotgun -- into their sex play. Pombriant testified that the men also handled the ammunition.

The men partied between 8:30 p.m. and 5:30 a.m., each using varying amounts of the drugs.

In a recorded interview with detectives, Lavallee-Davidson said the party was winding down when Wilson asked him to engage in a type of Russian roulette, by holding the revolver to his head and pulling the trigger. Lavallee-Davidson claimed that he checked the gun to make sure that it was unloaded, then left the basement to use the bathroom.

When he returned, he picked up the gun.

''I picked it up and pointed it at his head and it clicked and he said something like, do it again. I did, and it went off,'' Lavallee-Davidson told detectives. ''As soon as it went off, I was just totally freaked out.''

Shocked and scared, Lavallee-Davidson and Pombriant tried to clean up some evidence at the scene, then they left and went to their homes. Pombriant was the first to call police, sometime that evening. South Portland detectives went to the house and found Wilson's body. On the morning of April 19, about 24 hours after the shooting, Lavallee-Davidson called police, and then drove to South Portland and told them his version of what happened.

Lavallee-Davidson's defense team, attorneys Thomas Hallett and Mike Whipple, described the shooting as a tragic accident. Lavallee-Davidson pulled the trigger, but one of the other men -- most likely Wilson -- must have chambered the fatal round, Hallett told the jury during his closing arguments.

Police found fingerprints of several people, including Wilson and Lavallee-Davidson, on the gun. Lavallee-Davidson threw away the spent cartridge casing.

Hallett said Wilson directed the gun play, and was so high that he may have put the bullet in the gun to heighten the sexual excitement to the highest possible level.

''He knew what he was doing, he knew the risks, he knew it all and he didn't care,'' Hallett said of Wilson. ''Maybe Fred did play roulette maybe he needed the real thing.''

Hallett said Lavallee-Davidson made the mistake of trusting that no one else at the party would have put a bullet into the revolver.

Lavallee-Davidson opted not to take the stand in his own defense. The jury had already seen his 90-minute interview with detectives.

The prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General Lisa Marchese, asked the jury to see through what she called the defense's attempt at misdirection. Marchese's central theme, woven throughout the trial, was that it did not matter who loaded the gun. When Lavallee-Davidson picked up the gun, held it to Wilson's head and pulled the trigger, he had the legal responsibility to make sure it was unloaded, Marchese argued.

Any lingering questions about what exactly happened in the hours leading up to the shooting, Marchese said, were inconsequential.

''After all the sordid details have come before you, the case still comes down to the very point that I made in my opening statement,'' Marchese said. ''You should never, ever pull the trigger of a gun unless or until you are absolutely certain that it is not loaded.

''He had the obligation to be safe, and he wasn't, and that is why he is guilty of manslaughter,'' she said in her final words to the jury.

Whipple said he and Hallett will argue for a sentence on the very low end of the four- to 30-year range. Lavallee-Davidson has AIDS, and he does not expect to live much longer than five years, Whipple said. A longer sentence would amount to lifetime imprisonment, he said.

That was one of the reasons Lavallee-Davidson turned down a plea offer. Neither side would disclose what that offer was. Marchese said she would consult with other attorneys in the Attorney General's Office before filing a sentencing recommendation.

''It takes a certain amount of courage for a client to see the criminal process to the end,'' Hallett said. ''He has a rough road ahead. Losing his friend was bad enough. Being the one that held the gun has changed him forever.''

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

tmaxwell@pressherald.com

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Photo by John Ewing/Staff Photographer... Wednesday, January 13, 2010...Kim Wilson, from Burbank, California, was pleased with the guilty verdict that came down in the shooting death of her brother, Fred Wilson, by Bruce Lavallee-Davidson in April of 2009 in South Portland.

  


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