SKOWHEGAN — Convicted murderer Jason Cote apologized to his family and that of his victim Friday when he was sentenced to 45 years in prison for the 2013 slaying of Ricky Cole.

Cote then, without explanation, mentioned the unrelated case of missing Waterville toddler Ayla Reynolds.

Cote, 25, of Palmyra faced 25 years to life after he was convicted in December by a Somerset County Superior Court jury of beating Cole, 47, to death July 17, 2013, in Cole’s mobile home on Main Street in Detroit.

The defense asked for a 30-year sentence, while the state’s prosecutor, Leanne Zainea, asked for 50 years in prison. The jury in December rejected Cote’s claim that he had acted in self-defense when he killed Cole.

“Self-defense disappeared when he stood over Mr. Cole and struck him on his head and stomped on his head,” Justice Andrew Horton said when he imposed the sentence. “This was a brutal, savage killing.”

Zainea, in asking for the longer sentence Friday, said the drug-related killing was “savage, brutal, outrageous and revolting.”


But Cote’s attorney, Stephen Smith, told reporters after the sentencing that Cote had acted in self-defense, so even “a sentence of six months would have been unacceptable,” because he believes his client is innocent of intentional or knowing or depraved indifference murder.

Cote, speaking to the court Friday, his hands shackled to a leather belt fastened around his waist, said he tore apart two families, and for that he was sorry.

“I wish that I had died myself,” he said. “I admit that I did something horrible, something tragic. I’m always haunted by that, and now I have a label that no man should be proud of.”

He said he was sorry, then turned to Cole’s family, seated in the courtroom, and added, “I really am.”

Cote then told the court he hoped his case would bring out the people “who know what happened to Ayla” to tell the truth about her disappearance. Waterville toddler Ayla Reynolds disappeared from her father’s home Dec. 17, 2011. Cote said the closure Friday for both his family and the Cole family should invite the same closure for Ayla’s family.

“Somebody out there knows something,” Cote said.


Maine Department of Public Safety spokesman Steve McCausland said Friday afternoon that Cote’s statement surprised him.

“I have no explanation for why he said what he did. There is no connection between the two,” McCausland said.


Cole’s sister Carmen Stanton said after the sentence was imposed that the family wasn’t satisfied and wanted a life sentence.

“He took my brother and we’ll never be satisfied,” she said.

Cole was found bludgeoned to death about 3 a.m. July 18, 2013. The Office of Chief Medical Examiner concluded that Cole died from blunt force trauma. Cole had a fractured skull, extensive blood loss and deep internal injuries, according to the autopsy.


About three dozen people were in court for Friday’s sentencing, and about 15 spoke before the attorneys and Cote made final statements.

Stanton told the court that Cole’s casket was closed at his funeral because of the extent of his injuries and that he left behind a young son with a broken heart.

“When we want to talk to Rick, we go to his grave,” another sister, Annette Thibodeau, said while sobbing. She then collapsed into the arms of the county’s victim/witness advocate, who had to finish reading Thibodeau’s prepared statement to the court.

Thibodeau said she wished Maine had the death penalty. Other members of Cole’s family called for a life sentence.

Meanwhile, friends and family of Cote told the court that the convicted killer was “a good kid.”

“Drugs make people do bad things,” Cote’s grandmother, Clarina Cohen, said, asking for the shortest sentence possible.


Horton, the judge, said in imposing the sentence, “This is a drug-related crime, no question.”

He said the case was not a life-sentence case under Maine law because the circumstances did not meet the criteria. Parole was abolished in Maine decades ago, and there is no capital punishment in Maine, Horton pointed out.


In her opening statements Friday, Zainea, the prosecutor, noted that a knife that Cote said was used by Cole was never found.

“This was savage, brutal, outrageous and revolting,” she told the court. “This was a drug-related homicide. Does he have remorse? No. He did not act in self-defense.”

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


On July 17, 2013, Cote snorted methadone and Xanax at a friend’s home on Dogtown Road in Palmyra, according to testimony. He later was dropped off at Cole’s residence, allegedly to get more drugs. Cole was found hours later, dead from blunt force trauma to the head and neck.

Police said in court documents that Cote already was high on drugs when he arrived at Cole’s home.

Cote’s attorney, Smith, said the “scourge of drugs has been with us forever” and that the Cole fondly remembered Friday in court was “not the same person” as the person Cote met with that day in 2013.

Smith said outside the courtroom that Cote hadn’t intended to kill Cole and the verdict will be appealed.

“We’re very disappointed with the verdict,” Smith told reporters. “We’re going to appeal his conviction because we believe the night Mr. Cole was killed, Mr. Cote was acting in self-defense. We believe Mr. Cote is innocent of the crime he was convicted (of).”

Smith said Cote had no intention of murdering Cole, but the two had a “toxic ecosystem” between them.


He also told reporters that despite Cote’s previous drug use, he is “completely salvageable” and will be released from prison someday as a productive member of society. He said the defense team was sticking to self-defense as a reason for the contact with Cole that ultimately led to Cole’s death.


Smith did not comment on Cote’s reference to Ayla Reynolds, who was 20 months old when she disappeared from the Violette Avenue home that her father, Justin DiPietro, shared with his mother in Waterville.

No one has ever been charged in Ayla’s disappearance, though state police consider it a homicide.

McCausland, the public safety spokesman, said state police at some point might interview Cote because of his comments, though there was no indication from his statement Friday that he knows anything about the case.

“It sounded, from what I gather, that it was mainly a public service announcement and he hoped the case would be resolved,” he said.

There is also no known connection between the Ayla Reynolds case and Cole, McCausland said.

“I have no explanation for his statement, which had no bearing on the homicide for which he was being sentenced for, and there is no connection whatsoever between that homicide and the disappearance of Ayla Reynolds,” he said.

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