January 10, 2013

Witnesses: Hayden had handgun in days before murders

By Scott Dolan sdolan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — Two witnesses in the murder trial of Joel Hayden testified Thursday that they saw Hayden with a handgun in the days before his girlfriend and a longtime friend were shot to death.

click image to enlarge

Pool Photo/Troy R. Bennett: Defendant Joel Hayden speaks with his lawyers before opening arguments in his double murder trial in Portland Monday Jan. 7, 2013. Hayden, of New Bedford, Mass., is accused in the shooting deaths of his girlfriend, Renee Sandora, 27, and his longtime friend, Trevor Mills, 28.

Pool Photo/Troy R. Bennett

Jamie Holmes, who said she bought crack cocaine from Hayden for years, testified that she saw Hayden pull a gun from beneath a car seat outside her home on July 24, 2011, the day before the shootings, and heard him threaten to kill Renee Sandora, 27, the mother of his four children, and his friend Trevor Mills, 28.

The other witness, John Michaud, who is serving jail time on a burglary charge, testified Thursday that he and Hayden fired a .45-caliber handgun in a sand pit in New Gloucester within two weeks before the killings.

Previous testimony revealed that shell casings and bullets from a .45-caliber handgun were found at the crime scene, at 322 Bennett Road in New Gloucester.

Holmes and Michaud testified during the fourth day of Hayden’s trial in Cumberland County Unified Criminal Court. Hayden, 31, is accused of fatally shooting Sandora and Mills as Hayden’s 7-year-old son watched.

Other witnesses have testified that police never found the gun that was used in the killings. Michaud and Holmes were the first to testify that they saw Hayden with a gun.

Michaud, an inmate at the Androscoggin County Jail, was transferred to the Cumberland County Jail this week so he could testify in Hayden’s trial.

He said on the witness stand that he had a run-in with Hayden on Tuesday night, hours after arriving at the jail in Portland.

Michaud said he saw Hayden outside his cell, and within five minutes another inmate entered his cell, told him not to testify in the trial and pummeled him for several minutes.

Michaud identified his attacker only as “Trey.” The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office said an inmate named Trezjuan Thompson has new charges pending against him related to the beating of Michaud.

Michaud said he arrived at the jail around 3 p.m. Tuesday and was in his cell around 9 p.m. when Hayden came to his cell to talk to him.

“He said, 'Hey what’s up?’ He said, 'I need to talk to you tonight,’” Michaud said.

Five minutes later, Michaud said, he heard his cell number called and the door unlocked.

“Then this big man came in,” Michaud said. “He threatened to kill me if I testified in this case.”

He said the man he knew only as “Trey” entered his cell holding up a slip of paper with Michaud’s name on it and asked, “Is this you?” He said the man then “cold cocked” him in the head.

“He straddled me and then pounded me,” Michaud said. “He said, 'You testify against my boy, I’m going to kill you.’”

Michaud said he met Hayden about five or six years ago, when he did mechanical work on Hayden’s vehicles. He then started to buy crack cocaine from him.

Within two weeks before the fatal shootings, and possibly the day before them, Michaud said, he and Hayden went to a Walmart in Windham or Auburn to buy ammunition.

They then went to the sand pit on Bennett Road in New Gloucester, he said, where they practiced firing the handgun.

One of Hayden’s attorneys, Sarah Churchill, asked Michaud whether prosecutors had offered him anything in exchange for his testimony.

“No,” Michaud answered. “My charges aren’t that serious.”

Prosecutors did offer Holmes a written promise, before she testified, that they would not use the details about her drug purchases against her.

Holmes said that on the day before the fatal shootings, Hayden sold crack cocaine to her and her husband.

“That day he was paranoid,” Holmes said. “He looked like he was strung out. He was telling me about him and Renee (Sandora) fighting.”

Under questioning by Churchill, Holmes said she had never told police before this week that Hayden had threatened to kill Sandora and Mills, because she was “scared.”

Hayden’s mother, Marie Hayden of New Bedford, Mass., testified Thursday morning about text messages and recorded phone calls before the shootings and after her son’s arrest.

She read a text message that Sandora sent her on the day before she was killed, saying that Sandora had driven off with all four children because Hayden wouldn’t leave her house.

Marie Hayden testified that her son was voluntarily committed to Bridgewater State Hospital in his home state of Massachusetts for 30 days of drug treatment about a month before the shootings.

She said she learned from Sandora that Joel Hayden stayed sober for only one day after his release, but would not go back into treatment.

“The thought of being away from Renee, even to get clean, was too much for him,” Marie Hayden said.

A chemist for the state Health and Environmental Testing Laboratory, Stephen Pierce, testified about blood and urine samples taken from Hayden on the night of his arrest, after he crashed a car that he drove away from the crime scene.

The samples showed that he had a high level of oxycodone in his system and a low level of cocaine.

Testimony is expected to continue Friday, with closing arguments Monday.

 

Staff Writer Scott Dolan can be contacted at: 791-6304 or at: sdolan@mainetoday.com

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