GEORGETOWN

A Yarmouth man pleaded not guilty to murder and was freed on bail Thursday in connection with the shooting of a Georgetown man last month.

Merrill “Mike” Kimball, 70, pleaded not guilty to a single count of murder during an arraignment Thursday morning in Cumberland County Unified Criminal Court.

He was never arrested and left court without comment Thursday after posting $100,000 worth of property to secure bail.

Real estate is an acceptable form of posting surety, said Deputy Attorney General William Stokes.

Other conditions require Kimball to surrender his firearms and passport and prohibit him from using or possessing alcohol.

Police said Kimball shot Leon Kelley, 63, of Georgetown, three times in the torso during a confrontation at a North Yarmouth bee farm Oct. 6.

Police were called to Brown’s Bee Farm at 239 Greely Road at around 3:15 p.m. following the confrontation between Kimball and Kelley. Kelley allegedly shoved Kimball and his wife, Karen Thurlow-Kimball, who worked at the farm and was retrieving honey.

Kimball was indicted on the murder charge Nov. 8 by a Cumberland County grand jury, but remained free until his arraignment Thursday.

His attorney, Daniel Lilley, had previously said Kimball shot Kelley, a larger man, in self-defense. Lilley did not return phone calls Thursday seeking comment on the arraignment.

Kelley’s family remained frustrated Kimball had not been arrested and was issued only a summons on the murder charge after the indictment.

Kelley’s brothers, Joseph and Bill Kelley, attended Thursday’s arraignment.

Afterward, Joseph Kelley said the two were not surprised at the outcome.

The brothers are born-and-bred Five Islanders, Joseph Kelley said.

“Everyone is 100 percent behind my brother Leon on this, and everyone is just totally shocked that it is him this happened to,” Joseph Kelley said.

Everyday is the same: Everyone he runs into wants to know the latest news, he said.

Joseph Kelley said his brother was not a confrontational man but was asked by his father-in-law, Stan Brown, to tell Kimball to leave.

“He got killed doing the right thing,” Joseph Kelley said.

As to the self-defense claim, the shooting was uncalled-for. “There’s no reason why Mr. Kimball couldn’t have turned around and left,” Joseph Kelley said. “He’d been asked to leave numerous times.”

Asked if anything could help console the Kelley family, he said: “I don’t think anything could happen right now that would make the family glad.”

“It would be nice to see the guy in jail where he belongs. Everyone is just worn out. … We want it done and done now and I know that’s just not going to happen.”

Bill Kelley said Thursday that he doesn’t like what took place, “but I’m sure the attorney general’s office is doing everything they can to move forward with the case.”

Stokes — the state’s top prosecutor in homicide cases — said he has had several conversations with the family. He met with the family Thursday after the arraignment and said he feels they have a better understanding of why the state is proceeding as it is.

“Obviously, we understand their frustration,” Stokes said. “Both the state police and our office made the decision not to make an immediate arrest.

“Frankly when these things happen, in many cases we don’t know all the facts. We have to interview witnesses and if we rush into something without doing a full investigation, we’re criticized for not doing a full investigation. So in cases like this and others, the most prudent thing to do is to gather the facts. That’s our job; not to make an arrest before we have all the facts.”

He added that in this particular case, there are numerous witnesses to the shooting; all with different vantage points, “and it was very important we try to understand as best we could what every witness is saying.”

The law surrounding selfdefense claims is very complicated, he noted.

Ultimately, as with all murder cases, this case had to be reviewed by a grand jury, which must return an indictment for the case to proceed.

While it isn’t common for those facing murder charges to avoid arrest, it is not unprecedented, Stokes said.

There have been cases where defendants charged with murder have been released on bail.

In this case, if the state had asked that Kimball be held without bail, a hearing would have had to have been held. Stokes said he believes the judge would have set bail anyway.

The next step is the discovery phase, Stokes said, when the state will turn over all investigative materials to the defense, which then has an opportunity to review and prepare.

The defense has until Feb. 1 to file any pre-trial motions, and could have longer if needed. At some point next year, the presiding judge, Justice Roland Cole, will call the parties in and set a trial date.

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