SKOWHEGAN — Blood splattered around the home of Ricky Cole suggested a violent struggle that ended with his death in July 2013, according to a state prosecutor and experts called to testify Tuesday in Somerset County Superior Court.

Jason Cote, 25, of Palmyra, is charged with murder in connection with Cole’s death and has pleaded not guilty. On Tuesday, the fourth day of his trial, the state concluded its presentation of evidence.

Experts testified that Cole’s blood was found throughout his mobile home in Detroit, that the manner in which the blood was splattered was consistent with that of violence that had taken place and that Cole’s blood also was found splattered on clothing belonging to Cote.

Attorneys for Cote have argued that he acted in self-defense in Cole’s death and that evidence of the violence that took place at the mobile home does not reveal anything about the mental state of either party or whether Cote had reason to fear Cole.

Assistant Attorney General Leanne Zainea, a prosecutor for the state, said the state believes Cole’s head was “stomped on, causing fractures” and said there were lacerations found on his body that appear to have been caused by a metal pipe police recovered in a pond outside his home.

She said that based on the evidence, the state also believes Cote inflicted injuries on Cole while Cole was lying on the floor trying to defend himself.

Evidence presented Tuesday, along with witness testimony, suggested that Cole died of blunt force trauma to the head.

Blood splattered around Cole’s home was his own and clothing — a pair of camouflage shorts and a navy blue T-shirt — belonging to Cote also tested positive for Cole’s DNA, said Christine Waterhouse, a forensic DNA analyst for the Maine State Police Crime Laboratory.

The clothing, which was found under a trailer next to Cote’s mobile home in Palmyra, also contained traces of his own DNA and was confirmed by his grandmother, also a witness Tuesday, as being Cote’s clothing.

The clothing and other evidence discovered by police linked Cote to the scene of Cole’s death, according to Maine State Police Detective Bryant Jacques, who said in a recording played for the court Tuesday that police had reason to link Cote to Cole’s death, including footprints found outside the home that had been traced to him.

The manner in which the blood was splattered at the mobile home suggested that Cole had died after a violent struggle, according to Zainea and Scott Gosselin, a sergeant with the state police and member of the state police evidence response team.

Gosselin testified Tuesday that the location of blood around the mobile home indicated Cole had been injured on or near the couch in the living room and that he suffered significant bleeding on the floor near the couch before coming to rest in the spot where police discovered him, lying on the floor in the living room.

The pattern and shape of blood around the home also led Gosselin to believe that Cole had been struck at least four times, including at least once when he was on the floor.

A dog dish near Cole’s head on the ground contained a number of large circular blood stains, which would indicate that Cole was struck while on the ground, near the dish, he said.

Earlier in the week, other experts also testified about what appeared to have been a violent struggle, noting an overturned coffee table with blood splatter on the underside of the table and a laptop computer with marks consistent with those that would have been made by the pipe.

In cross-examining Gosselin on Tuesday, defense attorney Stephen Smith asked him whether the jury could surmise anything about what was going on in the minds of the people involved in the conflict at the mobile home based on the blood splatter analysis.

“It says nothing about what is going on in the minds of particular people, correct?” Smith asked, to which Gosselin said he was correct.

Smith and fellow defense attorney Caleb Gannon raised questions about Cole’s past and whether there would be reason for Cote to be afraid of him, calling on two police officers who testified that Cole was under investigation by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms for weapons charges and a woman who had bought drugs from Cole who described him as threatening.

Katia Graves, 26, said Cole used to tell stories about fights and time he spent in prison for aggravated assault.

“It was intimidating,” she said. “I think that was the point, to make you feel some form of respect.”

Cole carried a knife in his pocket and kept a baseball bat in his truck, but he had never harmed either her or Cole physically, Graves said. As drug users, she said, both she and Cote were dependent on Cole for drugs and that despite the threats, they continued to associate with him.

Clarina Cohen, Cote’s grandmother, also testified Tuesday that she was aware her grandson had a problem with drugs, though she had not been aware at the time of Cole’s death that her grandson was getting drugs from him.

While Cohen was on the stand Tuesday, Cote wiped his eyes. At one point, when he was called to the front of the courtroom, he gave his grandmother a hug.

She said she remembered picking him up one time from Cole’s house, where he often went to do yard work, and said that Cole was angry with Cote, who started crying after the incident. “(Cole) was upset and calling (Cote) names, saying he was a druggie and that he was no good,” Cohen said.

On Monday, Heidi Woodbury, a friend of Cote’s, also described Cole as having made threats against him in the past. Others, testifying last week, also describing threats made by Cole. On Friday, friends Amy Tarr and David Lefleur, who discovered Cole’s body, said they were prompted to check on his well-being after Cote told them he did “something (expletive) up” after leaving Cole’s home on July 17, 2013. The following morning, Tarr testified, Cote told her that he had hit Cole with a pipe.

The trial continues Wednesday with additional witness testimony. Cote and his attorneys also said Tuesday that he plans to testify on his own behalf. The case is expected to be in the hands of the jury before the end of the week.

 

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

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Twitter: @rachel_ohm