Monday, March 10, 2014
By RACHEL OHM Morning Sentinel
SKOWHEGAN – Robert Nelson of Norridgewock, the man charged with murdering Everett L. Cameron in Anson three years ago, was found guilty Tuesday in Somerset County Superior Court.
Murder defendant Robert Nelson, center, is flanked by his attorneys before it was announced that he is guilty in the death of Everett L. Cameron in Somerset County Superior Court in Skowhegan on Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012. State prosecutor Leane Zainea is in the foreground.
David Leaming / Staff Photographer
Outside the courthouse, Nicole Sacre, Cameron's daughter, addresses the media after Robert Nelson's conviction. "One of the hardest parts of this was seeing our father portrayed as a drug dealer. His death is a testimony to the sad state of the prescription medicine problem in our state and the lengths people will go to to get them. Our family would really like to see authorities address this epidemic."
David Leaming / Staff Photographer
Justice John Nivison, who decided the case in the jury-waived trial, said that even without a murder weapon, DNA evidence and eyewitness accounts, the state's circumstantial evidence against Nelson, 41, was sufficient to prove him guilty.
"Mr. Nelson had the means and the motive to kill Mr. Cameron, and the state has proven beyond reasonable doubt his guilt," he said.
Nivison said Cameron's death was "clearly a homicide that was drug-related."
Nelson's lawyer Phil Mohlar said in his closing argument that Cameron, who was 60, was killed for his drugs and that there wasn't evidence to conclude that Nelson was the murderer.
Nelson will face 25 years to life in prison when he is sentenced, at a later date.
Outside the courthouse, Nicole Sacre of Pittston, Cameron's daughter, wiped away tears as she stood in the cold rain, talking about her father.
"One of the hardest parts of this was seeing our father portrayed as a drug dealer. His death is a testimony to the sad state of the prescription medicine problem in our state and the lengths people will go to get them," she said. "Our family would really like to see authorities address this epidemic."
Cameron's son, Everett J. Cameron Sr. of Anson, said, "My father was a very good man. Everything was taken from me the day he died. My father was my best friend, and my son also lost his grandfather."
Mohlar said he and Nelson were surprised and disappointed by the guilty verdict and are considering an appeal, though they weren't sure of the grounds.
Cameron was found dead, with a gunshot wound to his head, in his pickup truck on Town Farm Road in Anson, on Oct. 31, 2009.
During the seven-day trial, Nelson maintained that he was innocent while prosecutors said he killed Cameron over a drug debt of $35.
Nivison explained his decision, which came two weeks after closing arguments, by providing an account of Nelson's day on Oct. 31, 2009, pieced together from state evidence and Nelson's statements to police and family members during the course of the investigation.
Nivison said Nelson was a drug addict who was under the influence of drugs and alcohol on the day of the murder, when he met with Cameron to get oxycodone pills.
The judge said that beginning on the night of the murder, Nelson made statements indicating his guilt, including a statement to his father about avoiding police and a story he fabricated about why there might be gunpowder residue on his hands.
Nivison said other circumstantial evidence proved that Nelson was guilty.
Nivison said the estimated time of Cameron's death, cellphone records showing that Nelson was the last person to have contact with Cameron, and a neighbor's testimony of hearing a gunshot around the time Cameron was believed to have died all put Nelson at the scene.
The defense's arguments that there was no DNA evidence and that others may have had the same access to Cameron and motive to kill him were not enough to provide reasonable doubt, Nivison said.
While others may have had access to Cameron, a known drug dealer, on the day of his death, witnesses' testimony proved that he planned to meet with Nelson on that day and not many others, the judge said.
He said the lack of DNA evidence in the case was not important, since Nelson admitted to having been at the scene.
Nivison also weighed the credibility of witnesses, including nearly 30 witnesses called by the state and the only witness called by the defense, Robert Nelson himself.
Nivison said many who testified for the state, including family members and several of Nelson's current and ex-girlfriends, were "highly credible and also people one would think were predisposed to side with him."
Testimony from Nelson's family about his behavior at his daughter's birthday party on the day of the murder -- that he was higher on drugs and alcohol than they had ever seen -- was indicative of guilt, said Nivison.
He said Nelson's testimony wasn't credible because of inconsistent statements he made during the investigation and because it was unlikely he would be able to recall specific details he offered in court, such as when he took certain pills on the day of the murder, given the amount of drugs and alcohol he consumed that day.
Testimony also showed that Nelson had different accounts of that day, Nivison said. For example, Nelson's then-girlfriend Katie White said Nelson told her he was going to pay Cameron, but Nelson told police he did not plan to pay him that day, Nivison said.
Nelson also faces as much as five years in prison for possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, to which he pleaded guilty earlier this month.
Morning Sentinel Staff Writer Rachel Ohm can be contacted 612-2368 or at: