July 26, 2013

Police: Suspect in Maine killing was high, sought more drugs

Jason Cote, 22, enters no plea in court Friday to charges he bludgeoned 47-year-old Ricky Cole to death on July 18.

By Doug Harlow dharlow@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

SKOWHEGAN — Jason C. Cote of Palmyra was already high on drugs July 17 when he went to a mobile home at 24 Main St. in Detroit to get more drugs, police allege in court documents released Friday.

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Jason C. Cote, 22, of Palmyra, appears in Somerset County Superior Court on Friday.

Michael G. Seamans / Kennebec Journal

Ricky Cole

Contributed photo

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Detroit’s last homicide was in 1982

DETROIT — The last homicide in this Somerset County town was in April 1982 when a 41-year-old man was shot to death in an apparent dispute over farm property, according to an Internet archive search.

The Associated Press reported that Martin Witham was killed by a blast from a shotgun fired by his partner, Stephen Burtchell, 28, in the kitchen of a house on Bean Road in Detroit.

Then-Senior Assistant Attorney General Pat Perrino said at the time it was an apparent case of self-defense. No charges were brought, according to the report.

Perrino said Burtchell fired when Witham lunged at him with a bayonet-type knife in a dispute about property they were trying to sell. Other people witnessed the incident, according to the Associated Press report.

D. Harlow

The home was rented by Ricky Cole, 47, who hours later was found dead as a result of blunt force trauma to the head and neck.

Cote, 22, entered no plea in Somerset County Superior Court on Friday to charges he murdered Cole. Cote was ordered held without bail pending another hearing and an indictment by a grand jury, Justice John Nivison said in court.

Palmyra resident David Lafleur reported Cole's death to the Somerset County Communications Center at 3:01 a.m. July 18, according to the police affidavit for Cote's arrest. Lafleur went to Cole's house to check on him after Cote told Amy Tarr, Lafleur's girlfriend, that he hit Cole with a pipe, according to the affidavit .

Detectives with the State Police Major Crimes Unit found Cole dead inside the blood-spattered mobile home.

Cole had a fractured skull, extensive blood loss and deep internal injuries, according to the autopsy. The state medical examiner's office concluded that Cole died from blunt force trauma.

On July 17, Cote snorted methadone and Xanax at Lafleur and Tarr's home on Dogtown Road in Palmyra, according to the affidavit. Lafleur and Tarr then dropped Cote off at Cole's residence, allegedly to get more drugs.

The two later picked up Cote and took him back to his own home, where he is believed to have changed clothes. He later spent the night at Lefleur and Tarr's Dogtown Road home, according to the court document.

When police interviewed Cote at the Dogtown Road home the morning of July 18, they saw he had recent cuts and bruises on his forearm, back, leg and face. He told them he had nothing to do with Cole's death.

DNA on clothing found under Cote's home on Hurd's Corner Road in Palmyra matched DNA from an oral swab taken from Cote and from blood taken during Cole's autopsy, court documents show.

Cote was arrested Wednesday night at his grandmother's house in St. Albans.

In the courtroom Friday afternoon, Cote, handcuffed and wearing an orange jailhouse jumpsuit, stood with his court-appointed attorneys John Alsop and Philip Mohlar of Skowhegan.

Cote's friends and relatives wouldn't comment as they left the courthouse. A man and woman who sat with a victim's advocate also wouldn't comment to reporters.

Cote is charged with intentional or knowing murder in a criminal complaint. The next step is a grand jury hearing.

"He's been charged, right now, but he has not been indicted by a grand jury and the state can't proceed on any felony charge or murder charge until he's been indicted," Mohlar said. "We anticipate that will happen in the next month or so."

Mohlar would not speculate on a motive or how Cote will plead when the time comes.

"He's a young kid," Mohlar said. "I think it's fair to say he's nervous. He's scared. He's never been in jail like this before. He's under a lot of stress and under a lot of pressure, but he's holding up pretty well."

Cote has a short history of misdemeanor convictions for theft, forgery and failing to show up for court.

"He's got a lot of family here supporting him today and I think that's indicative of how he is viewed by his family," Mohlar said.

A conviction on a murder charge carries a sentence of 25 years to life in prison.

Doug Harlow can be contacted at 612-2367 or at dharlow@centralmaine.com.

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Additional Photos

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Doug Fernald talks about his neighborhood in Detroit Thursday, the day after Jason Cote was arrested on a charge that he murdered Ricky Cole in a nearby home on July 18. Fernald said the neighborhood is typically quiet but has changed over the years.

Staff photo by David Leaming

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Jason Cote

Contributed photo


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