SKOWHEGAN – Jeffrey LaGasse told police in 2007 that he was at home with his girlfriend on the night Louise Brochu was bludgeoned to death in New Portland.

He later told investigators that he was in Bangor that night, digging in a cemetery for loot from an old robbery.

He then changed his story again, to say he was with a woman named “Je t’aime,” according to court documents.

LaGasse is accused of murdering Brochu, who was his employer at a flooring business in New Portland.

Lawyers for LaGasse were in court on Wednesday seeking to have statements made by LaGasse thrown out, on the grounds that police got the information illegally.

The lead defense attorney, Jason Jabar of Waterville, told Justice John Nivison that his client was, by definition, in police custody when he was interviewed that summer, and that police failed to read him his Miranda rights.

Any statements made by LaGasse under those circumstances should not be used against him at trial, Jabar argued.

Jabar said LaGasse was in police custody during interviews with detectives, even though investigators told him he was free to go. Deputy Attorney General William Stokes disagreed, saying LaGasse knew he was not in custody when he spoke to police.

“You know it when you’re arrested, certainly,” Stokes said.

Nivison made no ruling, taking the arguments under advisement. LaGasse’s murder trial is scheduled to begin in June.

The body of 50-year-old Louise Brochu was found on June 8, 2007, under a pile of roofing metal in the mill yard at her business, New Portland Wood Flooring, on Route 27, next to her home.

Court records indicate that Brochu died of blows to the head and torso and extremity injuries, including cerebral hemorrhaging.

LaGasse, who lived on the second floor of the old Wire Bridge Diner in New Portland, near Brochu’s home and business, was the one who reported to police that Brochu was missing. He was indicted this year on a single count of murder. He has entered a not-guilty plea.

LaGasse, 31, is being held without bail in the Somerset County Jail.

Stokes said Wednesday that interviews of LaGasse by state police detectives on June 11, June 20 and Aug. 3, 2007, were at first low-key and non-confrontational. LaGasse gave police a written statement on June 11, saying he was at home on the night of June 7, 2007, and went to bed about 9 p.m.

During a brief telephone interview with a detective on June 15, that story did not change.

On June 20, LaGasse met with detectives and agreed to “walk-through” of the Brochu property, where there were foot tracks and tire marks that police wanted to identify. The walk-through and interview with LaGasse were video recorded.

Meanwhile at LaGasse’s apartment, less than a mile away, his girlfriend was being interviewed by police who had a search warrant for the home and the woman’s vehicle, which she shared with LaGasse.

That’s when the stories began to change, Stokes said, and the tone of the police interview began to change. Even so, Stokes said, LaGasse knew he was not under arrest, and he was not being pressured to cooperate with the investigation.

Jabar countered, telling the judge Wednesday that during the June 11 interview with police and the June 20 visit to Brochu’s property, it was clear that LaGasse felt he was in police custody. Because of that, and because police had not informed LaGasse of his Miranda rights, anything he said to police should not be admissible as evidence, Jabar argued.

Jabar said LaGasse, a young man who was on probation and in the presence of armed detectives, felt that he was in custody. Police at one point took LaGasse to the probation office in Farmington to continue the interviews while the apartment was being searched, Jabar said.

LaGasse was soaking wet from the walking visit to the wood mill on June 20, and asked if he could change his clothes and take a shower, but he was not allowed to do so, Jabar said. According to the state’s 10-point precedent for such cases, LaGasse’s statements were the result of custodial interrogation, Jabar said.

Some of the interviews happened inside a police car, Jabar noted.

Stokes used the same 10-point precedent to make his own point.

“Whenever he asked if he was in custody, he was told that he was not,” the prosecutor wrote in his motion arguing to allow the interviews as evidence. “The defendant was not subjected to any physical restraint at all, another fact supportive of the conclusion that this interview was non-custodial.”

Jury selection in the case has been set for June 8 — exactly three years after Brochu’s body was found.


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