By the time the second and third bullets struck 63-year-old Leon Kelley in the abdomen, he was most likely already falling down from the first shot, the state’s chief medical examiner testified Friday.

Dr. Mark Flomenbaum gave that expert opinion as the final witness for the prosecution in the murder trial of Merrill “Mike” Kimball, 72, who claims he acted in self-defense when he fatally shot Kelley three times during a confrontation at a North Yarmouth bee farm on Oct. 6, 2013.

Flomenbaum’s testimony on the fifth day of Kimball’s trial was a blow to his defense, because it raised the possibility the jury could find that Kimball acted in self-defense when he fired the first shot but not the subsequent shots.

Justice Roland Cole seemed to acknowledge that development when, while the jury was out of the room, he denied a motion by Kimball’s attorney, Daniel Lilley, to acquit Kimball before he called his first defense witnesses.

“The issue for me in this case is there were three shots fired and whether he was acting in self-defense in all three shots or less,” Cole said.

Flomenbaum testified that from his autopsy examination of Kelley’s wounds, he determined that one shot from Kimball’s .380-caliber pistol went through Kelley’s forearm and lodged in his abdomen. The bullets from the two other shots lodged in Kelley’s abdomen without passing through.

“All three of these were potentially fatal,” Flomenbaum said of the gunshot wounds.

A firearms expert also testified that Kimball was between 4 and 10 feet away from Kelley when he fired.

The shooting happened shortly after Kimball arrived at Brown’s Bee Farm with his wife, Karen Thurlow-Kimball, who managed the farm, and her son, Damon Carroll. They were there to retrieve 12 or 13 buckets, each containing 50 pounds of honey that Thurlow-Kimball had extracted from beehives and processed on the farm owned by 95-year-old Stan Brown.

The jury previously listened to Kimball’s voice in video and audio recordings describing what happened. They heard his voice again Friday as an attorney read a transcript of Kimball’s testimony to a Cumberland County grand jury on Nov. 5, 2013.

In each of Kimball’s statements, he said that shortly after he and his family arrived at the farm, they were confronted by Kelley, Brown’s son-in-law, and multiple members of his family, who accused them of trespassing. Multiple witnesses have now testified that Thurlow-Kimball was not trespassing, had keys to the bee farm sales shop and that the honey inside belonged to her.

Lilley has said that Kimball had no choice but to use his concealed handgun, which he was licensed to carry, as Kelley attacked him and kept coming at him. Kelley was 6-foot-4 and weighed 285 pounds. Kimball is 5-foot-11 and weighs 170 pounds.

Prosecutors say Kimball “overreacted” by shooting Kelley and could have continued retreating down Honeycomb Drive instead.

Kelley, of Georgetown, and Kimball, of Yarmouth, had never met before that day, but the shooting followed a bitter, ongoing rift between the two men’s families over the bee business built by Brown, a master beekeeper well-known in the state’s small beekeeping community.

Kimball’s wife started working for Brown at the farm in 2009 and took on more duties until she ran all of the farm’s day-to-day business. The two families had been at odds ever since Brown included Thurlow-Kimball in his will, leaving the bee business to her, along with four acres of his 10-acre property.

Brown’s daughters – including Kelley’s wife – and other members of the family were concerned that Thurlow-Kimball was taking advantage of their father as his memory began to fade.

On the day of the shooting, Kelley’s stepson, Craig Rawnsley, called Thurlow-Kimball, telling her that things at the farm “were going to change.”

Kimball told the grand jury that his wife became concerned after Rawnsley’s call that he would change the locks on the bee farm sales shop, keeping her from the $4,000 to $6,000 worth of honey she had worked all summer to make, according to the grand jury transcript.

As Kimball, his wife and stepson arrived around 3 p.m. that day, they were met outside the bee shop by Kelley, Rawnsley, Kelley’s stepdaughter, Robin Rawnsley-Dutil, and Kelley’s wife, Kathleen Kelley.

Kathleen Kelley, who was on the phone with a 911 dispatcher at the time of the shooting, said Kimball was the aggressor and that he shoved her husband, not the other way around.

Rawnsley-Dutil said she saw Kelley grab Kimball by the shoulder, spin him around and move him down the parking lot toward Honeycomb Drive.

Rawnsley said he was busy using his hand to hold back Thurlow-Kimball’s son, Damon Carroll, and did not see the initial conflict between Kelley and Kimball.

Lilley said he expects to call Thurlow-Kimball and Carroll as defense witnesses Monday. He said he may also call Kimball as a witness.

Kimball said in his grand jury testimony that Rawnsley had attacked both his wife and stepson as Kelley attacked him.

The first defense witness, Dr. David Johnson, testified Friday that both Thurlow-Kimball and Carroll came to see him at his physician’s office in Freeport in the days after the confrontation for treatment of injuries.

Rawnsley testified earlier in the week that he never assaulted Thurlow-Kimball and only put his hand on Carroll’s shoulder to hold him back.

Kimball was never arrested in the case and remains free on bail after being indicted on the murder charge in November 2013.

He faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted of murder. If convicted of manslaughter, he faces up to 30 years in prison. Kimball rejected a plea offer before the start of the trial. The terms of the offer have not been disclosed.


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